If all the world's a stage, William Shakespeare is its architect. The playwright died 400 years ago Saturday, but remains the world's most famous writer, living on through endlessly reinterpreted plays and globally known characters, including the tormented prince Hamlet and the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. The anniversary of Shakespeare's death on April 23, 1616, is being marked across Britain with parades, church services, and—of course—stage performances. President Obama took a break from political talks in London to tour Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on Saturday, listening to Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy and admiring the open-air venue—a recreation of the theater, built in 1599, where many of the Bard's plays were first performed.
The president met a Globe troupe that has taken "Hamlet" on a two-year tour to almost 200 countries. They've performed Shakespeare's tragedy on a tennis court in Kabul, Afghanistan, in a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, and at the UN General Assembly in New York. Dominic Dromgoole, the Globe's artistic director, says the world tour has taught him that Shakespeare "is a great aid to communication." "I think he has no agenda," Dromgoole tells the AP. "There's no particular drive within his work to say, this has to be worshipped or this has to be believed. He presents life, and he presents life with wit and brilliance and enchantment—but it's life. And everybody understands life." (Archeologists suspect that Shakespeare's skull is missing.)