It's Prince Hamlet! Charles takes to the Stratford stage to deliver iconic 'To be or not to be' line on the Bard's 400th anniversary
- Prince of Wales appeared on stage during star-studded gala at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre
- He delivered Hamlet line during comedy sketch, which involved David Tennant, Judi Dench and Sir Ian McKellen
- A theatrical parade in Stratford-upon-Avon involving singing and dancing took place earlier in the day
- 10,000 lined the streets in Shakespeare masks and Tudor dress while others watched performances of his work
Prince Charles took to the stage to deliver Hamlet's famous 'To be or not to be' line tonight as part of a gala marking the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death.
The Prince of Wales made a surprise appearance during the star-studded event at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.
A host of actors, including Benedict Cumberbatch, David Tennant, Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Judi Dench, debated how to deliver the iconic line during the comedy sketch, before Charles walked on stage and asked: 'Might I have a word?'
There was a dramatic pause before he delivered the words: 'To be, or not to be: that is the question'.
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Prince Charles took to the stage to deliver the iconic line as part of a gala marking the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death
A host of actors, including Dame Judi Dench, David Tennant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Sir Ian McKellen, debated how to deliver the 'To be or not to be' line during the gala at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon
The Shakespeare Live! event, which was broadcast on BBC2 and at more than 350 cinemas across the country, also included appearances from Helen Mirren, Rory Kinnear. Al Murray and Tim Minchin, as well as dancers from the Royal Ballet.
Charles, who is the president of the Royal Shakespeare Company, rehearsed in secret with Sir Ian before tonight's extravaganza.
The Prince turned to the Bard earlier this week when paying tribute to his mother on her 90th birthday, using an edited passage from the play Henry VIII in a radio message broadcast over the BBC World Service.
Earlier today, Charles visited the Shakespeare's former home in Stratford-upon-Avon and laid a wreath at his grave at the Holy Trinity Church.
Thousands of well-wishers from around the world gathered at Shakespeare's birthplace to celebrate the playwright's legacy on the 400th anniversary of his death.
A theatrical parade through Stratford-upon-Avon involved singing, dancing and riotous celebration as more than 10,000 people paid homage to the Bard, who was born and died on April 23.
Prince Charles toured the town earlier today, visiting the playwright's former home to mark the special occasion
Thousands of well-wishers had gathered at Shakespeare's hometown to celebrate the playwright's legacy
Students of Stratford-upon-Avon schools wore masks and carried flowers as they watched the procession go through the town
Actors performed excerpts of a Shakespeare play in the grounds of his birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon earlier today
The procession featured civic dignitaries, local schoolchildren, musicians and performers, and a centrepiece ceremony with the unfurling of a birthday flag bearing the writer's image.
There were also quieter moments of reflection on Shakespeare's life and success as his hometown began a weekend of events marking the occasion.
The crowds were asked to play their parts by tossing sprigs of rosemary 'for remembrance', as the Bard wrote in Hamlet, as a funeral bier of flowers was pulled through the town's streets.
Visitors then donned thousands of Shakespeare face-masks which had been handed out.
The mood struck a more celebratory note with the appearance of the 12-piece Wendell Brunious Band from Louisiana who shuffled and shimmied along the parade route with a New Orleans-flavoured flavoured jazz procession.
Band leader Andrew LeDuff said the group, including members of New Orleans' Tulane University, had jumped at the chance to mark Shakespeare's global impact and 'celebrate his life'.
The Prince of Wales laid a wreath at Shakespeare's grave at the Holy Trinity Church in the town in honour of the playwright
A bier bearing a floral tribute to the playwright was wheeled through the town. There were quieter moments of reflection on Shakespeare's life and success to kick off a weekend of events marking the occasion
Students of the Croft Preparatory School held flowers and flags for the celebrations. The crowds were asked to play their parts by tossing sprigs of rosemary 'for remembrance'
A group of masked women joined the festivities as other visitors donned thousands of Shakespeare face masks which had been handed out
Civil dignitaries and local clergy processed through the streets. One Shakespeare fan said: 'The great thing about Shakespeare is he's relevant today - he's very quotable'
Geraldine Collinge, director of events and exhibitions at the RSC, said the weekend celebration was a chance to remember the impact the playwright
One man wore a full Shakespeare costume complete with Elizabethan ruff for the celebrations, carrying a copy of his complete works
The parade featured civic dignitaries, local schoolchildren, musicians and performers, and a centrepiece ceremony with the unfurling of a birthday flag
Drummer Gerald French added: 'We came to do a New Orleans jazz funeral for Shakespeare as he was one of the few people to be born and die the same day, so he gets a special procession.'
Spectator Jane Haigh, who had travelled from Coventry with friend Janice Bobby, said she wanted to be present to mark 'a wonderful legacy'.
Ms Bobby added: 'The great thing about Shakespeare is he's relevant today - he's very quotable, and his plays can be interpreted so widely.'
Playing a key role in this year's landmark anniversary is the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), whose grand Stratford theatre on the banks of the River Avon continues to stage the Bard's plays in sell-out performances in a testament to his ongoing popularity.
Spectator Jane Haigh, who had travelled from Coventry with friend Janice Bobby, said she wanted to be present to mark 'a wonderful legacy'
The RSC director of events added: 'I think in this country we forget so many of the words we use, so many of the expressions and things we talk about have come from Shakespeare'
Members of the public wearing Shakespeare masks carry bunches of flowers as they watch the parade, while one man films the event
Spectators gathered outside the Bard's birthplace as actors performed speeches from the plays in traditional Elizabethan costumes
Later tonight, a star-studded gala of performances will be performed at the riverside Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Geraldine Collinge, director of events and exhibitions at the RSC, said the weekend celebration was a chance to remember the impact the playwright, who was baptised in the town on April 26 1564, had on the English language.
Ms Collinge said: 'He is so much part of what we do every day.
'I think in this country we forget so many of the words we use, so many of the expressions and things we talk about have come from Shakespeare, like 'all that glistens isn't gold' or 'neither a borrower or a lender be', so some of the things you just say all the time come from Shakespeare.'
The head boy of King Edward VI school held a quill during the parade as two other students rectified a banner saying 'In honour of William Shakespeare, man of Stratford'
Spectators wearing Shakespeare masks lined the streets to watch the procession, with children kneeling at the front to get a better view
Shakespeare, who penned almost 40 plays, died in 1616. Pictured is a woman wearing traditional dress during the parade
Onlookers waved Union Jacks as they watched from the upstairs windows of a traditional half-timbered house in the town
A floral tribute, which was carried through the town on a funeral bier, was placed next to a bust of the playwright in the town centre
Earlier today, US President Barack Obama was treated to a special performance of scenes from Hamlet at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London, praising the actors as 'wonderful'.
The president made an early-morning trip to the playhouse in Southwark to mark the anniversary of the Bard's death, which was celebrated across the world.
Shakespeare, who penned almost 40 plays, over 150 sonnets, and coined well-known phrases still widely used to this day, died in 1616.
Crowds also gathered in London to watch a film of Hamlet on the Southbank opposite St. Paul's Cathedral as part of 'The Complete Walk' as celebrations took place across the capital
Soldiers in old-fashioned uniforms marched in Elsinore, Denmark with Kronborg Castle in the background to mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death
Four hundred people in costumes and make up marched through the streets of old town in Gdansk, Poland in memory of William Shakespeare
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