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Celebrate William Shakespeare’s birthday with some fun trivia

April 10, 20233 min read

We Don’t Actually Know His Exact Birth Date, But He Was Baptized On April 26, 1564 And Died April 23, 1616. As The Bard Turns 459 Years Old, You Can Help Celebrate With These Fun Facts!

Shakespeare was a lousy speller

To be fair, he wasn’t alone. There was no standard for spelling and everyone tended to spell phonetically (the way words sounded). A heavy accent could change the way something was spelled. Even one person could spell a word differently each time if they weren’t sure. William Shakespeare had spelled his own name many different ways in his writings.

William Shakespeare is an anagram of, ‘I am a weakish speller’.

The famous writer wanted to be an actor first

He went to London to be an actor and then he tried his hand a playwriting. Perhaps he couldn’t get work when he first arrived. Or maybe he thought the available plays were lacking. But he eventually acted in his own plays as well as those of others.

His plays were performed for Queen Elizabeth I and James I of England

Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603) was Queen five years before the Bard was even born and she died before most of his plays were written. But she did know of him in her lifetime and, according to the advertisements, attended some of his earlier works including The Merry Wives of Windsor and Love’s Labor’s Lost.

He worked with a theatre company called Lord Chamberlain’s Men. But then they were made the official performers for the new King James I and their name was changed to The King’s Men.

He coined a lot of phrases

We can thank the Bard for terms like, “fashionable”, “sanctimonious”, “eyeball”, “lackluster” and (maybe a little less common), “honorificabilitudinitatibus.” In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary credits him with almost 3,000 words. He was also responsible for common phrases like, “melted into thin air”, “foregone conclusion”, “in a pickle”, “one fell swoop”, “wild goose chase”, “I haven’t slept a wink”, and “break the ice.”

His colorful insults didn’t last quite as long: “Thine face is not worth sunburning”, “I am sick when I do look on thee “ , and “Away, you starvelling, you elf-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, bull’s-pizzle, you stock-fish!”

And (apparently wanting to stay put in the ground) he wrote his own epitaph for his grave:

‘Good friend for Jesus’ sake forbear,

To dig the dust enclosed here.

Blessed be the man that spares these stones,

And cursed be he that moves my bones.’


Shakespeare-inspired retellings in modern fiction

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Exposure by Mal Peet

Inspired by Shakespeare’s OTHELLO, this modern tragedy of desire and betrayal, incisively and compassionately told, is a truly enthralling work of crossover fiction.

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Romeo & Juliet & Vampires by Claudia Gabel

Juliet, a vampire-to-be, and Romeo, the human who should be hunting her, fall desperately in love. This riotous twist on the ultimate tale of forbidden romance is simply to die for.

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Try the Shakespeare Word Search Challenge

Shakespeare Challenge

Can you find Shakespeare plays in a word search puzzle without a list? This booklet includes three word searches including comedies, tragedies and both. But we don't tell you what you're looking for!

Shakespeare TriviaWilliam Shakespeare
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J.J. Caroll

Bookstore Curator

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