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Fascinating Facts
About William Shakespeare

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Compiled by Michael J. Cummings
...© 2003, 2012


William Shakespeare was born on April 23 and died on April 23, evidence indicates.
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In his will, Shakespeare left his wife his "second-best" bed. 
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Shakespeare's name may have meant "Shaker of Spears," indicating warrior ancestry.
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Boys and men played all the parts in Shakespeare's plays in Elizabethan times. 
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Dictionaries as we know them today were not available in Shakespeare's time. 


Sir William Davanant (1606-1668), godson of Shakespeare and poet laureate of England, claimed to be Shakespeare's illegitimate son.
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The ceiling of Shakespeare's stages was called "The Heavens." 
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Shakespeare was said to have enjoyed playing the part of the ghost in Hamlet.


Shakespeare also performed as Adam in As You Like It.
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Actors performing in Shakespeare's time usually received only copies of their parts, not entire plays.
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Shakespeare was seventeen or eighteen when he married. His wife, Anne Hathaway, was twenty-six. 
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The Globe Theatre burned down in 1613 after a canon was fired to announce the entrance of King Henry VIII. The canon fire ignited the thatched roof. The Globe was rebuilt soon thereafter but torn down in 1644 in response to Puritan zealotry against theatre performances. 
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Shakespeare's first child was born six months after his marriage.


Shakespeare is the name of a ghost town in Hidalgo County, New Mexico (U.S.). It is a national historic site.


The oldest existing copy of a complete American-made feature film is that of Richard III, a 1912 silent movie based on Shakespeare's play. It was produced by M. B. Dudley Amusement Company.

Some researchers claim that Queen Elizabeth I wrote Shakespeare's plays. Few scholars take this claim seriously.

Between 1890 and 1891, an avid Shakespeare reader decided to bring to the United States all species of birds in Shakespeare's works that were not native to the U.S. One of these birds was the starling, a passerine (perching) bird. It is a destructive bird which ruins grain and fruit crops. The starling also takes over nests of other birds and mocks their songs when it sings. 
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Shakespeare and other writers of his time probably did most of their writing during the day to avoid paying for the expensive candles or oil required for nighttime writing.
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Because many people in Shakespeare's time—including King James I—believed in the power of witches, Macbeth was a play that unnerved audiences. 
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No one knows how Shakespeare died. Among the possibilities are kidney disease, murder most foul, and too much to drink. 
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Shakespeare was a Roman Catholic when he died, Anglican Archdeacon Richard Davies, of Lichfield, England, reported about three decades after Shakespeare died. 
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U.S. President Abraham Lincoln enjoyed reading Shakespeare.

Many of the greatest works in classical music were inspired by Shakespeare plays. Examples are Sergei Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Juliet, Giuseppe Verdi's operas Macbeth and Otello (Othello), and Felix Mendelssohn's orchestral overture A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The river running through Shakespeare's hometown is the Upper Avon, not the Avon. In Shakespeare's time, the town was called Stratford, not Stratford-upon-Avon.

When Thomas Edison was a child, his mother frequently read Shakespeare to him.
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Shakespeare's original grave marker showed him holding a bag of grain. Citizens of Stratford replaced the bag with a quill in 1747, perhaps in anticipation of the tourists who would come to see the final resting place of the world's greatest wielder or quills.
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The motto of the Globe Theatre was totus mundus agit histrionem (all the world's a stage).

Twenty-four of the twenty-seven moons of the planet Uranus are named after characters in Shakespeare's plays. The other three moons are named after characters invented by the British poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744). The following list identifies the Shakespeare characters after whom moons are named and the work in which the characters appear.
Bianca (The Taming of the Shrew)
Caliban (The Tempest)
Cordelia (King Lear)
Cressida (Troilus and Cressida)
Cupid (A Midsummer Night's Dream and Other Works)
Desdemona (Othello)
Francisco (The Tempest)
Ferdinand (The Tempest)
Juliet (Romeo and Juliet)
Miranda (The Tempest)
Mab (Romeo and Juliet)
Margaret (Much Ado About Nothing)
Oberon (A Midsummer Night's Dream)
Ophelia (Hamlet)
Perdita (A Winter's Tale)
Portia (The Merchant of Venice)
Puck (A Midsummer Night's Dream)
Prospero (A Midsummer Night's Dream)
Rosalind (As You Like It)
Setebos (The Tempest)
Stephano (The Tempest)
Sycorax (The Tempest)
Titania (A Midsummer Night's Dream)
Trinculo (The Tempest)