The Beginning of a 36-Year-Old Tradition

On Monday, April 25, 1989, Professor Gary Bouchard stepped out on to the quad in front of the still brand new statue of Saint Anselm to lead the campus in a reading of all 154 of Shakespeare's Sonnets in celebration of William's birthday. The Bard was a mere 425 years old that year, and Bouchard was still pretty young himself, or at least still blonde on top and wet behind the professorial ears. About 75 readers took part in that initial marathon reading. As the quatrains and couplets cut through the crisp April air, New Hampshire Public Radio recorded many of them, and when Professor Landis Magnuson made a surprise entrance down the stairs of Alumni Hall in full Elizabethan regalia, The Union Leader was there to capture it on film.

decorative image

As Professor Edward Comiskey, former Director of the Anselmian Abbey Players, turned out to read 154 to close out the celebration, it was clear that a tradition had been born and that come rain, snow, wind or sudden springtime sun, Saint Anselm would be hearing the echo of sonnets each year on Shakespeare's birthday. The following year, the Abbey Players got into the act, got into several acts in fact, adding to the celebration with scenes from Shakespeare plays. Madrigals and Early Modern music made it onto the program and soon enough the marathon reading was a legitimate festival, made more special each year by the return of alumni from days gone by.

Learn More

In case you want to learn more about the Bard, see additional resources below:

Shakespeare in the News: NPR story on the Bard's sonnets and DNA, "Shall I Encode Thee In DNA? Sonnets Stored On Double Helix"