Facts about William Shakespeare

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A list of interesting Shakespeare facts.

  1. Shakespeare was born 26 April 1564, Stratford. (only later changed to Stratford Upon Avon)
  2. Shakespeare is widely considered the world’s greatest dramatist.
  3. He wrote 38 plays and 154 sonnets.
  4. Shakespeare is most likely to have received a classical Latin education at King’s New School in Stratford.
  5. He married Anne Hathaway when he was only 18;
  6. Anne (26) was 3 months pregnant when they married.
  7. Their first child, Susanna was born six months after their marriage.
  8. They later had two twins, Hamnet and Judith.
  9. Shakespeare had seven brothers and sisters
  10. Shakespeare worked as an actor, writer and co-owner of a drama company called the ‘Lord Chamberlain’s Men’- Later known as the King’s Men.

Shakespeare in 100 Facts Book Cover

Zoe Bramley offers a range of facts about Shakespeare, uncovering details from his lifetime and legacy and organising them into easy-to-read, bitesize facts – from the name of his first patron’s cat to how they say ‘to be or not to be’ in Klingon.

  1. His greatest plays include Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet.
  2. The first publishing of Shakespeare’s works is the ‘First Folio’ published in 1623.
  3. In the introduction to the First Folio, playwright Ben Johnson wrote a preface to Shakespeare’s work with the quote ‘(Shakespeare) is not of an age, but for all time.
  4. Shakespeare’s popularity blossomed after the Romantic period and during the Victorian period – receiving the praise of poets, such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Victor Hugo and Voltaire.
  5. Romantic poet John Keats kept a bust of Shakespeare near his desk in the hope that Shakespeare would spark his creativity
  6. ‘Bardolatry’ was a term coined by George Bernard Shaw to illustrate the reverence held by many Victorians for anything Shakespeare.
  7. By 1592, Shakespeare was receiving his first literary criticism with playwright Robert Greene, criticising Shakespeare for being a ‘Jack of all trades’ – a second-rate tinkerer with the work of others.
  8. This criticism may be motivated by the fact Shakespeare was not university educated like contemporary writers such as Christopher Marlowe.
  9. Early praise for Shakespeare came from writers such as Ben Johnson. Jonson remarked of Shakespeare he was the – “Soul of the age, the applause, delight, the wonder of our stage”
  10. Shakespeare acted in many of his plays.
  11. Shakespeare was acquainted with Queen Elizabeth I.
  12. After the death of Queen Elizabeth I, Shakespeare’s company was awarded a royal patent by the new King James I and changed its name to the Kings Men.
  13. Shakespeare is often referred to as Elizabethan playwright, but most of his players were written in the Jacobean period.
  14. In 1599, the company built their own theatre, The Globe on the south banks of the River Thames.
  15. Shakespeare lived through an outbreak of the bubonic plague in London (1524-94) and 1609. The plague also came to Stratford, when Shakespeare was just 3 months old
  16. Many of Shakespeare’s plays were based on historical accounts, dramatised by Shakespeare. He also dramatised stories from classical writers such as Plutarch and Holinshed.
  17. Hamlet was based on a well known Scandinavian legend called -Amleth,
  18. Shakespeare’s plays contain 200 references to dogs and 600 references to birds.
  19. In 1890, Eugene Schiffelin an American ‘Bardolator’ decided to import every kind of bird mentioned in Shakespeare but not native to America. This included a flock of 60 starlings released in New York. Starlings have now driven many native birds to the edge of extinction.
  20. Shakespeare’s plays are usually separated into three main divisions
    Comedies – ‘All’s well that Ends Well’, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’
    Histories – ‘Henry V’
    Tragedies – ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘Hamlet’, and ‘Othello’.
  21. There are those who question whether William Shakespeare was actually the author of the plays, attributed to him. Other contenders include the ‘Oxford school’ – suggesting Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford was a better contender.
  22. Shakespeare was the most quoted author in Samuel Johnson’s early “Dictionary of the English Language’
  23. Before Shakespeare, the English language was much less codified with no official dictionary and many variations on spelling.
  24. Shakespeare has given many words (estimate of 1,700 – 3,000) to the English language.
  25. Estimations of Shakespeare’s vocabulary range from 17,000 to 29,000 words.
  26. Shakespeare has given many memorable phrases to the English language, such as “wild goose chase”, “foregone conclusion” “in a pickle”
  27. Shakespeare has given many memorable insults, “Thou art like a toad; ugly and venomous.”, “You scullion! You rampallian! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe!”, “Thou clay-brained guts, thou knotty-pated fool, thou whoreson obscene greasy tallow-catch!”
  28. Shakespeare never seemed to spell his name properly, often signing his name “Willm Shakp,”
  29. By others, he was referred to by over 80 different names, such as Shaxberd.” and “Shappere”
  30. Macbeth was often unpopular for its reference to witches which created fear in the middle ages. There remains a long theatre superstition of saying aloud the name ‘Macbeth’
  31. In his will, he appeared to only give his wife (Anne) a bed.
  32. Shakespeare’s grave includes a curse against moving his bones.

The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works 2nd Edition

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The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works 2nd Edition at Amazon

Shakespeare: The Biography

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Shakespeare: The Biography at Amazon

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