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Things You Didn’t Know About William Shakespeare

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1. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, Shakespeare wrote close to a 1/10 of the most quoted lines ever written or spoken in English.What’s more, according to the Literary Encyclopaedia, Shakespeare is the second most quoted English writer after the writers of the Bible.

2. Shakespeare has been credited by the Oxford English Dictionary with introducing almost 3,000 words to the English language. Estimations of his vocabulary range from 17,000 to 29,000 words – at least double the number of words used by the average conversationalist.

3. Shakespeare never published his plays. They are known today only because two of his fellow actors – John Hemminges and Henry Condell – recorded and published 36 of them posthumously under the name The First Folio, which is the source of all Shakespeare books published.

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4. Copyright didn’t exist in Shakespeare’s time, so there was a thriving trade in copied plays. To help counter this, actors got their lines only once the play was in progress, often in the form of cue acting where someone backstage whispered them to the person shortly before he was supposed to deliver them.

5. Aside from writing 38 plays and composing 154 sonnets, Shakespeare was also an established actor. He performed in many of his own plays as well as those of his contemporaries, such as Ben Jonson.

6. “William Shakespeare” is an anagram of “I am a weakish speller”, “I’ll make a wise phrase”, “Lame Swahili speaker” and “Hear me as I will speak”.

7. The moons of Uranus are named after Shakespearean characters. The moons were originally named in 1852 after magical spirits from English literature. The International Astronomy Union subsequently developed the convention to name all further moons of Uranus (of which there are 27) after characters in Shakespeare’s plays or Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock.

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8. Shakespeare had close connections with King James I. The King made the actors of Shakespeare’s company ‘Grooms of Chamber’, in response Shakespeare changed the company’s name from the ‘Lord Chamberlain’s Men’ to the ‘King’s Men’. The new title made Shakespeare a favourite with the King and in much demand for Court performances.

9. Unlike most artists of his time, Shakespeare died a very wealthy man with a large property portfolio. He was a brilliant businessman – forming a joint-stock company with his actors meaning he took a share in the company’s profits, as well as earning a fee for each play he wrote.

10. There are more than 80 variations recorded for the spelling of Shakespeare’s name. In the few original signatures that have survived, Shakespeare spelt his name “Willm Shaksp,” “William Shakespe,” “Wm Shakspe,” “William Shakspere,” ”Willm Shakspere,” and “William Shakspeare”. There are no records of him ever having spelt it “William Shakespeare”, as we know him today.

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11. The original Globe Theatre came to a premature end in 1613 during a performance of Henry VIII, when a cannon set light to the thatched roof. Within two hours the theatre was burnt to the ground. It was rebuilt in 1614.

12. The Royal Shakespeare Company sells more than half a million tickets a year for Shakespeare productions at their theatres in Stratford-on-Avon, London and Newcastle.

13. Nobody knows Shakespeare’s true birthday. It’s celebrated on April 23 – three days before his baptism, which was recorded on April 26, 1564. However, as Shakespeare was born under the old Julian calendar, what was April 23 during Shakespeare’s life would actually be May 3 according to today’s Gregorian calendar.


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