Today marks 400 year's since the death of William Shakespeare. 400 years of fabulously florid language, steamy on-stage scenes, and tense GCSE trauma! But did you know these (loosely translated) facts about the Bard of Avon..?

1. His name wasn’t Shakespeare

Well, at least if you consider how he signed his moniker… There are around 80 different variations recorded – including Shaxbed and Shappere. Teachers who correct spelling, please take note.

Shakespeare: the Bard's signature


2. He might not have written all those plays

Some experts reckon he was just a ‘front’ for someone else – for example, Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon, or Mary Sidney Herbert. Yes, perchance ‘Will’ was actually a woman.

3. He bunked off for 7 years

There are no records for what Shakespeare did between 1585 and 1592. He (she?) was already on the up and up, yet disappeared from public life for this period. Some say he worked as a teacher, studied law, joined the local am-dram group, or did the equivalent of an Interail across Europe. That’s some gap ‘year’.

Shakespeare: man tasting beer


4. His dad (probably illiterate) was a professional beer-taster

At least for a while… Nice work if you can get it! But he then married a posh girl named Mary Arden and the rest is, literally, history.

5. Just like Robert DeNiro, Brad Pitt and Ricky Martin, he was a dad of twins

Hamnet and Judith were born in 1585. Tragically, Hamnet died aged just 11.

6. An anagram of William Shakespeare

I am a weakish speller

7. His theatre was really, really smelly

According to one visitor to the Globe in 1599, ‘The place was evil-smelling because of the lights (offal) and meat on which the butchers fed the dogs…’

In fact, that production of Julius Caesar included 120 English Mastiffs, 12 bears and several bulls. Just imagine the poo.

Shakespeare: pregnant woman


8. He was a toy-boy

Will, aged 18, married Anne Hathaway, 26, who was already pregnant. They had a baby girl six months on.

9. Some of his plays have been translated into Klingon

Hamlet and Star Trek fans click here.

10. He liked his bling

According to the famous ‘Chandos portrait’, he showed off a Ratners-style golden hoop earring. This was the sign of a trendy arty type back in the 1500s.

11. He made it all up!

Shakespeare invented over 1,700 of our common words. Check out your knowledge of the Bard’s lingo by clicking here!

Shakespeare: birthday cake


12. It may NOT be his birthday

We’re marking his death today, and it is thought to be his birthday, too. But there’s no evidence of this. He was baptised on 26 April so it’s generally assumed he was born 3 days earlier…


Happy whatever, Will. Forsooth, we salute you