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10 Things to Know About Shakespeare

Shakespeare is one of the most famous writers in the English language. Whether you are an expert or haven’t thought of him much since you were in high school, here are 10 things to know about the Bard.


The Cobb Portrait of William Shakespeare 1564-1616. Source: Wikicommons

1. William Shakespeare was baptized April 26, 1564, in Stratford-upon-Avon.

The Royal Shakespeare Company has three permanent theaters in Stratford-upon-Avon, although two are currently closed.


2. Shakespeare wrote at least 37 plays!

Most of his plays are considered comedies or dramas, but some are histories, romances, and so-called “problem plays,” like “All’s Well That Ends Well.”


3. Shakespeare uses a lot of iambic pentameter.

Iambic pentameter is when the words create a rhythm of short-long, short-long. When he breaks up this pattern, it creates a new emphasis on certain words to indicate a character’s state of mind. For example, in “All’s Well That Ends Well,” when Helena says, “I think not on my father/ and these great tears grace his remembrance more,” the change in cadence slows down the speaker to focus on each word more.

4. During Shakespeare’s time, actors were men.

The 1998 film “Shakespeare in Love,” in which Shakespeare falls in love with a woman who pretends to be a man in order to be an actor, is just a fantasy, if inspired by the fact that women were not allowed to become actors at that time.


5. Shakespeare would often use cue scripts for his plays.

A cue script might only have a few words or phrases of another character’s part and then the actor’s lines. This would help cut down on the use of paper and time, as Shakespeare had to write out plays by hand. Actors today will still sometimes use such scripts to learn their cues.


6. Shakespeare had a wife and three kids.

Shakespeare and his wife, Anne, had two daughters and one son.


7. During the London plague in the early 1590s, theaters were closed, so Shakespeare focused on poetry instead.

According to Kathryn Harkup in her book “Death by Shakespeare,” tobacco was one of many false cures for the plague.


8. Shakespeare’s poems are their own genre!

Shakespeare wrote many 14-line poems called sonnets. Because his writing scheme was unique, they became known as Shakespearean sonnets. You can write your own Shakespearean sonnet by following this rhyming pattern: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.


9. William Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616.

He was 52 when he died from unknown causes. He is buried in Holy Trinity Church at Stratford-upon-Avon.


10. Shakespeare’s plays have been adapted to film more than 500 times!

The most common plays to hit the silver screen are “Hamlet” and “Romeo and Juliet.”


 

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Very interesting. Especially that Shakespeare has been adapted to film more than 500 times. I've requested compiler's list of Much Ado films. When I was in high school, Joseph Papp's 1972 New York Shakespeare Festival production was filmed/ broadcast as a TV movie. That show, featuring Sam Waterston/Kathleen Widdoes as Benedick/Beatrice and some Keystone Cops was my introduction to Shakespeare outside a book. The centuries fell away. It won my heart. It now shares space with the Kenneth Branagh and Joss Whedon Much Ado films, as my favorite Shakespeare films ever.

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