Top 10 fun facts about William Shakespeare

Posted on 23 April 2020

Today is National Shakespeare Day here in the UK, and although this year it comes at a weird time, we mustn't let these circumstances prevent us from honouring one of the world's greatest playwrights!

Top Ten Facts About William Shakespeare

Did you know Shakespeare would have been 456 years old today? Did you also know that his exact birthdate is unknown? That's right! Although the 'upstart crow' was baptised on the 26th of April in 1564, this was not the day he was born. And the 23rd of April, which is now generally celebrated as his birthday, is actually his deathday! If this information is news to you, then here are another ten interesting facts about Shakespeare to test your knowledge!

1. He had a really big oeuvre. In his lifetime, Shakespeare wrote a total of about 37 stage plays and over 150 poems. However, the exact number of Shakespeare's works is unknown, as some of them have been lost or co-authored by other playwrights.   

2. He was a master of insults. The next time someone gets on your nerves, be sure to try one of these Shakespearean insults on for size:

  • "Thou art as fat as butter."
  • "Your virginity breeds mites, much like a cheese."
  • "I scorn you, scurvy companion."
  • "Thou elvish-mark’d, abortive, rooting hog!"
  • "Poisonous bunch-backed toad!"
  • "Thou lump of foul deformity."
  • "You three-inch fool."
  • "A weasel hath not such a deal of spleen as you are toss’d with."
  • "Thou art the son and heir of a mongrel bitch."
  • "Thou art a boil."

3. American actress Anne Hathaway was named after Shakespeare's wife. In 1582, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, a farmer's daughter with whom he had three children: twins Judith and Hament, and their elder daughter Susanna.

4. Now you see him, now you don't. Between the years 1585 and 1592, Shakespeare left no paper trail and effectively "disappeared" for a whole seven years. This period of absence is often referred to as "the lost years" by many historians.

5. He wasn't very popular within the academic community. Many of William's jealous rivals known as 'The University Wits' led by playwright Robert Greene felt Shakespeare's music was bombastic and unworthy to be compared to the works of Oxford and Cambridge scholars. Greene, in particular, began calling Shakespeare an "upstart crow," meaning he felt that Shakespeare had climbed his way up the social ladder without possessing the proper knowledge of social niceties. What a three-inch fool!

6. A West End hitmaker before the concept of a "West End" even existed. Most, if not all, of Shakespeare's plays became instant hits and frequently took audiences by storm! His works were divided into three categories: comedy (The Taming of the Shrew; Twelfth Night), history (Henry IV; Henry VRichard III), and tragedy (HamletKing LearOthelloRomeo and Juliet).

7. Rich and famous. Shakespeare's plays helped him amass a great fortune, so much so that he owned houses in both London and Stratford-upon-Avon by the year 1598.

8. Royally approved. Shakespeare's work was adored by the royal court, and both Queen Elizabeth I and James VI of Scotland and I of England would hire Shakespeare's company to perform for them, hence why we now have the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) today.

9. Shakespeare's Globe was way ahead of its time. The original Globe, which was built across the river from "The Theatre" by Lord Chamberlain's Men, played host to many of Shakespeare's greatest works and was also home to some of the most thrilling special effects of the time. It was not uncommon to see smoke, fire, cannons, trap doors, and even actors hanging from wires at this innovative venue!

10. A wordsmith even after death. Shakespeare's gravestone at the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon has a curse on it written by the late playwright himself. It reads:

  • "Good friend for Jesus’ sake forbear,
    To dig the dust enclosed here.
    Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
    And cursed be he that moves my bones."

Hoping to get your Shakespeare fix once the dust settles?

The new Max Martin musical & Juliet takes Shakespeare's most famous tragedy Romeo and Juliet and turns it on its head! Starring West End sensation Miriam Teak-Lee, & Juliet Her Musical is set in an alternate universe where our ill-fated heroine walks away from the bloody dagger to live her own life.

The musical recently extended its West End booking period at the Shaftesbury Theatre due to the coronavirus in order to allow for as many people to see it as possible! Don't miss this fantastic musical production featuring some of the greatest pop hits of the last two decades!

You might also enjoy reading: "FAQ: & Juliet musical extends its West End run, here's all you need to know"

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Nicholas Ephram Ryan Daniels

By Nicholas Ephram Ryan Daniels

Ephram is a jack of all trades and enjoys attending theatre, classical music concerts and the opera.