William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as both the greatest writer in the English language, and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He’s often called England’s national poet, and the “Bard of Avon.” Take a look below for 30 more interesting and fun facts about William Shakespeare.
1. His extant works, including collaborations, consist of about 39 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship.
2. Shakespeare’s plays have been translated into every major living language, and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.
3. Shakespeare was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire.
4. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith.
5. Some time between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer and part-owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, which was later known as the King’s Men.
6. When he was 49 years old, he appears to have retired to Stratford, where he died three years later.
7. Few records of Shakespeare’s private life survive, which has stimulated considerable speculation about his physical appearance, his sexuality, his religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others.
8. Shakespeare produced most of his known works between 1589 and 1613.
9. His early plays were primarily comedies and histories, and are regarded as some of the best work ever produced in these genres.
10. Until about 1608, he wrote mainly tragedies, among them Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth, all considered to be among the finest works in the English language.
11. In the last phase of his life, he wrote romances and collaborated with other playwrights.
12. Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy in his lifetime. However, in 1623, two friends and fellow-actors of Shakespeare’s, John Heminges and Henry Condell, published a more definitive text known as the First Folio, a posthumous collected edition of Shakespeare’s dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognized as his.
13. His parents were John and Mary Shakespeare. John came to Stratford from Snitterfield before 1532 as an apprentice glover and tanner of leathers. He prospered and began to deal in farm products and wool before being elected to a multitude of civic positions.
14. Shakespeare had seven siblings: Joan, who lived for only 2 months, Margaret, Gilbert, another Joan, Anne, Richard and Edmund.
15. One of Shakespeare’s relatives on his mother’s side, William Arden, was arrested for plotting against Queen Elizabeth I. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London and executed.
16. There are more than 80 variations recorded for the spelling of Shakespeare’s name. In the few original signatures that have survived, Shakespeare spelled his name “Willm Shakesp,” “William Shakespe,” “Wm Shakespe,” “William Shakspere,” “Willm Shakspere,” and “William Shakspeare.”
17. During his life, Shakespeare performed before Queen Elizabeth I and, later, before James I who was an enthusiastic patron of his work.
18. By the 17th century, he had become a famous playwright in London but in his hometown of Stratford, where his wife and children were, and which he visited frequently, he was a well known and highly respected businessman and property owner.
19. It’s likely that Shakespeare wore a gold hoop earring in his left ear, a creative, bohemian look in the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras. This style is evidenced in the Chandos portrait, one of the most famous depictions of Shakespeare.
20. Shakespeare’s 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 biggest house in the town.
21. Sometime after his unsuccessful application to become a gentleman, Shakespeare took his father to the College of Arms to secure their own Shakespeare family crest. The crest was a yellow spear on a yellow shield, with the Latin inscription “Non Sans Droict,” or “Not Without Right.”
22. On his death, Shakespeare made several gifts to various people but left his property to his daughter, Susanna. The only mention of his wife in Shakespeare’s own will is: “I gyve unto my wief my second best bed with the furniture.” The “furniture” was the bedclothes for the bed.
23. Shakespeare’s original grave marker showed him holding a bag of grain. Citizens of Stratford replaced the bag with a quill in 1747.
24. Although Catholicism was illegal in Shakespeare’s lifetime, the Anglican Archdeacon, Richard Davies of Lichfield, who had known him, wrote some time after Shakespeare’s death that he had been a Catholic.
25. Shakespeare has been credited by the Oxford English Dictionary with introducing almost 3,000 words to the English language. Estimations of his vocabulary range from 17,000 to 29,000 words.
26. His last play, The Two Noble Kinsmen, is thought to have been written in 1613, when he was 49 years old.
27. The Comedy of Errors is Shakespeare’s shortest play at just 1,770 lines long.
28. There are only two Shakespeare plays written entirely in verse. They are Richard II and King John. Many of the plays have half of the text in prose.
29. The American President Abraham Lincoln was a big fan of Shakespeare’s plays and frequently recited from them to his friends. His assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was a famous Shakespearean actor.
30. Candles were very expensive in Shakespeare’s time so they were used only for emergencies, for a short time. Most writers wrote in the daytime and socialized in the evenings.