Despite being one of the best known names around the world, we know very little about the man himself.
Here is just some of what we don’t know:
When Was He Born?
We don’t know.
We know only the date when he was baptised – April 26 1564. As April 23 is St George’s day, it’s become convenient to celebrate his birthday on this date as befits the great Englishman.
To learn more and see the baptismal record, go to www.shakespearedocumented.org
Why Was He Called William?
We don’t know why he was called William.
He had three brothers and four sisters, all of whom were given family names. Yet there is no record of another William in his family.
For more on his family and family tree, go to www.shakespeare-w.com and follow the link.
What Did He Look Like?
Despite the supposed portraits of Shakespeare, the truth is we don’t know for certain what he looked like.
Certainly Shakespeare himself never commissioned a portrait.
There is no written account of his appearance and there are just three portraits which might be genuine. However, two of these – an engraving on an edition of his plays and a sculpted image on his memorial stone in Stratford – were done after he died.
To see the third ‘portrait’ and nearly 100 other contenders, go to the National Portrait Gallery’s website at www.npg.org.uk and type William Shakespeare into the search bar.
What Was His Handwriting Like?
We don’t have even a single line from any of Shakespeare’s plays in his own handwriting.
The scripts we have amount to around 1,000,000 words in total, but no original manuscript has survived.
However, there is just one script which may contain Shakespeare’s handwriting, when it is thought he was asked to revise an existing play.
Shakespeare’s possible contribution amounts to just 3 pages of manuscript. To get a glimpse and read more, go to www.bl.uk/shakespeare.
What Does His Signature Look Like?
We have just 14 words in Shakespeare’s own handwriting. 12 of these are 6 signatures and as 3 of these were written on his will, it’s possible others may have written his name for him, if he was too weak to sign for himself.
Interestingly, in each signature he spells his name differently!
To see these go to www.en.wikipedia.org and put Spelling of Shakespeare’s name into the search bar.
Where Did He Live?
For many years of Shakespeare’s life, we have no clear idea where he was.
He may have travelled abroad or he may just have spent his time in Stratford-upon-Avon and London.
For more of what little we know, and lots we don’t know about the man and his whereabouts, go to www.bardweb.net and put Shakespeare’s Biography into the search bar.
Was He An Actor?
As well as a writer, Shakespeare was also an actor – possibly in his own plays as well as plays by other writers.
Sadly, we have no record of any part he performed. We don’t know exactly how many plays he wrote; we think he wrote between 35 and 40 altogether, but we don’t know, and we don’t know the order in which he wrote them.
For more, visit www.nosweatshakespeare.com
When Did He Die?
We know Shakespeare died in 1616, but not the exact date.
We do know when he was buried – 25th April – and so, as his birthday has been accepted as April 23rd, it’s also been agreed to have the birth and death dates as the same.
And one final mystery: he is buried in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon–Avon along with four other family members. Strangely, William’s is the only headstone with no name.
To see what is written on it, go to the church’s ‘Visit Us’ section of www.stratford-upon-avon.org
If you would like to create some genuine William Shakespeare insults and compliments have a look at our post ‘Can You Be As Rude As William Shakespeare?’
David and Mike – Goodeyedeers