10 William Shakespeare Facts We Bet You Didn’t Know
February 17, 2017 10:00 am
Did you know?… Learn about the bard with our favourite William Shakespeare facts!
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.” Born in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 1564, William Shakespeare is arguably the best known English-language playwright of all time. Generations of schoolchildren have studied his plays and theatre lovers around the world turn out to see them, but what do we actually know about his life? Check out some interesting Shakespeare facts, we bet you didn’t know! Don’t forget to pop by Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre to learn more about the bard, how he worked and theatre life during the Elizabethan period.
- According to the folks at the Oxford English Dictionary, Shakespeare introduced almost 3,000 new words to the English language. As well as completely original words, he changed nouns into verbs and verbs into adjectives. Through combining existing words in new ways, as well as by adding prefixes and suffixes, he also gave new meanings to existing vocabulary. In fact, the term ‘box office’ was coined at the Globe theatre.
- Shakespeare’s plays have been translated into dozens of languages and performed around the world – including in Klingon, of Star Trek fame. Famous translators include Catherine the Great, who translated The Merry Wives of Windsor into Russian, and Julius Nyerere (first president of Tanzania), who translated two plays into Swahili.
- An outbreak of the plague in Europe closed all of London’s theatres between 1592 and 1594. Since there was little demand for new plays, Shakespeare instead turned to poetry, writing many of his much-loved sonnets during this time.
- Several moons of Uranus are named after characters from Shakespeare plays, including Titania, Oberon and Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as well Ariel and Miranda from The Tempest. Did you know this William Shakespeare fact?
- The first starlings were imported into the US in 1890 by Eugene Schiffelin, a fan of the Bard who decided to import all bird species mentioned in Shakespeare’s works that didn’t already exist in the States.
- Copyright didn’t exist in Shakespeare’s time, so scripts had to be carefully guarded. Actors often only got their lines once the play was in progress (with lots of careful cues) and many of Shakespeare’s plays weren’t formally published during his lifetime.
- The first English dictionary was published in 1604 and only contained 2,449 words (none beginning with the letters W, X or Y). During most of Shakespeare’s lifetime, spelling was not standardised – he even signed his name inconsistently. In fact, there are no records of him ever having spelt it “William Shakespeare”, as we do today!
- Shakespeare is the second most quoted writer in the English writer – only the Bible is more popular. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, Shakespeare wrote close to a tenth of the most quoted lines ever written or spoken in English. “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.”
- Over a million visitors come to the Stratford-upon-Avon theatres of the Royal Shakespeare Company each year. This is in addition to 530,00 children and young people who take part in the Company’s education work.
- The Globe Theatre in London is built near the site of the original Tudor building, which burned down in 1613. Like the original theatre, it has three levels of seating as well as the ‘pit’. The original theatregoers who paid just a penny to stand and watch a performance were called ‘groundlings’ or, in summer, ‘stinkards’.
We hope you have enjoyed this list of William Shakespeare facts. Why not go and see one of his plays? “If it be true that good wine needs no bush, ‘tis true that a good play needs no epilogue.”