These actors prove why you can’t escape Shakespeare — and why you don’t want to

For four centuries, all the world has been his stage.

William Shakespeare, arguably the greatest writer of all time, has influenced the English language and storytelling in countless ways since he penned his plays and poems in the 16th and 17th centuries. This Saturday, April 23, marks 400 years since his death, and it is also the day traditionally recognized as his birthday.

Shakespeare”s queens, kings, fairies, fools, and lovers have entranced people across the globe, as his plays continue to resonate with us in new stagings again and again.

Thoughout the history of film, a medium invented centuries after his death, the Bard”s work has ignited the imagination of such actors and directors as Laurence Olivier, Judi Dench, Kenneth Branagh, Baz Luhrmann, Julie Taymor, and Joss Whedon, who have shown us the enduring power of his words.

“I always believed that there was something inherently cinematic about Shakespeare, particularly soliloquy because of the nature of the asides, the way you talk to an audience and the way that you break down the fourth wall,” Spotlight actor Liev Schreiber told HitFix.

Schreiber chatted with HitFix about the Bard for our video celebrating 400 years of Shakespeare. We commemorate four centuries of his complete works being a part of a brave new world forever shaped by his tales and his words.

Also featured in this video:

-Henry Czerny (Mission: Impossible, Revenge), who performed in several Shakespeare plays in the Stratford Festival early in his career

-Lynn Collins (John Carter, True Blood), who counts Al Pacino”s Merchant of Venice and several Public Theater productions among her Shakespeare credits

-Maggie Grace (Lost, Taken), a self-professed “Shakespeare nerd” who spent her adolescent years memorizing the Bard”s sonnets

-Fran Kranz (Dollhouse, The Cabin in the Woods), who starred in Joss Whedon”s Much Ado About Nothing and also performed in Shakespeare productions as a student at Yale University

-Jim Beaver (DeadwoodSupernatural), who spent five seasons with the Dallas Shakespeare Festival

-Erick Chavarria (Bone Tomahawk, Eastbound & Down), who says he owes his discovery of his comedy chops to his experience appearing in a college production of Much Ado.

Watch these actors reflect on Shakespeare”s influence in their lives and on the world, along with their readings of passages from selected plays and poems:

Come back to HitFix over the next several days for more Shakespeare festivities as we release the full passage reading videos with these actors.

It”s a rare chance for an intimate, up-close encounter with Shakespeare”s words as delivered by talented Hollywood actors. The actors stare straight into the camera lens (and at you) as they read from Romeo and Juliet, Richard III, and more (our producer was sure he saw the camera blushing as Grace read it Shakespeare”s greatest love poem).

Among these passage readings: Schreiber”s intensely solemn Macbeth, Czerny”s dynamic “Queen Mab,” and Kranz”s string of insults from King Lear.

Parting is such sweet sorrow – but more Shakespeare is headed your way!