That William Shakespeare is one of the greatest writers of the English language is a known fact. That at any point in time there will be at least one person discovering him is also not an exaggeration. His lines are most quoted, and his characters continue to live. But why? What could be the reason behind our obsession with this man from rural England?
Perhaps, because Shakespeare is an enigma. If seen carefully, maybe we do not know Shakespeare. His tragedies describe him as someone with a bleak view of the future. On the other hand, his comedies depict him as a jolly fellow. In some of his works, women do not have a big role to play and are almost sidelined. On the other hand, some of the most delightful heroines of literature have been created by Shakespeare.
It’s William Shakespeare’s 403rd death anniversary on 23 April. Shedding light on his life on the occasion, here are 10 facts that you probably did not know about Shakespeare. Go through these facts and discover William Shakespeare.
· Confusion over date of birth
No one knows when William Shakespeare was born. While it is confirmed that he died on April 23, 1616, we do not know his birth date. William Shakespeare was baptised on April 26, 1564, and according to the traditional ways of those times, a child was baptised on his third day. So, many biographers assume that he was born on April 23, which also happens to be the date of his death.
· William Shakespeare probably did not attend any university
There is no official record for William Shakespeare attending any university. Some of his contemporaries like Christopher Marlowe, Robert Greene, Thomas Nashe among others were university trained and are said to have paved the way for Shakespeare’s genius. However, their university education did not prove to be of much help as almost all of them are lost in the pages of history and Shakespeare’s name lives on.
· William Shakespeare’s marriage
In November of 1582, William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway. She was 26, approximately three months pregnant with his child, and he was 18. Their first daughter, Susanna, was born six months after the marriage. They had twins, Judith and Hamnet, who were baptised on February 2, 1585.
· How to spell William Shakespeare’s name
We do not know how William Shakespeare spelt his name. According to sources, in all the documents that he signed, his signature varied—ranging from “Shappere”, “Willm Shakp,” to “William Shakspeare.”
· The lost years
There is no definite record of William Shakespeare’s life from 1585 to 1592. After his twins were baptised, Shakespeare disappears from the records and emerges only in 1592 as a playwright and an actor. These ‘lost years’ have fascinated biographers through ages, because during these years, Shakespeare must have honed his craft.
· Shakespeare’s sonnets
According to various sources, the fascinating 154 sonnets of Shakespeare were never written to be published. Way ahead of their times, these sonnets discuss the themes of love, anger, jealousy and betrayal. The sonnets are dedicated to “W.H.”, whose identity remains a mystery. On the surface, they depict a love triangle between the poet, a “Young Man” and a “Dark Lady.” However, they should not be necessarily read as autobiographical because Shakespeare was known to often play with the minds of the reader.
· Shakespeare: A genius or a product of his times
Shakespeare was very aware of the public—he gave the audience what they desired. A product of his times—Shakespeare’s plays were as famous in his time as they are now. Now widely recognised as a genius, Shakespeare, in his time, was a very wealthy man. Apart from being a very successful playwright, he was a successful businessman.
· Shakespeare’s family line
There are no direct descendants of Shakespeare’s line today. His son Hamnet died when he was 11 and he had four grandchildren from his two daughters—all of whom died before they married or had children. However, there are many descendants of his sister, Joan, alive today.
· Shakespeare’s plays
In his lifetime, Shakespeare wrote at least 37 plays while collaborating on several more. They can be broadly divided into — comedy, tragedy and history. He drew his plays from a wide range of texts—including Latin and Italian. Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies like ‘Hamlet’ was borrowed from Danish historian ‘Saxo Grammaticus’, ‘Othello’ was taken from a story by ‘Giraldi Cinthio’ and the chief source for ‘Macbeth’ was ‘Holinshed’s Chronicles’
· English as Shakespeare’s language
The influence of William Shakespeare is huge in the English language. He introduced about 1,700 words in English language as well as many phrases that we use today. Phrases like “Jealousy is a green-eyed monster”, “wild goose chase”, “breaking the ice” and “Heart of Gold”, all originated in Shakespeare’s works. He standardised the language and it would not be wrong to call ‘English’, his language.