April is National Poetry Month. Fitting enough ­p; since it's the month in which poet-dramatist William Shakespeare was born. (He also died in April, but more about that in a few weeks). During April, to celebrate, we'll take a look at some of the Elizabethan poets and their England. Today ­p; 1564 ­p; the year of Shakespeare's birth.

The country's mariners and merchants continued their search for new sources of raw materials. Elizabeth I, probably more interested in fostering new trade than in founding a literary renaissance, granted a charter to The Merchant Adventurers of London and its founder, explorer Sebastian Cabot, the son of another explorer, John Cabot. Sea dog John Hawkins set off on another voyage. After an exploration of the African coast he would cross the Atlantic and explore the coast of Florida the following year.

Internal improvements were not neglected, as construction began on the Exeter Canal, to improve navigation of the River Exe.

Like a tornado, the plague touched down here and there in Europe this year, with outbreaks reported in Stratford, Savoy and Rennes.

On February 6th another English playwright made his debut, as Christopher Marlowe was born, in Canterbury. But that's another tale.

On April 11th England settled a long-standing dispute with France as Elizabeth's ministers signed a treaty at Troyes. For a payment of 222,000 crowns the English agreed to relinquish all claims to the Channel port of Calais.

Less than two weeks later England's greatest dramatist was born. The traditional birth date for Shakespeare is April 23rd. I say traditional, because in 1564 births were not recorded by local authorities. The Church, however, recorded the date infants were christened, and records show that for William the rite was performed on April 26th, in Stratford-on-Avon. Three days seemed a logical interval between the two events, hence the 23rd as a likely birth date.

An afterthought. England has a river Exe, E-X-E, and a River Wye, W-Y-E. why is there no River Zed?

© 1997 David Minor / Eagles Byte