William Shakespeare facts covers trivia about the Bard's life
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William Shakespeare Facts

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William Shakespeare facts are few and far between. While we know alot about the playwright's works, Shakespeare facts concerning the Bard's personal life are less forthcoming.

Nobody knows Shakespeare’s true birthday. The closest we can come is the date of his baptism on April the 26th, 1564. By tradition and guesswork, William is assumed to have been born three days earlier on April the 23rd, a date now commonly used to celebrate the famous Bard's birthday.

The Bard coined the phrase, "the beast with two backs" meaning intercourse in his play Othello.

Shakespeare invented the word "assassination".

There are only two authentic portraits of William today; the widely used engraving of William Shakespeare by Martin Droeshout first published on the title page of the 1623 First Folio and the monument of the great playwright in Stratford's Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.

William married a woman nearly twice his age. Anne Hathaway was 26 years old when William married her at age 18. They married at Temple Grafton, a village approximately five miles (8 km) from Stratford. Anne Hathaway was said to be from Shottery.

Shakespeare and wife had eight children, including daughter Susanna, twins Hamnet, Judith, and Edmund. Susanna received most of the Bard's fortune when he died in 1616, age 52. Hamnet died at age 11, Judith at 77. Susanna dies in 1649, age 66.

There were two Shakespeare families living in Stratford when William was born; the other family did not become famous.

Shakespeare, one of literature’s greatest figures, never attended university.

Of the 154 sonnets or poems, the playwright penned, his first 26 were said to be directed to an aristocratic young man who did not want to marry. Sonnets 127 - 152 talk about a dark woman, the Bard seems to have had mixed feelings for.

Most academics agree that William wrote his first play, Henry VI, Part One around 1589 to 1590 when he would have been roughly 25 years old.

The Bard is believed to have started writing the first of his 154 sonnets in 1593 at age 29. His first sonnet was Venus and Adonis published in the same year.

William lived through the Black Death. This epidemic that killed over 33,000 in London alone in 1603 when Will was 39, later returned in 1608.

The Bard lost a play. The play Cardenio that has been credited to the Bard and which was performed in his life, has been completely lost to time. Today we have no written record of it’s story whatsoever.

The Great Bard suffered breech of copyright. In 1609, many of his sonnets were published without the bard’s permission.

The famous playwright died in 1616 at the age of 52. He wrote on average 1.5 plays a year since he first started in 1589. His last play The Two Noble Kinsmen is reckoned to have been written in 1613 when he was 49 years old.

William never published any of his plays. We read his plays today only because his fellow actors John Hemminges and Henry Condell, posthumously recorded his work as a dedication to their fellow actor in 1623, publishing 36 of William’s plays. This collection known as The First Folio is the source from which all published Shakespeare books are derived and is an important proof that he authored his plays.

William was born to a Stratford tanner named John Shakespeare. His mother Mary was the daughter of a wealthy gentleman-farmer named Robert Arden.

Legend has it that at the tender age of eleven, William watched the pageantry associated with Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Kenilworth Castle near Stratford and later recreated this scene many times in his plays.

Unlike most famous artists of his time, the Bard did not die in poverty. When he died, his will contained several large holdings of land.

Few people realize that aside from writing 37 plays and composing 154 sonnets, William was also an actor who performed many of his own plays as well as those of other playwrights (Ben Jonson).

As an actor performing his own plays, William performed before Queen Elizabeth I and later before James I who was an enthusiastic patron of his work.

Will wrote lewd comments about woman. In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet’s nurse crudely tells Juliet "thou (you) wilt (will) fall backward when thou (you) hast (have) more wit" (Act I, Scene III, Line 41), by which she means Juliet will learn to fall or lie on her back (have sex) when she is older.

The Bard crudely discusses genitalia size in The Taming of the Shrew where the character Curtis tells Grumio, "Away, you three-inch fool" (Act IV, Scene I, Lines 26-28). Grumio banally replies that he is at least as long as his foot.

Will dabbled in property development. At age 18, he bought the second most prestigious property in all of Stratford, The New Place and later he doubled his investment on some land he bought near Stratford.

Even Shakespeare had his critics. One called Robert Greene described the young playwright as an "upstart young crow" or arrogant upstart, accusing him of borrowing ideas from his seniors in the theatre world for his own plays.

William’s 126th poem contains a farewell, to "my lovely boy" a phrase taken to imply possible homosexuality by some postmodern Shakespeare academics.

The Bard's will gave most of his property to Susanna, his first child and not to his wife Anne Hathaway. Instead his loyal wife infamously received his "second-best bed".

The Bard's second best bed wasn’t so bad, it was his marriage bed; his best bed was for guests.

Until The First Folio was published seven years after his death in 1616, very little personal information was ever written about the Bard..

William was known as a keen businessman to many in his home town of Stratford.

Suicide occurs an unlucky thirteen times in Shakespeare’s plays. It occurs in Romeo and Juliet where both Romeo and Juliet commit suicide, in Julius Caesar where both Cassius and Brutus die by consensual stabbing, as well as Brutus’ wife Portia, in Othello where Othello stabs himself, in Hamlet where Ophelia is said to have "drowned" in suspicious circumstances, in Macbeth when Lady Macbeth dies, and finally in Antony and Cleopatra where suicide occurs an astounding five times (Mark Antony, Cleopatra, Charmian, Iras and Eros).

Racism crops up frequently in the Bard's work. In Othello, the lead character , a Moor of African descent, is continuously insulted for his heritage and appearance (especially in Act I) by his enemies and even his supporters (Lodovico) at the play’s conclusion when Othello murders his wife for mistakenly believing she cheated. Racism also occurs in Titus Andronicus (towards the Moor named Aaron), The Tempest where the misformed giant Caliban is called "this thing of darkness" (Act V, Line 275), and in Richard II.

Anti-Semitism also crops up. The Jewish moneylender Shylock in the Merchant of Venice is portrayed as greedy and calculating. At the play’s conclusion he is forced to change religion to Christianity as punishment for wanting "a pound of flesh" from Antonio who agreed to this if his friend forfeited a debt to Shylock. Being a Jew is used as a curse in Henry the First, Part Two (Act II, Scene IV, Line 178), in The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Act II, Scene V, Line 53), The Merchant of Venice, Anthony and Cleopatra, Much Ado about Nothing , Macbeth and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

The Bard's characters frequently debase those of colored skin. In Love’s Labour’s Lost, the character King Ferdinand, King of Navarre, racially remarks that "Black is the badge of hell, the hue of dungeons and the scowl of night" (Act IV, Scene III, Lines 254-255).

William was popular with King James I. England’s ruler following Elizabeth I was so taken with the Bard’s skill that he gave his acting company, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men a patent allowing them to perform and also made these actors Grooms of Chamber. The Bard returned the favor by renaming his company, The King’s Men. This title made William a favorite for Court performances and made him a favorite with the new King of England.

William Shakespeare is one of the most identifiable icons of England. Others include members of England’s Royal family, Westminister Abbey, Big Ben, and red double-decker buses.


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