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Saint Anselm College English Professors Celebrated Shakespeare's Birthday at the first annual celebrationCaptured April 25, 1989, Professors Gary Bouchard and Landis Magnuson at the first celebration

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College Celebrates Shakespeare’s 453rd Birthday

April 21, 2017

Laura Lemire
Communications and Marketing
(603) 641-7242

On Monday April 24, the Saint Anselm College community will gather in the courtyard behind Alumni Hall to celebrate William Shakespeare's birthday for the 29th time amid cake, performances, special guests, and of course, sonnets. The 154 sonnets will be read in numerical order from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., interrupted only for musical interludes and performances of scenes from the Bard's plays from the Anselmian Abbey Players.

Since 1989, the sonnets have been read aloud on the Hilltop by members of the monastic community, faculty, staff, and students as well as alumni and other guests. Over the years, special appearances have been made by k-12 students from schools in the New Hampshire and Massachusetts, relatives of faculty and staff, and an occasional appearance by Professor Landis Magnuson in full Elizabethan regalia.

Discussing the creation of this annual college tradition, organizer and chair of the English department, Professor Gary Bouchard says: that at the end of the first reading, "as Professor Edward Comiskey, former director of the Anselmian Abbey Players, turned out to read the final sonnet 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."

This year, participants include 30 visitors from Austin Preparatory School in Reading, Mass., accompanying English teacher and alumna Marla Pascucci Byrne '93. An estimated 20 alumni ranging from the classes of 1957 to 2016 will also attend. Sonnets will be recited in five foreign languages: French, Spanish, Russian, Norwegian, and Chinese.

"With several students from Austin Prep teaming together and several sonnets being read in foreign languages, we will have over 160 readers that day! We also anticipate musical performances from the campus Chamber Ensemble and Emily (Rowden) Fournier '11, from the Recycled Shakespeare Company in Maine," says Bouchard.

As William Shakespeare turns 453 years old, the celebration marks the continued influence of the Bard on culture and scholarship. Bouchard and the English department invite all to attend the celebration.

The 29th Shakespeare Festival is sponsored by the Saint Anselm College English department, and made possible by a generous contribution from Daniel Barrett '95.


10 a.m., First Sonnet is read.
11:15 a.m., Takes on Kate Scene from The Taming of the Shrew
12:15 p.m., The Nearer in Blood the Nearer Bloody Scene from Macbeth
2:15 p.m., Whose Grave is This? Scene from Hamlet
4 p.m., Last sonnet is read.

Learn more about the tradition at

Story by Maggie Lynch '17

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