William Shakespeare: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Bard

Posted April 23, 2020 by Amanda | No Comment

Playwright William Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616 in Straford-upon-Avon, England. Considered one of the greatest writers of the English language, Shakespeare’s body of work has been translated into every major language.

Explore some fascinating facts about the Bard that you may not have known.

1. The exact date of his birth is unknown.

Baptism of William Shakespeare / MyHeritage SuperSearch

Shakespeare was the third of eight children born to John Shakespeare, an alderman and successful glove maker, and Mary Arden, the daughter of an affluent landowning farmer. No records of his birthdate exist, however, it is known that Shakespeare was baptized on April 26, 1564. Since baptisms at the time typically took place a few days after birth, it is generally accepted that his birth date is April 23. If this is true, then Shakespeare died on his 52nd birthday.

2. His second cousin once removed was executed for treason.

Shakespeare’s mother had come from the notable Arden family and were well connected in society. Edward Arden, a nobleman and head of the Arden family, was a second cousin to his mother. In 1583, he was executed for allegedly plotting to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I. A recusant Catholic, Arden kept a priest at his house disguised as a gardener. Under the priest’s influence, Arden’s son-in-law, John Somerville, plotted to shoot the Queen of England. After he was arrested, Somerville confessed and implicated his father-in-law in the plot and named the priest as the instigator. Arden was tried and sentenced to death.

3. Shakespeare was a fifth cousin to Elizabeth I.

It turns out Shakespeare was also related to Queen Elizabeth I. According to the World Family Tree, they are fifth cousins! Although most of Shakespeare’s plays were written after her death, the Queen did see a few of his plays performed in her court by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

4. Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway at the age of 18.

At 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, who was 8 years his senior. Instead of the usual 3 successive proclamations of the marriage banns in the church, Shakespeare and Hathaway were issued a special license to marry after only one. The reason behind the rush marriage revealed itself six months later with the birth of their daughter, Susanna.

5. Shakespeare had 3 children.

Two years after the birth of eldest daughter, Susanna, Hathaway gave birth to fraternal twins, Hamnet and Judith. The twins were named after their neighbors, Hamnet and Judith Sadler. Hamnet died at the age of 11, possibly of the bubonic plague.

6. No one knows what he was up to between 1585 – 1592.

Often referred to as Shakespeare’s “lost years,” the playwright disappears from the historical record after the birth of his twins in 1585. He reappears again in 1592 in a pamphlet in London. In his Groats-Worth of Wit, playwright Robert Greene refers to Shakespeare as an “upstart Crow.” The insult suggests Shakespeare was already an established playwright in London at the time.

Some theorize that during this time Shakespeare may have worked as a school teacher, traveled the country, or studied law. Another theory suggests he was in hiding for poaching deer on the estate of Sir Thomas Lucy.

7. In 1599, Shakespeare and his business partners opened the Globe.

Shakespeare’s theater company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, was one of the leading playing companies in London. In 1599, the group’s shareholders, which included Shakespeare, decided to build and operate a new playhouse. The Globe would become the most famous theater of its time. After the death of Elizabeth I, the company was renamed The King’s Men under the patronage of King James I.

8. Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616 in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Some years before his death, Shakespeare retired and returned to Stratford-upon-Avon. He died on April 23, 1616 and two days later, was buried in the chancel of the Holy Trinity Church, the same church that he was baptized. He is buried next to his wife, Anne, and Thomas Nash, the first husband of his granddaughter Elizabeth.

9. His epitaph includes a curse against moving his bones.

Grave of William Shakespeare / David Jones, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Written on the stone on his grave is a warning to those who dare move his bones. It reads:

Good frend for Iesvs sake forbeare, To digg the dvst encloased heare. Bleste be the man that spares thes stones, And cvrst be he that moves my bones.

10. In his will, Shakespeare left his “second best bed” to his wife.

Shakespeare left the bulk of his large estate to his eldest daughter, Susanna, with the stipulation that she pass it down to her male heirs. He left his second daughter, Judith, £300 and for his wife, his “second best bed.”

Explore William Shakespeare’s family tree on Geni and share how you’re related to the Bard!

Post written by Amanda

Amanda is the Marketing Communications Manager at Geni. If you need any assistance, she will be happy to help!

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