William Shakespeare

Facts about William Shakespeare

We found 36 facts about William Shakespeare

English poet, novelist, playwright, and actor

He is the most prominent figure in English and world literature and a reformer of theater. His works such as “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Hamlet,” “Othello,” “King Lear,” “Macbeth,” and “The Tempest” have made him considered the unsurpassed playwright of all time. Despite speculation about the mysterious author who hides under the famous name, most authorities today recognize him as the actual author of the plays long attributed to him. Little is known of his private life, with many years of his life shrouded in mystery. He amassed a sizable fortune and was an entrepreneur and artist. It is also presumed he dabbled in usury on a minor scale.

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was born in 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, England, in the family home on Henley Street.
The exact date of William Shakespeare’s birth is unknown. Parish records show he was baptized on April 26th, 1564, so it is assumed that he was born three days earlier, on April 23rd, 1564.
Shakespeare’s father, John, was among the respected citizens of Stratford.
Presumably, he was the son of Richard Shakespeare of Snitterfield, who received a land grant for his service to King Henry VII. John was a master of the glovers’ guild, a town councilor since 1564, and High Steward of Stratford since 1568 - the town was then a thriving center of the leather industry.
Shakespeare’s father was probably an obscure Catholic.
There was a document, found in the 18th century in the attic of one of the Henley Street buildings, in which John Shakespeare pledged he would always remain a Catholic. Researcher Edmund Malone described the document, but since it has disappeared, no one can verify its authenticity.
Shakespeare’s mother came from the wealthy Arden family, well-known in Warwickshire.
Mary Arden was the youngest of eight siblings. Her father, Robert Arden, was a landowner in Snitterfield. After her father’s death, Mary inherited part of his vast estate.
Shakespeare’s parents probably got married in 1557. Most likely they were cousins - John’s mother and Mary’s mother were sisters.
In 16th-century England, this type of marriage was not uncommon.
William had many siblings.
He had three brothers (Gilbert, 1566 - 1611, Richard, 1574 - 1612, and Edmund, 1580 - 1607), and four sisters (Joan, 1558, who died two months after birth, Margaret, 1562 - 1563, Joan, 1569 - 1646 and Anne, 1571 - 1579); he was born as the third child, after Joan and Margaret.
Young William attended a grammar school in Stratford, a prestigious institution where pupils were taught by Oxford and Cambridge magisters. The young Shakespeare learned Latin, history, ancient literature, rhetoric, basic grammar, and modern languages.
Raised a Catholic, he was very familiar with the Bible. As a city councilman’s son, he did not have to pay the tuition. He had to suspend his education because of his father’s financial troubles related to the illegal wool trade (harassed by creditors and lawsuits; he divested himself of his assets and then resigned from public office). There is no record that William continued his education afterward.
At 18, Shakespeare married 26-years old Anne Hathaway. Because of the age difference and Anne’s pregnancy, it was suspected that the wedding was a necessity.
They had three children, a daughter Susanna, born in 1583, and twins Hamnet and Judith, born in 1585. Hamnet and Judith were baptized at Holy Trinity Church on February 2nd, 1585. They are believed to owe their names to Hamnet Sadler, a baker who was a witness to Shakespeare’s will, and his wife, Judith. Shakespeare’s son Hamnet died at 11.
Some researchers believe Shakespeare was not fond of his wife.
He lived and worked in London, while Anne stayed in Stratford. Many researchers also believe that she was the prototype of the antagonist of a play called “Taming of the Shrew.”
We know very little about the seven years of Shakespeare’s life after 1585. This period is referred to as the “lost years.”
In a persistent and long-repeated legend, it is maintained that he had to flee his hometown in fear of Sir Thomas Lucy - a Member of Parliament and Justice of the Peace - from whom he stole a deer. Biographers believe he then worked as a tutor and secretary and performed in court plays. It allowed him to broaden his horizons, meet new people, and win over wealthy patrons. In addition, it probably introduced him to the secrets of theatrical art. At that time, Stratford City councilors financed amateur theatrical performances on Pentecost. It was probably then that Shakespeare had his first opportunity to perform on stage, and witnessed performances by itinerant theater troupes that visited Stratford. Between December 1586 and December 1587, at least five theater troupes performed in Stratford.
Shakespeare had likely been in London since 1588. In 1592, the first printed mention of Shakespeare appeared in a pamphlet by Robert Greene - an English writer, playwright, and critic.
The author criticized Shakespeare, accused him of plagiarism, and claimed that Shakespeare was just an actor who “dares to write plays.” Greene alluded to someone who, in his mind, is “in his own conceit, the only Shake-scene in a country.” The reference implies that Shakespeare was already writing plays before 1592.
In 1593, Shakespeare’s acting and playwriting activities got suspended.
Because of the outbreak of an epidemic in London, the city authorities banned “plays, bears and bulls training, games of marbles and any other activities that cause people to gather (except for sermons and church services).” As a result, theaters did not open until the fall of 1594.
In 1594, Shakespeare became a member of Lord Chamberlain’s Troupe, later known as the King’s Men, for which he wrote his best plays.
Besides writing the texts of new plays for Lord Chamberlain’s Troupe, he handled the group’s finances and played minor roles in plays. He soon became co-owner of the theater and its chief playwright. He was a superb organizer and won over a wealthy patron, King James I. He was associated with this theater until the end of his acting career.
Shakespeare’s name appears in the surviving books of Queen Elizabeth I’s treasurer as one of three so-called “Lord Chamberlain’s servants” who got paid to perform a play before the Queen at Greenwich Palace on December 26 and 28, 1594.
In February 1599, he and other members of the Lord Chamberlain’s troupe leased a plot of land on the south bank of the Thames, where they built the magnificent amphitheater “The Globe.”
It began its fall activities with Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar.” Seats were on three floors. The theater could accommodate 3,000 spectators. The actors were only men. Above the entrance was the inscription “Totus Mundus agit histrionem”, meaning all the world’s a stage. Although the theater burned down in a fire in 1613, it was rebuilt a year later.
Shakespeare amassed a considerable fortune.
He made a profit from writing and acting, was a shareholder of a thriving theater, and was also active in the Blackfriars Theatre, built in 1596, one of whose buildings was owned by Lord Chamberlain’s troupe. In 1597 he bought New Place, built in 1483, the second largest house in Stratford, and the only one in the city built of stone. Around 1602, he bought 200 acres of land. In 1605, for the price of £40, he bought cannons owned by Stratford Church. Part of his wealth probably came from usury, some through lawsuits he brought against his debtors (some sources claim Shakespeare would sue for any amount, even a small one). In addition, he bequeathed to his daughter Judith £300, which was a significant amount.
In 1596, thanks to Shakespeare’s efforts, his father was granted a noble title.
William Shakespeare died in Stratford, at New Place on Chapel Street, on April 23, 1616.
He died on his 52nd birthday. Many researchers believe this is a myth, but church records show he was buried in his hometown of Stratford, in the apse of Trinity Church, on April 25, 1616. 200,000 tourists visit the church each year.
In 1995, UNESCO designated the day of Shakespeare’s birth and death - April 23 - World Book and Copyright Day.
Shakespeare’s documented artistic activity spans the years 1586 to 1612.
Shakespeare wrote 38 comedies and tragedies, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and many poems diverse in content and form.
It is impossible to determine the order in which Shakespeare’s works were written. It was feared that the audience would not come to the theater if it was familiar with the course of events, thus plays were not printed and distributed among viewers. Shakespeare’s works could, therefore, only be known by attending the theater. Most of them were staged at “the Globe.”
Among Shakespeare’s masterpieces, the most acclaimed nowadays is “Romeo and Juliet,” a tragic love story of two young people who are separated by their feuding families’ past, and “Hamlet,” the story of a Danish prince entangled in love, betrayal, and revenge, who learns of a family secret.
Shakespeare’s other works include:
  • historical dramas dealing with events in English history - “King John,” “Henry IV,” “Henry VI,” “Henry VIII,” “Richard II,” and “Richard III.”;
  • comedies: “Comedy of Errors,” “Taming of the Shrew,” “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” “The Merchant of Venice,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “As You Like It,” “Twelfth Night, or What You Will,” “Measure for Measure,” “The Winter’s Tale,” “The Tempest,” “Pericles, Prince of Tyre,” “Cymbeline,” “Two Noble Kinsmen,” “All’s Well that Ends Well,”;
  • tragedies: “Titus Andronicus,” “Julius Caesar,” “Hamlet,” “Othello,” “King Lear,” “Macbeth,” “Coriolanus,” “Antony and Cleopatra,” “Timon of Athens.”
In one entry in the Stationer’s Register of Stationer’s Company of London, a Society established in 1403 with a monopoly on the publishing industry, Shakespeare, as well as John Fletcher, Shakespeare’s associate, is credited with the authorship of the play “Cardenio” staged by the King’s Men in 1613.
Professor Brean Hammond of the University of Nottingham claims that in the play “Double Falsehood” by Lewis Theobald, who admitted he wrote it based on a lost manuscript of Shakespeare’s play “Cardenio,” Shakespeare’s style can be recognized in the first two acts and two scenes of Act III.
Shakespeare’s works were published seven years after the poet’s death in 1623 under the title “Mr. William Shakespeare Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies.” The contemporary title of the first collection is “First Folio.”
The collection was published in the folio format of 900 pages. It contains thirty-six works by Shakespeare (the collection did not include “Pericles, Prince of Tyre” and “Two Noble Kinsmen”). Two of Shakespeare’s friends, John Heminges and Henry Condell, edited the text and supervised the printing. Sources say that the book was published in 750 or about 1,000 copies. It was sold for £1, roughly equivalent to $200 today. To date, 233 have survived, with the British Library holding five of them, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington D.C., holding 79, and six being in private hands.
In October 2020, New York’s Christie’s Auction House reported that a copy of the First Folio sold for $9.97 million.
The previous sales record was set in 2001; a copy of the “First Folio” was sold then for $6 million.
No manuscripts of Shakespeare have survived, and no correspondence or notes remain of him.
Only five of his signatures remain: one under his will, one on the title page of Montaigne’s work “The Trials,” and three on legal documents. Each is written in different handwriting, and all are preceded by a dot, which illiterate people at the time replaced a cross with.
Over the years, theories have emerged questioning Shakespeare as the author of the works attributed to him.
In 1781, English clergyman James Wilmot, after examining available sources in Stratford, concluded that a man with a background like Shakespeare’s did not have sufficient education and experience to write such excellent works. American literary scholars also came up with similar theories in 1856. For example, William Henry Smith claimed that Sir Francis Bacon - an essayist, philosopher, lawyer, and politician - was the actual author of the dramas. He held prominent state positions at the court of King James I. In 1955, American literary scholar Calvin Hoffman published a book in which he introduced Christopher Marlowe, a playwright, as the author of Shakespeare’s plays. Marlowe was killed in a duel a year before Shakespeare’s first works were published. According to other literary historians, the actual author of the works attributed to Shakespeare was some aristocrat who either considered a literary work for the theater to be beneath his dignity or feared the Queen’s wrath for publicizing his controversial political views. The aristocrats of the time - Lord William Stanley of Derby, Lord Edward de Vere of Oxford, Lord Robert Manners of Rutland - remained in the loop. Despite all the speculation, most authorities recognize William Shakespeare as the sole and proper author of the plays long attributed to him.
There are over 100 variations of the name Shakespeare. The poet was also known as Shakspere, Shakspear, Shakespere, Shaksper, Shaxper Shake-spear.
The spelling rules were not yet clearly established at the time.
Shakespeare invented many words and phraseological compounds that entered everyday usage.
The list of words he introduced into the English language counts about 600 items. For example, Shakespeare’s works included such new words as: “eyeball,” “bloodstained,” “murder,” “splendor,” “bewitching,” and idioms such as “your heart desires,” “it is high time,” “come what may,” “love is blind,” “the truth will out.”
Shakespeare used close to a million words in 38 plays and 154 sonnets.
The farce “The Comedy of Errors” is Shakespeare’s shortest comedy at 1,770 lines. His most extended play is “Hamlet,” with 4042 lines.
Shakespeare’s works have inspired filmmakers. Some 420 full-length films were based on his works.
The 1990 “Hamlet” by Franco Zeffirelli, starring Mel Gibson and Glenn Close, was nominated for an Oscar. The 1998 film “Shakespeare in Love,” which tells the story of the poet’s creative problems, won 7 Oscars.
Shakespeare’s lineage died out 25 years after his death.
His son, Hamnet, died at eleven. Daughter Susannah had no children, and daughter Judith’s children died early. None of Shakespeare’s three brothers were married.
Shakespeare’s family home still stands in Stratford on Henley Street.
After Shakespeare’s death, the house remained in his family until 1670, which was converted into an inn called “Maidenhead.” Subsequent owners altered and divided the building; for a time, it even housed a butcher. In 1847, the building became the nation’s property, and the adjacent houses had to be demolished to reduce the fire risk. Very early on, tourists came here and put their signatures on the bedroom windows where Shakespeare was born - the earliest signature dates to 1806. Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, and Mark Twain also left their signatures there.
Shakespeare’s works cannot attribute to any era. He was a breakthrough artist, and we can place him between the Renaissance and the Baroque.
He created new poetics of drama and broke existing conventions, leaving behind ageless works. His best comedies are considered being: “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” “Taming of the Shrew,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” and “The Merchant of Venice.” The best tragedies are: “Macbeth,” “King Lear,” “Julius Caesar,” “And Timon of Athens.” Psychological and poetic dramas are: “Hamlet,” “Romeo and Juliet,” and “Othello.”
Power is considered the most essential theme of his dramas.
Shakespeare depicts it as a destructive and demoralizing phenomenon with severe consequences for the people surrounding the protagonist. He analyzed power, the mechanisms that govern it, and the human fascination in pursuing it. This motif was most noticeable in tragedies and royal chronicles.
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