10 Things You Should Know About Shakespeare

More than four centuries after his demise, the Bard’s works are still celebrated around the world. Here are a few intriguing facts about his everlasting legacy.

The world’s most famous—and probably the most revered— playwright turns 452 years old on 23 Apr 2016. With an easy flair for romantic poetry and a penchant for dramatic plot twists, William Shakespeare created works that will probably outlive us all.


To commemorate Shakespeare’s birthday, here are 10 interesting things you should know about the Bard:


1. He got married at the tender young age of 18.


Shakespeare was born in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon and had seven siblings. He married Anne Hathaway, who was eight years his senior (and three months pregnant) when he was 18. You can still visit Shakespeare’s childhood home and his wife’s home today as they have been preserved.


2. He was not eligible to attend university because he was married.


As a married man in those times, Shakespeare was not qualified to attend university. He was also barred from taking up apprenticeships with established trades. Fortunately, that paved his way into acting and writing plays, as these occupations were more flexible about entry requirements.


3. He had a family crest.


The family name has been immortalised in a coat of arms: a yellow spear superimposed on a yellow shield, with the Latin words ‘Non Sans Droict’ (which means ‘Not Without Right’) underneath. The crest would have been displayed on the front door of the family home and on personal items. Male family members could also include the word ‘Gentleman’ after their names. How very dignified!


4. He built his own theatre, the Globe, in 1599.


Shakespeare’s theatre company, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, established the Globe in 1599. Sadly, the theatre was gutted in a fire on 26 Jun 1613. The contemporary Shakespeare’s Globe in Southwark, London, pays homage to its predecessor by retaining the outdoor circular stage surrounded by three tiers of seats.


5. He wrote a total of 37 plays.


A versatile writer who was 101% committed to his craft, Shakespeare’s works run the gamut from historical romances to lighthearted comedies to dark, gloomy tragedies. He also composed a total of 154 sonnets.


6. He performed his plays for royalty.


Shakespeare’s talent for weaving compelling stories was greatly admired, and he grew to be recognised as a famous poet and playwright in the last years of Elizabeth I’s reign, frequently staging special performances of his plays for the Queen.


7. He had a powerful name, even if it might not be spelled correctly.


During Shakespeare’s lifetime, his name was spelled in more than 80 different ways. While he did scrawl his name on his manuscripts, there were a wide variety of signatures, like “Willm Shakp” and “William Shakspeare.” Nonetheless, the name is most likely derived from the Old English words “schakken” (brandish) and “speer” (spear), which describe an assertive, argumentative person.


8. Shakespeare never published any of his own plays.


Was this a cunning way for him to make sure his ideas and plays were copyrighted? The reasons for this are still unclear. After his death in 1616 (which coincidentally happened on his birthday), his friends John Hemminges and Henry Condell compiled the First Folio, entitled Mr William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, which came with a copper-engraved image of the Bard on the cover.


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