Who was Will Shakespeare?

This “Speak like Shakespeare Day”, I thought I would share some facts about the man himself and talk about the impact he had on me as a young literary mind. He was quite enigmatic and charming from all accounts, and there are literally millions of “Facts” but it’s hard to tell what’s truth and what is fiction so I’ve added the things I could find sources on. 

Who was Will Shakespeare? 

  • He was born in April 1564, the actual date is not recorded but he was baptized on the 26th April in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. He married a woman named Anne Hathaway and had three children, Susanna, Hamnet and Judith. 
  • He married his wife when she was pregnant. She was older at 26 to his 18. Susanna was born just a few months later. 
  • Shakespeare, unfortunately, has no descendants as his only grandchild died childless in 1670. 
  • Shakespeare lived a double life. By the seventeenth century, he had become a famous playwright in London but in his hometown of Stratford upon Avon, where his wife and children were, and which he visited frequently, he was a well-known and highly respected businessman and property owner.
  • During his life William Shakespeare and his theatre company performed before both Queen Elizabeth I and, later, James I, who was an enthusiastic patron of his work.
  • Shakespeare’s plays were never actually published during his lifetime. They are known today only because two of his fellow actors – John Hemminges and Henry Condell – recorded and published 36 of them posthumously under the name ‘The First Folio’, which is the source of all William Shakespeare books published.
  • It is not known how he died, but his last will and testament was signed just a month before his death where he claimed to be in good health. 
  • He was a prolific writer and poet, having penned 38 plays (additionally, he had collaborated on many more), and 157 sonnets. 

My first introduction to Shakespeare

I was first introduced to Will Shakespeare in high school. Sure, I knew who he was but I hadn’t read anything of his before. First, we were “forced” to watch the 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet in English class. I still have the horrific memories of Romeo in his codpiece jumping like a frog to Juliet’s balcony and that’s about all I remember from that movie. Thankfully, we got the play in the written form and I could fall in love then. Funnily enough, no one made a big deal about their ages in school…I mean, at that age, we all think we’re head over heels and it’s forever love right. Why did we want them to be together so much? Why were we rooting for two kids to find love? Was it the hope that heartbreak would never occur for them? Isn’t that what we want for all our children? 

The other influence I had in high school was when my Drama teacher sprung Hamlet on us. I was to the King, and I remember having to learn how to speak like a man for our performance. It’s funny how these small and seemingly insignificant memories last all these years, isn’t it? 

I found myself falling in love with Shakespeare’s prose and the way of his comedic and tragic storytelling. I studied his plays, the way he wove a story, and the way his characters presented themselves. 

My favourite is Romeo and Juliet, always has been and always will be. So much so that I decided to write my own retelling —  you can check it out here: https://mybook.to/DenyThyName 

Do you have a favourite? 

What does he mean to the world? What would he think of his fame? 

Sometimes I wonder what he would think if he saw how famous he continues to be today. I’d love to imagine him being time swept into this land, and he sees computers and how fast it is to write now, and electricity…and how his words influenced everyone. How his plays are continuing to be played out in multiple formats all year round. He truly was an icon and will always be remembered. Long live, Shakespeare. 

To celebrate the day that it is, here is a Shakespearean insult generator. Have fun!