From April Fools’ Day to Earth Day and Easter to Ramadan, there are several important dates and anniversaries commemorated in April all over the world.
Did you know that the ancient Romans called April Aprilis, from the verb aperire meaning “to open”? This is thought to allude to April being a season of Spring in the northern hemisphere, a time when flowers and trees began to bloom and blossom in earnest. Did you also know that the birthstone of April is diamond, with daisies and sweet peas considered April’s birth flowers? Aries and Taurus are the April star signs in the western zodiac, represented by a ram and a bull, and it is the month in which Queen Elizabeth II was born!
April is also the month in which we celebrate the birth of two more famous figures: William Shakespeare and Leonardo da Vinci (though they were born 112 years apart).
Born on either the 14th or 15th of April 1452, Leonardo da Vinci has long been considered one of the most diversely talented individuals ever to have lived. An Italian polymath of the High Renaissance, da Vinci is renown for his incredible paintings and notebooks, in which he made drawings and notes on science, and blueprints for his own inventions. Though he had no formal academic training, many historians and scholars today regard da Vinci as the prime example of a Renaissance Man – a term used to describe a very clever person good at many different things. Two of his most famous artworks – the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper – hold celebrated positions in western culture, with The Last Supper described as the most reproduced religious painting of all time, and the Mona Lisa considered the most famous painting in the world.
Though the exact date is unknown, Shakespeare’s birthdate is traditionally observed on April 23, Saint George’s Day. With his work including over 30 plays and 154 sonnets, Shakespeare is widely thought of as one of the greatest writers and dramatists in the English literary tradition. Nicknamed the Bard of Avon, or simply the Bard, Shakespeare’s plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. Few definitive records of Shakespeare’s early life survive, which has led to great speculation, though we know that he enjoyed a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part-owner of a company of actors called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (later known as the King’s Men). In 1623 the first collected edition of all of Shakespeare’s plays, bar two, was published. Named the First Folio, this collection became the foundation of the collected works we now know. Though not without its share of controversy, Shakespeare’s work has made a lasting impression on theatre and literature, and many popular sayings and idioms we use today are attributed to Shakespeare’s inventive genius – such as “too much of a good thing”, “cruel to be kind”, “something wicked this way comes”, and “star-crossed lovers”.
Happy birthday to all our April-born puzzlers, and happy puzzling!