Shakespeare FAQ answers some of the more popular
questions about the Great Bard. From Shakespeare's love-life
to his famous will, Shakespeare FAQ explains them all...
Was Shakespeare ever in love?
Yes, at age 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway,
a woman 8 years his senior. They stayed married the
rest of Shakespeares life for some 34 years until
Shakespeare died in 1616, age 52.
Is it true nobody knows Shakespeares birthday?
It is true we dont know Shakespeares
date of birth. We know it was in 1564 but our only record
at this time was of his baptism at the Holy Trinity
Church on April the 26th. By convention and some guesswork,
Shakespeares birthday is by tradition celebrated
three days earlier on April the 23rd.
At what age did Shakespeare write his first play?
It is believed that Shakespeare penned his first
play Henry VI, Part One, between 1589 and 1590. Shakespeare
would have been 25 at the time. This play is believed
to have been performed at The Rose Theatre in London.
Which are Shakespeares most popular plays?
With 37 plays under his belt, it is hard to place
some plays above others. Nonetheless, most academics
and readers alike would agree that Hamlet, Romeo and
Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummers Nights
Dream, King Henry V, King Lear, Macbeth , Othello and
Antony and Cleopatra are amongst Shakespeares
most recognizable and hence most popular plays.
Was Shakespeare a victim of "breech of copyright"?
In 1609, Shakespeares sonnets were published
without the Bards permission. Many academics considered
it unlikely that Shakespeare wanted many of his deeply
personal poems to be revealed to the outside world.
It was not however the first time; in 1599, in a collection
entitled "The Passionate Pilgrim", two of Shakespeares
poems had been printed without the Bards permission.
What Plays did Shakespeare write?
The list is extensive. In the best chronological
order available, Shakespeare wrote Henry
VI, Part One, Henry VI, Part Two. The Two Gentlemen
of Verona, Henry VI, Part Three, Richard III, The Comedy
of Errors, Loves Labours Lost, Titus Andronicus,
The Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer-Nights
Dream, Richard II, King John, The Merchant of Venice,
Henry IV, Part One, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry
IV, Part Two, Much Ado About Nothing, Henry V, Julius
Caesar, Hamlet, Twelfth Night Or What You Will, Troilus
and Cressida, Alls Well That Ends Well, As You
Like It, Othello, Measure for Measure, Timon of Athens,
King Lear, Macbeth, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, Coriolanus,
Antony and Cleopatra, Cymbeline, The Winters Tale,
The Tempest, The Two Noble Kinsmen, Cardenio Henry VIII.
Are any of Shakespeares poems especially famous?
Perhaps one poem is more famous than the other 154
sonnets for the shear number of times, popular movies
(Clueless for example), books, TV programs (The Darling
Buds of May) and reviews have used its lines.
Sonnet 18 begins with the opening lines, " Shall
I compare thee (you) to a summers day?
Thou (you) art (are) more lovely and more
temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of
May, And Summers lease hath all too short a date..."
Did Shakespeare "lose" a play?
Yes. He did not literally lose it in a park or on
his travels. The play Cardenio, though written and performed
in Shakespeares time has not been recorded in
the First Folio of 1623 as were Shakespeares other
plays. Cardenio has been lost to time for the modern
Did Shakespeare have any children?
Eight, including twins Judith and Hamnet. Hamnet
did not survive to adulthood. Susanna his first daughter
lived a very ripe 66 years and Judith lived a very respectable
77 years. Shakespeare only lived to 52.
What events happened in Shakespeares time?
Quite a few important historical occurrences. Shakespeare
lived through the defeat of the Spanish Armada of 1588
(Shakespeare was 24 at the time), the discovery of the
remains of Pompeii buried by Mount Vesuvius (Shakespeare
was 28), Rembrandt was born, The Gunpowder plot was
foiled with Guy Fawkes being executed (1605 &1606)and
Shakespeare lived in the reigns of both Queen Elizabeth
and the reign of James I.
How can I read Shakespeare online?
Yes, quite simply here at Absolute Shakespeare.com.
What are Shakespeares lost years?
This is the time when William Shakespeare is said
to have left his family inn Stratford whilst he pursued
a career in acting and Theatre in London. Shakespeare
is said to have returned to his family in Stratford
at least once a year.
How many plays did Shakespeare write?
Thirty seven plays and 154 sonnets.
What was the Globe?
This was a Theatre, Shakespeare and his fellow actors
(The Lord Chamberlains Men later renamed The Kings
Men) performed the majority of their plays at. It was
built for The Lord Chamberlains Men expressly
as a theatre on land leased from a Nicholas Brend. Opening
in 1599, it was later burned to the ground in 1613 reopening
a year later in 1614.
What is Shakespeares most famous play?
Most academics would argue Hamlet is Shakespeares
greatest and most famous work. In popular culture, it
would probably be considered Romeo and Juliet.
Is it true Shakespeare didnt write any of
A major controversy today is brewing over this very
contentious issue. The traditional camp maintains that
William Shakespeare was indeed a poet, playwright and
an actor. Critics known as "Oxfordians" argue that a
more likely contender may have been Edward de Ver (1550-1604)
whom T.J. Looney in 1920, claimed authored
Shakespeare's plays, Christopher Marlowe or even Queen
Elizabeth herself! A problem for the Edward de Vere
line is that many of Shakespeares plays were said
to have been written after Edward de Veres death
in 1604. Shakespeare died in 1616.
The Oxfordians argue quite reasonably, that proof
of Shakespeares authorship is largely circumstantial
and sketchy at best. These scholars argue that Shakespeare
was better known in Stratford as a businessman not a
playwright. However despite putting up some plausible
contenders for Shakespeares throne, Shakespeare
remains the most likely evidence wise. For now at least,
it is still safe to say Shakespeare did indeed write
the 37 plays and 154 sonnets credited to him.
Was Shakespeare really a successful businessman?
Yes, so much so that in 1597, he bought one of the
most prestigious properties in all of Stratford, The
New Place. Later, Shakespeare bought a considerable
amount of land in Stratford, doubling his investment.
Was Romeo and Juliet based on a true story?
Yes but this was not "Shakespeare in Love". Romeo
and Juliet was in fact based on the life of two real
lovers who both died for each other and lived in Verona,
Italy in 1303. Both the Capulets and Montagues existed
in Verona at this time and Shakespeare is reckoned to
have discovered this tragic love story in Arthur Brooke's
1562 poem entitled "The Tragical Historye of Romeus
and Juliet" .
Where was Shakespeare born?
We assume it was in Stratford upon Avon since he
was baptized in 1564 at The Holy Trinity Church in Stratford
on April the 26th.
What is The First Folio?
The First Folio of 1623, complied by Shakespeares
fellow actors John Hemminges and Henry Condell was the
first ever publication of Shakespeares plays.
It contains all 36 plays that we can read today. All
publications of Shakespeares plays are derived
from this Folio. Only 250 original copies are said to
exist today, each worth roughly just 1 Pound in 1623.
Today each Folio would fetch nearly 3 million dollars
(US). Unfortunately Cardenio was not included and so
this play has been lost to time for the present day
Are there film adaptations of Shakespeares
Quite a few. Over 300 adaptations dating
from as early as the 1930s have been recorded as being
adaptations of Shakespeares plays. Recently both
Hamlet, A Midsummers Night and Romeo and Juliet
have been successfully adapted to film.
Was "Shakespeare in Love" a true story?
Not really. First, there is no historical record
of such a love affair ever having taken place. Second,
the film is a work of plausible fiction. Third, Shakespeare
married Anne Hathaway at age 18 and penned Romeo and
Juliet which features in the film in 1595 at the age
of 31. Thus any depiction of such a love affair during
the writing of Romeo and Juliet would have to have meant
Shakespeare was cheating on Anne. Finally the depiction
that Shakespeare was short on cash around 1595 simply
doesnt wash; just two years later, he bought one
of the largest properties in Stratford called The New
Place and is considered to have penned 9 plays by 1595.
Was Shakespeare a "property developer" in Stratford?
Indeed Shakespeare was, purchasing both the new
place and a large holding of land in the Stratford area.
He was also a co-owner of the Globe Theatre with the
other members of The Lord Chamberlains Men in
Was Shakespeare recognized in his own time?
Unlike many famous poets and artists, Shakespeare
not only did not die penniless but was a frequent performer
before the Court Queen Elizabeth I (The Merry Wives
of Windsor in 1596, A Midsummers Nights
Dream in 1603) and King James I who commended The Kings
Mens two performances of The Merchant of Venice
Was Shakespeare an actor as well as a playwright?
Few people realize that aside from writing 37 plays
and 154 sonnets, Shakespeare was an actor as well. Besides
performing many of his own plays with his theatre company
The Lord Chamberlains Men (changed to The Kings
men to honour James I in 1603), Shakespeare acted in
Ben Jonsons play Sejanus in 1603.
Did Shakespeare ever collaborate in the writing
of his plays?
Surprisingly, Shakespeare is said to have penned
Henry VIII with the likely help of noted dramatist John
Fletcher between 1612 and 1613. The Two Noble Kinsmen,
composed in 1613 is credited in a 1634 Stationers
Registry entry as being the work of both William Shakespeare
and John Fletcher.
Did Shakespeare have any critics?
Described by First Folio publishers John Hemminges
and Henry Condell who said "His mind and hand went together
and what he thought, he uttered with that easiness that
we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers.",
there were many who did not like Shakespeares
work. Robert Greene really got the ball rolling by calling
Shakespeare "an upstart crow" in his 1592 pamphlet entitled
"Greenes Groatsworth of Wit" whilst Samuel Pepys
ruthlessly described the 1595 "A Midsummers Nights
Dream" as "the most insipid, ridiculous play that I
ever saw in my life." Even Voltaire stepped into the
ring by saying that "Shakespeare is a drunken savage
with some imagination whose plays please only in London
and Canada," before adding that "Shakespeare is the
Corneille of London, but everywhere else he is a great
Did Shakespeare invent words?
Yes, among them the word "assassination". Furthermore,
Shakespeare is said to have had a vocabulary of some
29,066 words. An average persons today might use
just 2000 words used in everyday conversation. With
a vocabulary like that, who needs a dictionary?