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Shakespeare's Birthday
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.1049  Friday, 24 November 2006

From: 		Alan Jones <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 22 Nov 2006 21:10:48 -0000
Subject: 17.1034 Shakespeare's Birthday
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.1034 Shakespeare's Birthday

Peter Bridgman <
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>>Alan Jones asks ...
>>
>>Why would altars and crosses draped in black on St Mark's Day?
>
>I got this from Schoenbaum.  In 'A Compact Documentary Life' he argues
>that WS was born on 23 April but not baptised until 26 April because
>"superstition intervened - people considered Saint Mark's Day
>unlucky."Black Crosses" it was called; the crosses and altars were
>almost to Shakespeare's day hung with black, and (some reported) the
>spectral company of those destined to die that year stalked the
>churchyard".

I wonder where Schoenbaum got this from. It was on St Mark's *Eve* (i.e. 
24 April) that "the spectral company of those destined to die that year 
stalked the churchyard", according to a superstition held chiefly in the 
North of England. St Mark, as Evangelist and by legend also Martyr, is 
honoured by the Anglican Church with one of its relatively few major Feast 
Days, specified as a Holy Day in the 1559 Prayer Book. Currently the 
prescribed colour for hangings and vestments on that day is red (or gold), 
and I believe that is true also of the RC Church and was so in the Sarum 
Rite of medieval England. Black on a major feast day would seem 
unthinkable. But doubtless Schoenbaum had his source. Does anyone know 
what it may have been?

Alan Jones

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