25 Intriguing Facts You Should Know About Shakespeare

Posted by , Updated on June 20, 2016

Shakespeare’s poems and plays are timeless and have not failed to touch and engage millions of people around the globe to this day. His incredible influence and impact can be found throughout the arts and modern culture from theater and literature to contemporary film and music, Western philosophy and sociology, to the English language itself. He’s undoubtedly the most famous and quoted writer in the English-speaking world, while an extensive number of writers who have followed him have been influenced by his plays in one way or another.

His impressive body of work continues to influence modern drama in a variety of ways. According to many contemporary historians and scholars, Shakespeare wasn’t just a writer who helped change the world with his art but who contributed the utmost to creating a new, brighter, and more progressive world. Some of his best dramas, including Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth among others, have become Hollywood films and have been performed in thousands of theaters worldwide, introducing millions to the Bard’s imaginative world every year. The 25 Intriguing Facts You Should Know About Shakespeare that follow may help you discover that maybe your life has also been influenced by his masterpieces without even recognizing it.

25

According to most accurate historical sources, Shakespeare was baptized on April 26, 1564. According to the tradition of the age, babies were baptized when they were three days old, meaning Shakespeare was probably born on April 23. However, as Shakespeare was born under the old Julian calendar, what was April 23 during his lifetime would actually be May 3 according to the Gregorian calendar used today. In other words, Shakespeare was a Taurus.

TaurusSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: Wikipedia
24

He came from a big family and had seven siblings. However, the most notable of his relatives was a second cousin of his mother named William Arden. His claim to fame was that he was arrested for plotting against Queen Elizabeth I, imprisoned in the Tower of London, and eventually executed.

Queen ElizabethSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: Wikipedia
23

Not many people are aware that apart from writing some of the most legendary plays and sonnets in history, Shakespeare was also an actor who performed in many of his own dramas as well as those of other playwrights.

performance Source: shakespeare-online.com, Image: Wikipedia
22

Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway, was eight years older than he, which was a bit out of the ordinary for their time. He was eighteen and she was twenty-six and three months pregnant with their first child when they married.

paintingSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: Wikipedia
21

In case you never heard this before, “William Shakespeare” is an anagram of “I am a weakish speller.”

anagramSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: commons.wikimedia.org

20

When Shakespeare became a very famous playwright in London, he didn’t abandon his previous professional activities in his hometown of Stratford (near Birmingham) where his wife and children were. Whenever he was in his hometown, he would take care of his business dealings and expand his property, and the people who knew him well spoke of a man who was a strict businessman who didn’t engage in trading favors.

Shakespeare paintingSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: Wikipedia
19

His family home in Stratford was called New Place. The house stood on the corner of Chapel Street and Chapel Lane and was apparently the second largest house in town—clear evidence of how wealthy and capable a businessman Shakespeare was.

houseSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: Wikipedia
18

Due to the outbreak of the plague across Europe, Shakespeare began to write poetry because all the London theaters remained shuttered from 1592 to 1594. As there was no demand for plays during this time, he completed his first batch of sonnets in 1593.

Shakespeare's sonnetsSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: Wikipedia
17

It is estimated that the Royal Shakespeare Company sells more than four hundred thousand tickets every year for Shakespeare productions at their theaters in Shakespeare’s birthplace Stratford-upon-Avon, London, and Newcastle, thereby introducing more or less about fifty thousand people to a live Shakespeare performance on a yearly basis.

Shakespeare theaterSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: Wikipedia
16

It looks like suicide wasn’t a taboo for the famous writer, since it occurs thirteen times in his plays with the most famous of all probably being those of Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo and JulietSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: YouTube
15

You have probably heard some conspiracy theorists claim that Shakespeare wasn’t the actual author of his plays. However, all mainstream Shakespeare scholars maintain that the convergence of documentary evidence for Shakespeare’s authorship, title pages, testimony by other contemporary poets and historians, and official records, is the same as that for any other author of the period. No such supporting evidence exists for any other candidate as the plays’ author, and Shakespeare’s authorship was not questioned during his lifetime or for centuries after his death.

newspaperSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: Wikipedia
14

The Comedy of Errors is Shakespeare’s shortest play at just 1,770 lines. Keep in mind that this play is only a third the length of his longest, Hamlet, which takes a little more than four hours to perform.

HamletSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: Wikipedia
13

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Shakespeare introduced nearly three thousand words to the English language. Various estimations of his vocabulary range from seventeen thousand to an incredible twenty-nine thousand words.

booksSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: Wikipedia
12

Shakespeare was a big fan of Homer, the Greek father of epic poetry, and also openly admired Chaucer’s works. For that matter, he used several of Chaucer’s poems as sources for his plays. Troilus and Criseyde was the primary source of Troilus and Cressida, and the Parliament of Fowls was a source for Mercutio’s “Queen Mab” speech in Romeo and Juliet.

paintingSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: Wikipedia
11

Although Shakespeare is usually referred to as an Elizabethan playwright, the truth is that the majority of his most famous plays were written after Elizabeth I’s death. In reality, Shakespeare was more of a Jacobean writer than anything else.

paintingSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: Wikipedia
10

Just as in ancient Greek theater, females were not allowed to act during Shakespeare’s lifetime. Therefore, all the female parts were inevitably played by men or boys. During the Restoration (the period when the monarchy returned to power under Charles II) the first women began to appear on the English stage.

paintingSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: Wikipedia
9

During his time as a writer, Shakespeare wrote at least 37 plays, 154 sonnets, and a number of other poems; many historians suggest that there are a number of “lost plays” and plays that Shakespeare wrote or collaborated on with other playwrights.

Shakespeare's worksSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: Wikipedia
8

Cardenio and Love’s Labour’s Won are two of the plays we know Shakespeare wrote but that have been lost to posterity.

title pageSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: Wikipedia
7

Even though Catholicism was strictly banned during Shakespeare’s lifetime, according to the Anglican archdeacon Richard Davies of Lichfield, Shakespeare was a dedicated Catholic.

churchSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: commons.wikimedia.org
6

Shakespeare died at age fifty-two in 1616. His original grave marker showed him holding a bag of grain but the people of Stratford replaced the bag with a quill in 1747.

quillSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: shutterstock
5

At the time of his death, Shakespeare had made many gifts to friends and relatives but left pretty much all his property to his daughter, Susanna. The only mention of his wife in Shakespeare’s will was, “I gyve unto my wief my second best bed with the furniture.” Keep in mind that in Shakespeare’s time “furniture” meant sleepwear.

Elizabethan bedSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: en.wikipedia
4

According to the Literary Encyclopedia, Shakespeare is the second most quoted English writer after the translators of the King James Version of the Bible.

BookSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: Wikipedia
3

President Abraham Lincoln was a huge aficionado of the great Bard’s works. He would often recite from the plays in his conversations with friends. Ironically, his assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was a well-known Shakespearean actor.

Abraham LincolnSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: commons.wikimedia.org
2

Contrary to popular belief and despite being a great businessman, Shakespeare never actually published or used any of his plays for commercial purposes. Actually, it was two of his fellow actors, John Hemminges and Henry Condell, who inscribed and published thirty-six of them after his death under the title “The First Folio,” which is the source of all Shakespeare’s published dramas.

ShakespeareSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: Wikipedia
1

Various scholars believe that Shakespeare used to wear a gold hoop in his left ear, a creative, bohemian look in the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. This earring can be seen in the Chandos portrait, one of the most popular depictions of the playwright.

ShakespeareSource: shakespeare-online.com, Image: deviantart.com
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