24 Facts About William Shakespeare You Probably Didn’t Know

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William Shakespeare is a name almost everyone has heard in some way or another. It is a name engraved in the history books as one of the greatest ever to hold a pen when it came to writing literature. He is truly admired by many aspiring writers, poets, and screenplay writers for the work he had done almost four hundred years prior.

He is renowned for his work, whether it be the sonnets, a string of romantic poetry, or marvelous plays like Julius Ceaser. His works are taught in schools across the world and still hold the ability to make people emotional and connect with his work. He was a genius truly ahead of his time, and his work is timeless.

Many people have heard his name and his work, but there is not much known about this person apart from his excellency in the field of literature and his world-renowned works. This article is going to tell you about 25 facts about William Shakespeare, and you might know some of them and be surprised by some others. Here are 25 facts about William Shakespeare:

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1. Almost 3000 words were introduced to the English Language by Shakespeare 

Shakespeare has been credited by the Oxford English Dictionary to be the sole contributor of around 2500 to 3000 words to the English language. According to estimations, his vocabulary range was about 17000 to a baffling 29000 words, which is double in value when compared to an average conversationalist.

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Oxford English Dictionary (Credits: Oxford University Press)

2. Suicide is a tragic recurring theme in Shakespeare’s plays 

Suicide, or the act of taking one’s life, is a recurring theme in many plays written by Shakespeare. This is a tragic action taken by any individual in any period. In plays like Romeo and Juliet, both lovers commit suicide, and in the masterpiece Julius Ceaser both Brutus and Cassius die by consensual stabbing, and so does Brutus’s wife, Portia. These scenes have brought many admirers to tears on multiple occasions. It only shows us how great a writer Shakespeare was.

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Cover for Romeo and Juliet. (Credits: Aurora Murray)

3. The world probably doesn’t spell Shakespeare’s name correctly 

With a very limited number of signatures of the genius Shakespeare, it has been observed that the bard has never spelled his name as we know it. He always used abbreviations when it came down to writing down his name. He frequently used abbreviations like ” Willm Shakspere,” “Willm Shakp,” and “William Shakspeare” instead of the name the world knows him by, “William Shakespeare” now. At the same time, sources that list him from his lifetime spell him in an entirely different way. Some sources have referred to him as “Shaxberd” or “Shappere.”

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One of many Shakespeare signatures. (Credits: Shakespeare Shopee)

4. Shakespeare left a curse on his grave 

It was very common in the Elizabethan era for people to be evicted from their graves in a sanctuary. This was mostly done with the graves of ordinary parishioners. Shakespeare left a curse in case his grave was ever to be evicted from a sanctuary. His epitaph bore the engraving: ” Good friend for Jesus’ sake forbear, To dig the dust enclosed here: And curst be he that moves my bones.”

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Gravestone of Shakespeare. (Credits: National Geographic Education)

5. A study suggests that Shakespeare’s skull was stolen by grave robbers 

Grave robbers and grave robbing were full-fledged professions back in the 17th and 18th centuries. People usually robbed the graves of famous and genius people to analyze their skulls to find out what made them genius, and it is no surprise that Shakespeare was a prime target.

Survey of Shakespeare’s grave by Archeologist. (Credits: Arrow Media)

6. Shakespeare was rich when he lived

The bards were considered to be low-class people in the Elizabethan era, and most of the bards lived in poverty. But this was not the case for Shakespeare, and he was presumably rich. When he died, his will contained a lot of land holdings which arguably made him the richest bard of his time.

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Portrait of Shakespeare. (Credit: Pinterest)

7. Shakespeare was also a full-fledged Actor

Most people don’t know this, but Shakespeare was also an actor, apart from writing excellent plays and comprising moving poems. Shakespeare also tested the waters in the acting stream. He performed in many of his plays and also performed in plays written by other playwrights, such as Ben Jonson.

shakespeare plays
A painting of Shakespeare’s plays. (Credits: Sir John Gilbert)

8. Shakespeare was one of 8 children of his parents 

Shakespeare had a total of seven siblings. He was probably the second child of his parents. He had seven siblings: Edmund (born in 1580), Anne (born in 1571), Gilbert (born in 1566), Richard (born in 1574), Joan (born in 1558), but sadly he lived only two months, Margaret (born in 1562), Anne (born in 1571) and another Joan who was born in 1569.

Shakespeare brothers and sisters. (Credits: Getty Images)

9. Shakespeare’s children were illiterate, and probably his parents too 

In the Elizabethan era, it was quite common for people of the same social standing as Shakespeare, who would be a bard, didn’t receive formal education. Most of the bards and low-class people were illiterate, and they didn’t know how to read or write. It was so because education was costly, and either the low-class people could not afford it or they were not allowed to have an education.

statue of shakespeare
Statue of Shakespeare (Credit: Taha Pinterest)

10. Shakespeare’s true birthday is unknown 

There is no evident proof that lists the exact date of the bard’s birth, but 23rd April is usually recognized as the birthday of William Shakespeare. There are notes of the day he was baptized, which was 26th April 1564. The world assumed Shakespeare to have been born a few days earlier than his baptism. Hence, 23rd April is recognized as his birthday.

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Shakespeare graffiti in London. (Credits: Jessica Pamp Pinterest)

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11. Shakespeare’s shortest play 

The play Comedy of Errors is the shortest play written by the bard ever. When compared to the other plays written by the playwright, Comedy of Errors seems minuscule. It is only 1770 lines long, which is very low compared to the usual 3500+ lines in an average Shakespearean play.

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The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare. (Credits: William Shakespeare)

12. The longest word used in a Shakespearean Play 

The longest word used in a Shakespearean play is “Honorificabilitudinitatibus.” Most of us can’t even spell it, but it is a real word. It was used in the play Love’s Labor Lost and is the plural word for the Latin word Honorificabilitudinitas. According to the Collins English Dictionary, the word means “invincible glorious honorableness.” Shakespeare often used simple words to make his work understandable to the masses, but he also liked to show off some of his literary skills.

Grammar is written in Scrabble. (Credits: Oxford University Press)

13. The Genius Never attended a University

Shakespeare did go to the King Edward VI Grammar School till the age of seven, but later on, when he turned fourteen, he left his school and formal education. Shakespeare’s actions and what he did after he left school are not mentioned anywhere in the sources that tell us about him.

He left school in 1578 and reemerged as a professional playwright and actor in the 1580s. It is assumed that Shakespeare worked as a lawyer or schoolmaster in the years he was out of anyone’s sight. Some arguments suggest that Shakespeare did an intensive study to become a master at his craft of playwriting and acting while visiting different playhouses outside of Stratford.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare. (Credits: Unsplash)

14. The disappearance of Shakespeare from 1585 to 1592

According to the records and as a disappointment to his biographers, Shakespeare disappeared from 1585 to 1592. There is no record of him or his actions during that period whatsoever. It is speculated by fellow historians that he might have worked as a schoolteacher during his time of disappearance or would have joined a group of actors passing through Stratford. It is also assumed that he could have gone out to travel the continent of Europe or was studying the law.

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Shakespeare’s statue outside the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. (Credits: Carol M.)

15. He survived the “Black Death.”

Black Death is one of the biggest epidemics in human history. The Black Death killed almost 75 to 200 million people in the past and is regarded as one of the deadliest disasters the human race has ever faced. It was a total state of terror among the people all across Eurasia.

Shakespeare survived the Black Death and lived to tell the tale of the great epidemic. The epidemic first arrived in 1603 and later came back in 1608. Shakespeare survived both waves of the epidemic.

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A picture depicting the black death. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

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16. The Mysterious Death of Shakespeare

The death of one of the greatest of the literary world is still a mystery. It is still not clear how did Shakespeare die, but from an entry in the diary of John Ward. It is known that Shakespeare died of a fever after drinking too hard with his friends. Ward wrote his diary fifty years after Shakespeare had passed away. Due to this huge time gap, most historians dismiss Ward’s claim as a baseless anecdote. It should be noted that Typhus (known as “New Fever”) did break out in 1616, which makes Ward’s claim credible in some sense.

shakespeare and his friends
Shakespeare and his friends. (Credits: John Faed)

17. Shakespeare’s wife was older than her and three months pregnant at the time of marriage 

William Shakespeare was married at the age of eighteen to Anna Hathaway, who was eight years older than her. The usual age gap considerable for marriage was three years, but their union of two was arranged because of their skeptical condition Anna. Susanna, the daughter of Shakespeare, was born six months after the marriage of the two.

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Anna Hathaway, wife of William Shakespeare. (Credits: Unsplash)

18. The Double Life of Shakespeare

In London, Shakespeare was known as a famous playwright, but in his hometown Stratford, Shakespeare was known as a famous property owner and a highly respected businessman. He frequently visited his wife and children, who lived in Stratford. Most of the people in Stratford did not know about Shakespeare and his career as a playwright.

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Shakespeare’s birthplace was in 2010. (Credits: Ianpudsey)

19. Gold Hoop in his Left Ear

Shakespeare may have sported a golden hoop in his left ear, but most of the depictions of Shakespeare may not have been made when he was available to be drawn. But in the Chandos Portrait of William Shakespeare, the subject of the portrait has a receding hairline, loose shirt ties, a full beard, and a gold hoop dangling from his left ear.

It was common for men in the Elizabethan era to sport earrings as an accessory. It may have started after some people saw the sailors doing it. The sailors used top sport golden earrings, which were meant to cover the funeral costs if they were to die at sea.

William Shakespeare (Credits: Reddit)

20. Shakespeare was a Fraud?

Many people believe that Shakespeare was a fraud, meaning that his creations were not solely his own. It was very hard to believe that a commoner like him, who had never attended a university in his life, was spinning tales that were so rich and deep in international affairs, European capital, and political and societal views.

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Question Mark (Credits: Unsplash)

Some theorists like Francis Bacon, Edward De Vere, Mary Sidney Herbert, and Christopher Marlowe proposed that Shakespeare was just a person who was used as an image by a group of writers who wished to remain anonymous and write about the issues of society. Many historians did not agree with this hypothesis, but most of them believed that Shakespeare collaborated with other playwrights.

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21. Shakespeare left only a bed in his will

In his will after death, it is said that Shakespeare only left a bed for his wife as the property she would inherit after his death. Shakespeare is presumed to be a rich person because he was not just a playwright but also a businessman in his later years of life.

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Medieval era bed. (Credits: Imgur)

22. Only Men used to act in the plays written by Shakespeare

Shakespeare was in his prime during the Elizabethan era, and it was quite common that the actors in plays and dramas were all men. They even played the role of females in the play by wearing dresses and wigs. It was such because, in the Elizabethan era, women were prohibited from acting in plays and dramas. In the famous drama Romeo and Juliet, the heroine, Juliet, is played by a man instead of a girl.

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The Darnley Portrait of Queen Elizabeth. (Credits: Johannes Corvus)

23. The Title of the King’s men

Shakespeare became very successful in his job and was known throughout the Kingdom of Great Britain. He and his drama company were invited to be the King’s men in 1603 by King James. The title of King’s Men was a great honor in the kingdom, and very special people received it.

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King James. (Credits: Pinterest)

24. Edward De Vere may be the real William Shakespeare

As mentioned before, there are theories that suggest William Shakespeare may never have existed, and there may be some other person or a group of people who wrote under the name of the bard. Many candidates have been thought to be the real Shakespeare, but there is one person that stands out the Earl of Oxford.

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Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. (Credits: Getty Images)

Edward De Vere is the person many people consider to be the real Shakespeare. The writing style Edward is very similar to the way the bard wrote his poems, and it is speculated that Edward didn’t want to be connected to a lowly job like playwriting, so he never used his real name to write the plays.

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