William Shakespeare, aka the Bard of Avon, is perhaps the most identifiable icons of England, after the royal family, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the red double-decker buses. Exactly 400 years after his death, Shakespeare’s plays are still performed all over the world and have been adapted and re-adapted time and again for both stage and screen. His popularity heightened during the Romantic and Victorian periods and he’s often considered as the greatest playwright to have ever lived. Let’s dig up some interesting facts about William Shakespeare life.
1. His father was a wine taster
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The poet was the son of John Shakespeare, who tried various trades like selling wool, corn, malt, and leather goods. He arrived at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1551 and was appointed the official “ale taster” of the borough in 1556. His job was to inspect bread and malt liquors. John climbed up the social ladder after his marriage to Mary Arden, the daughter of farm owner. But in 1570, John landed in debt and legal troubles for reasons unknown.
2. Birthday speculation
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There’s no record regarding the exact date of William Shakespeare’s birth. It’s believed he was born on 23 April 1564 and died on the same day in 1616. It only makes sense that he was “made to live” for exactly 52 years. Both dates have been highly debated by historians for centuries.
3. Married a pregnant older woman
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An 18-year old William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, a woman eight years senior, in November 1582. It was a hastily arranged nuptial because Anne was already pregnant at that time. Six months later she gave birth to Susanna. Twins Judith and Hamnet were born in 1585. Not much is known about the couple’s relationship, except that they usually lived apart and Shakespeare left her the “second-best bed” in his will.
4. Had extramarital affairs
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William Shakespeare was reportedly involved in a number of scandals and is rumored to have fathered a son out of wedlock by the name William Davenant. It’s one of those William Shakespeare facts that would have generated a fair bit of controversy because the bard never spent much time with his wife. His other purported lovers include the third Earl of Southampton Henry Wriothesley, a brothel keeper named Lucy Morgan, and a courtier Emilia Lanier.
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5. Parents illiterate, so were his children
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Though not confirmed, John and Mary Shakespeare were probably illiterate, as was usually the case for people of their class in the Elizabethan era. Some historians have argued that John’s work required basic literacy. William, however, attended the local grammar school where he mastered Latin. His children Judith and Susanna, who lived to become adults, were most likely illiterate as well, though Susanna may just have been able to scribble her name.