An elaborate party has been planned at Stratford-upon-Avon to celebrate the 450th birthday on Wednesday of William Shakespeare, who has been identified in a survey in India and other countries as Britain's greatest cultural icon.
The exact date of Shakespeare's birth is not known but it is traditionally celebrated on 23 April. He is recorded to have been baptised on 26 April 1564, and died aged 52 on 23 April 1616.
In Statford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare's hometown, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has organised a fireworks display on top of the theatre after this evening's performance of Henry IV Part I.
Several events have been planned in London and elsewhere throughout the year to mark 450 years of his birthday, as a British Council survey covering 5,000 people in India, China, Brazil, Germany and the United States identified Shakespeare as Britain's greatest cultural icon.
In addition to traditional pyrotechnics, the birthday treat in Stratford-upon-Avon will feature an 8 metre high frame depicting Shakespeare's face, which will light up in flames. The image of Shakespeare will be based on the iconic Droeshout engraving of the playwright.
It will also echo Juliet's lines about Romeo:
"Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun".
Gregory Doran, RSC Artistic Director said: "This will be a wonderful way of marking the 450th birthday of our house playwright, and the beginning of a great arc of work celebrating his genius from this 450th birthday year to the 400th anniversary of his death in 2016. I hope as many people as possible will come and enjoy the fireworks, especially our friends and neighbours who live here in Stratford."
London, which was the setting of some of Shakespeare's first plays, will host several events during the year, mainly by the Shakespeare's Globe theatre. The Victoria and Albert Museum will mark the anniversary with two exhibitions.