15 Fascinating Shakespeare Facts

This year marks 400 years since the death of the great William Shakespeare, or The Bard of Avon, as he’s commonly known today. One of the most admired poets and playwrights of all time, his plays have been performed on stages across the globe and continue to do so to this day.

Shakespeare’s popularity bloomed after the Romantic period, during Victorian times, with the likes of other popular poets – including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Victor Hugo and Voltaire – being completely awestruck by his talent. This wasn’t limited to the time when he was alive, the Bard continues to be hailed one of the greatest writers in the world – one whose works have been filmed and staged infinite times. 

How much do you really know about the literary legend William Shakespeare? In celebration of his birthday, we’ve dug up a few interesting facts about The Bard.

Did you know?

- Shakespeare died on 23rd April, 1616, on or near his 52nd birthday, in Stratford-upon-Avon

- He had several nicknames, including the “Bard of Avon” and “Swan of Avon.”

- Shakespeare was 18 years old when he married Anne Hathaway in 1582. She was 26 and expecting his baby. The couple had a baby girl, followed by twins, a boy and a girl, in 1584

 - In his play Romeo and Juliet, the word “love” appears 150 times

- Shakespeare’s grave in Stratford-upon-Avon was inscribed with the words “Curst be he that moves my bones” to discourage anyone who might try to take his bones

- Women were banned from acting in plays during Shakespeare’s time, so in all of his plays, women’s roles were performed by boys/young men

- Shakespeare vanished from historical records between 1585 and 1592, but nobody has any idea what the writer did during those seven years

- Shakespeare created quite a few of today’s well-known names, such as Miranda, Olivia, Jessica and Cordelia

- No one knows for sure when Shakespeare’s exact date of birth falls. However historians do know he was baptised on 26th April, 1564, in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, according to Holy Trinity Church records. Most researchers believe he was born on or close to 23rd April. So his birthday is normally celebrated on that day

- It’s possible Shakespeare wore a gold hoop earring in his left ear – a creative, bohemian look in the Elizabethan and Jacobean ages. There’s evidence of this in the ‘Chandos portrait’, one of the most renowned representations of Shakespeare

- Throughout his life, Shakespeare acted in front of Queen Elizabeth I and, later, before James I who was a devout fan of his work

- There are over 80 variations recorded for the spelling of Shakespeare’s name. Several original signatures show Shakespeare spelt his name “Willm Shaksp,” “William Shakespe,” “Wm Shakspe,” “William Shakspere,” ”Willm Shakspere,” and “William Shakspeare”. In fact, there are no examples of him ever having spelt it “William Shakespeare”, as we know him today

- As well as writing countless plays and sonnets, Shakespeare also took the role of ‘actor’ himself, performing in many of his own plays – as the ghost in Hamlet and Adam in As You Like It – as well as those of other playwrights

- In his life, Shakespeare wrote at least 37 plays, 154 sonnets and a number of poems. Moreover, there are quite a few “lost plays” and plays that Shakespeare collaborated with others on. It’s believed Shakespeare typically wrote 1.5 plays a year since he first started writing in 1589

- The Oxford English Dictionary accredits Shakespeare with the introduction of nearly 3,000 words to the English language. Guesstimates of his vocabulary vary from 17,000 to a jaw-dropping 29,000 words – at least double the number of words used by the average conversationalist!