Dom Bewley

10 Shakespeare Facts We Bet You Didn’t Know

"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 greatest playwright of all time. Generations of schoolchildren have - sometimes begrudgingly - studied his plays. Theatre lovers around the world turn out to see them come alive. But what do we actually know about his life? Check out some interesting Shakespeare facts we bet you didn't know. And if you can't read, or simply hate reading, why not go see for yourself at the Globe?

Crazy Wordplay

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. Presumably, their ticket office was a box, or box-shaped. Sounds comfortable.

Translations Through The Nations

Shakespeare’s plays have been translated into dozens of languages and performed around the world. There's even Shakespeare in Klingon. Surely as beautiful as originally intended. Famous translators include Catherine the Great, who translated The Merry Wives of Windsor into Russian. Thanks, Catherine, you truly were great. And the first president of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere, translated two plays into Swahili.

Plague Poetry

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. Turns out the plague was responsible for at least one good thing. Not sure if that outweighs all the...plagueness. But it's something!

Names In The Stars

Several moons orbiting Uranus are named after characters from Shakespeare plays. The likes of Titania, Oberon and Puck are plucked from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And Ariel and Miranda from The Tempest. So there you go. Bet you didn't know that fact, did you? No. You did not.

Birds Of A Feather

The first starlings were imported into the US in 1890 by Eugene Schiffelin. Schiffelin was such a Shakespeare fan that he imported all birds mentioned in his plays. Well, at least the ones that didn't already exist in the United States, at least.

From Playwright to Copyright

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, courtesy of lots of careful cues. In fact, many of Shakespeare’s plays weren’t formally published during his lifetime. Perhaps they banned ink, quills and parchment from the audience, too? Otherwise, any old clever clogs would simply take notes and get rich.

Shakespeare Or Shakespear..?

No list of Shakespeare facts would be complete without some questions regarding the name. 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. Stirred, not Shaken? No, that sounds silly.

Lend Me Your Quotes

Shakespeare is the second most quoted writer in the English language. Unsurprisingly, 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 530,000 children and young people who take part in the Company’s education work.

Globe Today, Gone Tomorrow

The Globe Theatre in London is built near the site of the original Tudor building. That's because it sadly 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’. Lovely... Love the Bard and all things theatrical? Be sure to pop by Shakespeare’s Globe for an incredible behind-the-scenes look and tour of the iconic playhouse. A reconstruction of the original Elizabethan playhouse built in 1599, Shakespeare’s Globe is a timber frame building with an open-air stage, maintaining the authentic feel of Shakespeare’s time. [qzzr quiz="380509" width="100%" height="auto" redirect="true" offset="0"]

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