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25 Bold and Brilliant Facts about William Shakespeare


What do you think when you think about Shakespeare? Many people have panic flashbacks to high school and college courses. However, the REAL Shakespeare was much wilder than your teachers ever told you. Keep reading to learn who the Bard really was!


1.

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In 1890 as part of a program to bring all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare's plays to North America, 60 starlings were released in New York's Central Park. There are now over 200 million European starlings across the US, causing billions in crop damage and deadly hazards at airports.


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2.

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In Shakespeare's time, onstage special effects included using real animal blood, bones and intestines.


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3.

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The grammatical rule against ending a sentence with a preposition was first stated by John Dryden who recommended Shakespeare's works be rewritten to remove style impurities.


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4.

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Shakespeare's Globe, a reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre, is the first and only building in London permitted to have a thatched roof since the Great Fire of 1666.


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5.

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A statue of William Shakespeare in Central Park was paid for with funds raised by John Wilkes Booth.


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6.

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As a schoolboy, JRR Tolkien felt "bitter disappointment and disgust" that the woods did not actually march on the villain's castle and Shakespeare’s prophecy was revealed as a rhetorical trick (Macbeth). Later, Tolkien made a point of writing a story where the trees performed as advertised.


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7.

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"Sirrah" (you see it in Shakespeare) is related to "sir," but it actually means the opposite -- it was used to address people of lower status, sometimes with contempt.


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8.

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In 1794 London an 18-year-old student created a trove of  'discovered' original Shakespeare papers. Deeds, contracts, letters, poetry, and even a play that held much of London fooled for a year and a half.


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9.

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There is a "lost" Shakespeare play named "The History of Cardenio." Though the original text has never been found, we know of its existence because the title appears in records of plays performed by Shakespeare's company.


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10.

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The woman who first proposed the theory that Shakespeare wasn't the real author, didn't do any research for her book and was eventually sent to an insane asylum.


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11.

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Tolstoy thought Shakespeare's work was tedious and repulsive. Tolkien, T.S. Elliot, D.H. Lawrence, and Voltaire also had negative things to say about the revered writer.


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12.

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Use of the word "road" for a fixed land route started at the end of the 16th century, with Shakespeare the first known user. Because of that, there are no roads in the "City of London" (London's medieval core.) All the ways there had been named before the word came into the English language.


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13.

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In Elizabethan England, the word 'Nothing' was slang for female genitalia. The title of the Shakespeare play 'Much Ado About Nothing' is a double entendre.


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14.

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The Forest of Arden from Shakespeare’s play ‘As You Like It’ is a real place in England. Shakespeare grew up on the border, and while the area is no longer thick forest, there are still trees that are over 1000 years old that Shakespeare could have seen.


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15.

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Shakespeare coined or popularized many of the phrases we use today. Some of these include: “Good riddance. In my heart of hearts. Laughing stock. Wild-goose chase. Devil incarnate. Brave new world. As luck would have it. All our yesterdays. Break the ice. Full circle.”


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16.

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Shakespeare's "First Folio" had 5 typesetters labeled from best to worst A through E. "Compositor E" made many mistakes and was most likely an unskilled apprentice.


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17.

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How William Shakespeare’s name is spelled is unknown, even to himself. His contemporaries spelled it more than 80 different ways, including “Shappere” and “Shaxberd”. It turns out, he never used “William Shakespeare” once.


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18.

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William Shakespeare purposely had a curse epitaph engraved on his burial tomb to ward off would-be grave robbers, and Shakespeare's remains have yet to be disturbed.


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19.

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The world's rarest autograph belongs to William Shakespeare's, which can be found on six known autographs on only 4 documents - all currently in museums.


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20.

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The English word weird originally meant 'having the power to control fate', which is why Shakespeare named his witches in Macbeth The Weird Sisters. Later depictions of them dressed in odd and strange ways led to the current definition of the word.


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21.

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One of the oldest examples of Pig Latin is in The 1598 Shakespeare play, 'Love's Labour's Lost.'


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22.

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Shakespeare is credited with creating the name Jessica in 'The Merchant of Venice.'


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23.

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Although not much is really known about his life, scholars know that Shakespeare did have a son who died at the age of 11. His name? "Hamnet."


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24.

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Many scholars believe that William Shakespeare invented the “Knock-knock joke”. An early iteration appears in Act 2, Scene 3 of Macbeth ‘Knock, knock! Who's there, i' the name of Beelzebub?’


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25.

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There are no surviving manuscripts written in Shakespeare's own hand. His handwriting is only known from six surviving signatures.


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