(The Shakespeare family Coat of Arms, with the motto "Not Without Rights")
- Happy Birthday Shakespeare!...or is it? There is documented proof that Shakespeare was baptized on April 26th, 1564. The tradition at the time was to baptize a child when they were three days old, meaning his birthday would have been today, April 23rd. However, when Shakespeare was born, the Julian calendar was still in use, which would mean that April 23rd then would be closer to May 3rd on our current Gregorian calendar.
- While Shakespeare is most known for his writings, he also frequently acted in his own plays! Notable performances include the ghost in Hamlet, and Adam in As You Like It.
- Shakespeare’s grave is notoriously cursed, and by his own hand. He penned his own epitaph, which reads “Good friend for Jesus’ sake forbear, / To dig the dust enclosed here: / Blest be the man that spares these stones, / And curst be he that moves my bones.” At the time, it was common practice to dig up old graves to make way for new ones. Shakespeare’s grave, however, to this day has never been disturbed.
- The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations has determined that close to a tenth of English’s most quoted lines come from Shakespeare. In fact, he takes second place, falling only behind the Bible!
- Hamlet, Shakespeare’s longest play, can take up to four hours to perform in its entirety.
- There are at least two (potentially up to thirty-eight) “lost plays” we attribute to Shakespeare that have been completely lost to us. The first is Cardenio, which draws influence from Don Quixote. The second is Love’s Labour’s Won. Some say this is an alternate name for Much Ado About Nothing, some say it’s a prequel. Either way, there are no surviving manuscripts of either of these plays.
- Speaking of Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing, Star Trek fans are in luck! Both of these plays have been translated into Klingon, with an official stamp of approval from the Klingon Language Institute. The KLI plans on translating more in the future!
- Though now commonly accepted as “William Shakespeare”, there are actually no records of the famous playwright signing his name in such a way. In fact, there are more than eighty different variations of his signature!
- There is a conspiracy theory claiming that Shakespeare never actually wrote any of his plays. Potential writers include Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere, Ben Jonson, Sir Walter Raleigh, and even Christopher Marlowe, one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries. However, there isn’t much evidence to support this theory, and quite a bit in support of Shakespeare being the original authors.
- Some of our common words/phrases we attribute to Shakespeare! (Though it is likely that these were popular words/phrases at the time, Shakespeare’s plays and poems are the first to actually document them.) Some of these include “assassination”, “dwindle”, “gnarled”, “lonely”, “suspicious”, “it’s Greek to me”, “catch a cold”, and “heart of gold”.
Whether April 23rd or May 3rd, happy birthday Shakespeare, and happy World Book Day to everyone!
What's your favorite Shakespeare play? Drop it in the comments! (Mine is Macbeth.)