Friday, January 6, 2012

Fun Shakespeare Trivia (Shakespeare Reading Month):

I hope everyone is having a blast with their chosen Shakespeare plays! I know that I am chugging along and will finally get some thoughts on the plays I am reading up by the end of next week (I'm trying to work through my backlog of posts on a James novel and the Wharton I finished).

In any case, I'm trying to keep the enthusiasm up and the random information on Shakespeare rolling. In case you missed it, here are the two other informational posts I have made about the Bard earlier this week:

Tips for Reading Shakespeare
Books About Shakespeare

Feel free to go and read!

For today's post, I thought it would be fun to share some of the fun and random facts known...and unknown about Will Shakespeare. Some of these might sound familiar, but I hope at least a fact or two are new to you!

*I should note that even some of these, while recognized as being accepted among scholars, aren't verified by everyone. A lot isn't known about Shakespeare, so that leaves some things open to questions. I did my best to include only the things that are noncontroversial*

  • While we attribute April 23, 1564 as being Shakespeare's birthday, it isn't known for certain! His baptism was on April 26th, so scholars have placed his birth as three days before (babies were baptized as soon as possible in case of sickness or early death).
  • There are two known portraits of Shakespeare. The third (and funnily the one I used as the backdrop for the month's image) cannot be confirmed AS Shakespeare-even though it is fairly similar to the other two (the other two are an engraving and a statue-not a lot to go on!)
  • There was a period of time, known as the "Lost Years" where absolutely nothing is known about Shakespeare or his whereabouts (this time period was from 1585-1592)!
  • The majority of his plays were published AFTER his death. The ones chosen to be published were selected by two of his friends-we have them to blame for The Tragedy of Cardenio being lost to history forever!
  • Shakespeare's contemporaries included Marlowe, Jonson, Bacon, and others-to this day, there are those who believe THEY wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare.
  • All of Shakespeare's grandchildren passed before passing on the family name, so there are no direct descendants of Will!
  • In Shakespeare's will, he leaves his wife his "second-best bed." Ouch.
  • There are six known signatures done by William Shakespeare, but none are spelled "William Shakespeare."
  • Many of Shakespeare's plays were based on plays from earlier years and by other poets. This was common practice.
  • Most of Shakespeare's plays were written and performed during the reign of James I, not Elizabeth as is commonly believed.
  • The sonnets were originally published without Shakespeare's knowledge. There is no way of knowing whether the numerical order they were placed in are how Shakespeare intended them to be!
  • Yes, the Globe Theater burned down after a cannon went off during a performance of Henry VIII.
  • Before Shakespeare's works, there was no recording of the word "critical," and countless others (including countless-see what I did there?)
  • The First Folio is the ONLY known recording of 18 of Shakespeare's plays. If it hadn't been published, they would have been lost forever!
  • Today, actors avoid saying "Macbeth" while in a theater-it is believed to bring bad luck!
  • Shakespeare not only wrote plays, but also performed in them regularly.
  • There is a curse written over Shakespeare's grave not to remove his bones from their resting place.
  • Richard II and King John are the only two plays that contain absolutely NO prose.
Anyone else know anything interesting about the bard? :)


  1. I wish I knew more; he's always such an enigma to me. I love the famous lines, but I feel I have to uncover so much to get to them. Still sad I didn't see the film Anonymous when it was out and about this fall. Not that it necessarily told the truth about Shakespeare, it just looked interesting.

  2. Great facts. I knew a lot of these, but not all! :-) Thanks for keeping us stirred up for this event, Allie! Wow -- I'm glad they published that First Folio!

  3. I love the second best bed fact, and there's this poem by Carol Ann Duffy that I LOVE that gives a (nice!) explanation for it:

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Definitely OUCH on that "2nd best bed" comment...I only knew a few of these...passed them on to a colleague of mine who is a Shakespeare lover :)

  6. My favorite Shakespeare fact is that in England during the later reign of King George III, performances of King Lear were banned, because of King George's mental illness.

  7. I do love Shakespeare tragedy. I went to Shakespeare-Upon-Avon to see his home and the tours were packed with fascinating details!

  8. I love your facts :D Poor wife, I hope he wrote at least some sonnets for her!
    Anyway, I wonder what his signatures say if they're not William Shakespeare? Wiliam Shackspeare perhaps? And I always worried about spelling his name right as a child...

  9. Some interesting facts. I think I've heard most of them before, but it's the perfect timing for a memory refresher.

    And I'll echo the sentiment, thank goodness for the First Folio!

  10. I knew many of these facts thanks to Bryson's book, but they're still really fun to read. Echoing the ouch sentiment regarding the "second-best bed". Looks like dear old Will wasn't fond of his significant other, huh?

  11. Interesting! I believe the 'second-best bed' was actually the marital bed and it was customary to leave it to the wife. The best-bed was the one used by guests. Although this is probably just as speculative as anything else about Shakespeare:)

  12. so much fun. I'm enjoying reading about Shakespeare and his plays this month!