Not much is known about William Shakespeare’s life because his life was not really well-documented. Whatever we know about him now are just fragments of history collected over years of research by scholars and interested people across the globe. So, in this article of 30 William Shakespeare facts, we will go through some of the most interesting facts about him. But, we need to say that this list will not be complete. We will create a separate article for covering the remaining facts. So, let us begin…
William Shakespeare Facts: 1-5 | Name and Birth Date
1. There are 80 different variations of name of Shakespeare. All these variations are recorded. There are a couple of weird variations like “Shaxberd and Shappere”.
2. Of all the signatures that Shakespeare had penned down with his own hands, only a few remain today. None of those signatures have the spelling ‘William Shakespeare’. Those that he himself used include:
- William Shakspere.
- Wm Shakspe.
- Willm Shaksp.
- Willm Shakspere.
- William Shakspeare.
3. No one knows the exact date of birth of William Shakespeare. It is however considered to be April 23, 1564 as per old Julian Calendar that preceded the Gregorian Calendar.
4. How is the date of birth derived if the birth date was not known? Nice question! Records have been found which shows that baptizing of Shakespeare took place on April 26, 1564. The place was Stratford-upon-Avon. In those days, baptizing happened only 3 days after birth. So logically, his birth date should have been April 23.
5. We said that his birth date was as per Julian Calendar. But what’s his birth date according to Gregorian Calendar? If April 23 was indeed his birth date as per Julian Calendar, his birth date as per Gregorian Calendar would be 3rd May.
William Shakespeare Facts: 6-10 | Birth and Death Date, Plague Outbreak, Life Records
6. Here is something really interesting. Only three days before Shakespeare’s baptizing, a plague outbreak was recorded in Startford parish register. This means that the day he was born, a plague broke out!
7. Interestingly, April 23 is also Saint George’s Day or Feast of Saint George but that’s per the Julian Calendar. As per new Gregorian Calendar, Saint George’s Day actually falls on 6th of May. Saint George’s Day is England’s National Day.
8. Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616. So, his day of death and his day of birth are both the same. He was only 52 years old then.
9. Nothing much of Shakespeare’s life has been recorded. There are a few legal documents and church records of Shakespeare. Some contemporary documents also have a few records of his but rest that we know come circumstantial evidences. Nothing much can be said with absolute certainty.
10. Mary Shakespeare and John Shakespeare were the mother and father of William Shakespeare.
William Shakespeare Facts: 11-15 | Shakespeare’s Father, Siblings and Family
11. Shakespeare’s father – John Shakespeare came from Snitterfield to Stratford in year 1551. He was an apprentice leather tanner and glover. Later he started selling malt, wool, corn and leather goods.
12. In 1556 John Shakespeare became official ale taster of the borough. His job was to inspect malt liquor and bread.
13. In 1557, John Shakespeare married a girl called Mary Arden. Mary was an aristocratic farmer’s daughter. This gave John a social leap and soon he became a moneylender in Stratford. Later he rose through several civic positions and became Stratford’s Mayor. By 1570s he went into debt and was caught up in several legal problems and eventually stepped out of civic life.
14. As far as William Shakespeare’s siblings are concerned, there were 7 of them. The were:
- Joan – 1558 [died only two months after birth].
- Margaret – 1562.
- Gilbert – 1566.
- Joan – 1569 [this was another one].
- Anne – 1571.
- Richard – 1574.
- Edmund – 1580.
15. From his mother’s side, Shakespeare had a relative known as William Arden. That person was imprisoned in Tower of London for plotting against Queen Elizabeth I. William Arden was later executed.
William Shakespeare Facts: 16-20 | Wife, Children and Double Life
16. Shakespeare married a woman called Anne Hathaway. When the two married, William Shakespeare was only 18 years old but Anne Hathaway was 26 years old.
17. At the time of their wedding Anne Hathaway was already pregnant with Shakespeare’s child. She was 3 months pregnant. After 6 months of their marriage, Anne’s and Shakespeare’s first child was born.
18. The couple together had 3 children – two daughters and one son. Their son Hamnet died in 1596. The two daughters were Judith and Susanna. Nothing is known about Judith. Susanna was married and she gave birth to daughter called Elizabeth. Elizabeth died in 1670 without giving birth to any child. So, Shakespeare doesn’t have any descendant.
19. Shakespeare had a double life. He was, in London, a famous playwright. Back in Stratford, he was a property owner and a businessman of repute.
20. His wife and children lived in Stratford while he himself lived in London most of the times. However, he did frequently visit his wife and children.
William Shakespeare Facts: 21-25 | Work Life
21. Not only Shakespeare was a famous playwright, he also composed sonnets. He was an actor himself. He actually performed in some of his own plays. He played the role of Adam in his work: “As You Like It” and played the role of ‘ghost’ in his play Hamlet.
22. During his lifetime, Shakespeare performed both in front of James I and Queen Elizabeth I. James I was a great admirer of his work.
23. Apart from being an actor, a poet and a playwright, Shakespeare was also a businessman. He created a joint-stock company with all his actors. He took a share of the profits earned by the company and even took a fee for every single play he wrote for his company.
24. Here is one of the most interesting William Shakespeare facts that will startle you. There is a ‘black period’ of Shakespeare’s life. That period is from 1585 to 1592. What exactly did Shakespeare do during this time is not really known. That’s the period right before he moved to London. So, how exactly his career started is not known.
25. There are some theories that try to explain this absence of Shakespeare from 1585-1592. Some historians say that he became a school teacher and also studied law. Some say he went traveling continental Europe. Some others say that he joined an acting troupe that was passing through his hometown of Stratford.
William Shakespeare Facts: 26-30 | Work Life and Fraud
26. It is also said that Shakespeare once poached a deer from the estate of a local politician and hence, he had to flee from his hometown. This is according to an account from 17th century.
27. Many critics of Shakespeare actually say that Shakespeare was a fraud. According to the critics, Shakespeare was a commoner who had never been out of Stratford and never been to college. Then how did he even manage to become such eloquent and prolific writers of all time?
28. The argument put forward by the critics is that he [Shakespeare] at a very early age, started writing about high society, royal court, history, European capitals, international affairs etc. and that too in great depth. That’s not possible for someone who didn’t go out of Stratford.
29. So who wrote all these that is considered as work of William Shakespeare? Those critics say that there were many authors who wished to maintain anonymity and hence, used Shakespeare on the forefront.
30. Who were those anonymous writers? The critics propose a few name like Mary Sidney Herbert, Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon and Edward De Vere. Yes, many historians simply don’t approve of this hypothesis by the critics but a majority of historians do believe that Shakespeare had the habit of often collaborating with other contemporary playwrights.