Even though William Shakespeare lived and wrote over 400 years ago, he is still remembered as one of the most, if not the most famous English writer & April is a month to remember him!
I’m a wordsmith, and I love working with words, the sound of words, having fun with words and I’ve been lucky enough that my whole life has been spent in the joy of working with them.
Obviously, I work with words in a very different way to Shakespeare, but the choice of words, their tone, their meaning is incredibly important in what I write, so as to convey the exact meaning I want to express to people reading my articles and blogs.
Despite the hundreds of years between us, the power of words hasn’t changed, and amazingly, some of the language used in Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays are still in mainstream use today.
For those people who think it’s all ‘olde’ English and not relevant – I’m afraid, in part, you are wrong!
Thirteen things you may not know about Shakespeare:
1 He was born on the same day that he died, 23rd April – 52 years apart (possibly…).
2 The exact day of his birth was not recorded, but it is believed he was born in April 1564 in Stratford on Avon, and he died in 1616.
3 When he married he was still a minor and at 18 years old needed his parent’s permission to marry. He was one of only three men in the parish, between 1570 and 1630 who married under the age of 20.
4 Ann Hathaway’s Cottage was known as Hewlands Farm when first bought by the family of William Shakespeare’s wife in 1543, and thirteen generations of the family lived there between then and 1911.
5 Thirteen Shakespeare phrases we still use today (and the plays taken from):
i I have not slept one wink (Cymbeline)
ii Cruel to be kind (Hamlet)
iii Own flesh and blood (Hamlet)
iv The be-all and the end-all (Macbeth)
v All that glitters is not gold (The Merchant of Venice)
vi The world is my oyster (The Merry Wives of Windsor)
vii Wild-goose chase (Romeo and Juliet)
viii Break the ice (Taming of the Shrew)
ix Brave new world (The Tempest)
x Melted into thin air (The Tempest)
xi Short shrift (Richard 111)
xii Elbow room (King John)
xiii Forgone conclusion (Othello)
6 Shakespeare used more than 20,000 words in his plays and poems.
7 His works provide the first recorded use of over 1,700 words in the English language. It is believed he may have invented or introduced many of the words himself.
8 Some of these words are: bedroom; gossip; inaudible; lonely; manager; nervy; obscene; questioning; puppy dog; rant; worthless; yelping; zany;
9 ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ may be the most performed play because it’s one of his most accessible plays. Even if people find the style of speaking in verse hard, the comedy makes sense. It is also a play often performed by local amateur dramatic groups.
10 In a survey by YouGov, called ‘Shakespeare at 452’, out of his 37 plays, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ came top, as the play most people had either read or seen, with ‘Macbeth,’ 2nd and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ 3rd. ‘Pericles’ is his least popular and least known play.
11 In 1875, Charles Flower donated the building site for a permanent subsidised company of actors in Stratford. From this building, the Royal Shakespeare Company has developed into the theatre of today. At that time, it was called Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Ltd. Incorporated. In 1926 the auditorium and stage were destroyed by fire, and Sir Archibald Flower raised funds (mostly in the USA), to rebuild. 1932, the New Shakespeare Memorial Theatre opened. The theatre opened in 1879. Not until 1961 did the theatre become the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
12 In 2006 – seven all 37 plays, the sonnets and long poems were performed for the first time in one place. The RSC produced 23 productions with 30 visiting companies. They included a Japanese Titus Andronicus, Polish Macbeth and a Russian Twelfth Night.
13 Over the years at least 104 films have been made, either as direct performances of the plays, or retellings in modern versions, such as ‘West Side Story’ (Romeo and Juliet), ’10 things I hate about you’ (The taming of the Shrew) and several modern versions of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, including Baz Luhrmann’s starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes.
William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway when he was 18 and had a shot-gun wedding, because she was already pregnant.
They had three children – Susanna, born six months after their wedding, and later, twins Hamnet and Judith. Hamnet died when he was 11 years old.
Shakespeare’s reputation was established in London, and due to his success, in 1597, he was able to buy the largest house in the borough of Stratford-on-Avon, called New Place. It seems he divided his time between Stratford and London.
Whilst in London, he became one of the founders of The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, a company of actors, and for them, he produced, on average, two play a year for almost twenty years.
His works include 37 plays, 17 comedies, 10 history and 10 tragedies, 4 narrative poems, 154 sonnets and a variety of other poems. No original manuscripts of his plays are known to exist today.
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