Facts about the life of William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare needs no introduction. He is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s greatest dramatist. Shakespeare is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon”. Here are some facts about his life:

  • William was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564, during England’s Tudor period. He was one of eight children born to John Shakespeare, a well-to-do glove-maker and leatherworker, and his wife, Mary Arden, an heiress from a wealthy family.
  • Very little is known about William Shakespeare’s early years. In fact, his actual date of birth remains a mystery to this day! But it’s believed he had a good upbringing, attended a good school and enjoyed playing outdoors a lot.

A photo of William as a child

  • During his lifetime, William Shakespeare wrote around 37 plays for the theatre and over 150 poems! No one can say the exact number, because some of his work may have been lost over time – and some may have been written with the help of other people.
  • In 1582, William married a farmer’s daughter called Anne Hathaway. They had three children together – a daughter called Susanna, and twins, Judith and Hamnet.
  • Come 1585, the mysterious William Shakespeare disappeared from records for around seven years! Historians often refer to this part of the writer’s life as ‘the lost years‘

A young William Shakespeare

  •  Shakespeare’s plays feature the first written instances of hundreds of familiar terms. William Shakespeare is believed to have influenced the English language more than any other writer in history, coining—or, at the very least, popularizing—terms and phrases that still regularly crop up in everyday conversation.
  • We probably don’t spell Shakespeare’s name correctly—but, then again, neither did he. Sources from William Shakespeare’s lifetime spell his last name in more than 80 different ways, ranging from “Shappere” to “Shaxberd.” In the handful of signatures that have survived, the Bard never spelled his own name “William Shakespeare,” using variations or abbreviations such as “Willm Shakp,” “Willm Shakspere” and “William Shakspeare” instead.
  • Shakespeare’s plays had the royal seal of approval. Both Queen Elizabeth I  and James VI of Scotland and I of England would often hire Shakespeare’s company to come and perform at the royal court.

William Shakespeare

  • Towards the end of his life, William lived quietly back in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon. He died on 23 April 1616, aged 52, after falling ill. It’s believed he may have died on his birthday, but without an official birth record, no one can be sure!
  • Written on Shakespeare’s gravestone in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, is a curse written by the famous wordsmith 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.’

  • Some people think Shakespeare was a fraud. How did a provincial commoner who had never gone to college or ventured outside Stratford become one of the most prolific, worldly and eloquent writers in history? For this reason, some theorists have suggested that one or several authors wishing to conceal their true identity used the person of William Shakespeare as a front. Most scholars and literary historians remain skeptical about this hypothesis, although many suspect Shakespeare sometimes collaborated with other playwrights.

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