Tuesday, 5 June 2012

FAQs | Things Everybody Wants to Know About Shakespeare


The many faces of William Shakespeare
Recently, I’ve realised that there are some questions, about our friend Bill, which are asked time and time again. So, I thought it might be helpful to lump all of those questions, and the answers to them, in one place. And I have, unimaginatively, titled this FAQs.

When was Shakespeare born?

Well it’s impossible to know exactly, as there is no record of his birth. However, there is a record of his baptism, which took place on 26th of April, 1564. Parents, usually, baptised their children quite quickly, due to the high infant mortality rate. So, it’s guessed that he was born around the 23rd of April. This date is also favoured, because Shakespeare died on the 23rd of April, 1616. So, his birth and death are commemorated on the same day.

Who were Shakespeare’s parents?

Shakespeare was the son of John Shakespeare, a glove maker, and Mary Shakespeare nee Arden, who was the daughter of a wealthy, gentry farmer.

Did Shakespeare have any brother or sisters?

Yes, William Shakespeare was the third of eight children.

Sir Nathaniel Curzon's tracing of what is
believed to be a lost portrait of
Anne Hathaway - although the existence
of said portrait is debated.
Who was Shakespeare’s Wife?

At the age of just 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, who was eight years his senior (she was pregnant at the time). It’s believed, although no one knows for sure, that she grew up in Shottery, a village on the outskirts of Stratford-Upon-Avon. She was the daughter of a yeoman farmer.

How many children did Shakespeare have?

Three. Susanna, who Anne was pregnant with when the pair wed, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Hamnet tragically died at just 11 years old. The cause of his death remains unknown, but it’s suggested that he may have succumbed to bubonic plague. However, with 1/3 of children under the age of 10 dying during this period, sadly, his death is not unusual for the era.

Are there any living descendants of Shakespeare?

No. Shakespeare’s eldest daughter, Susanna, married a doctor, John Hall, and had one daughter, Elizabeth who was born in 1608. Elizabeth married twice, but never had any children. Shakespeare’s second daughter, Judith, married Thomas Quiney and had three children: Shakespeare, who died within six months of his birth; Richard, who died at the age of 21; and Thomas, who died aged 19. Neither Thomas nor Richard married or had children. So, when Judith died, 23 years after the deaths of her youngest sons, the Shakespeare line ended.

How many plays did Shakespeare write?

There are 37 plays that are known to have been written entirely, or predominantly, by Shakespeare. Click here to find out more about them.

Why is there doubt that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare?

Very little is known about Shakespeare. Although it should be pointed out that as much is known about Shakespeare as most people born within the Elizabethan era. Nevertheless, those who doubt that Shakespeare could have written everything that is attributed to him base many arguments on gaps in his history. If you’d like to know more, click here.

Did Shakespeare invent the sonnet?

No. The sonnet form had been a popular choice in Italy and eventually the fashion made its way to England. It was then tweaked by Henry Howard (who did so while Shakespeare was still just a glint in his father’s eye). Shakespeare did, however, become a master at the form and was not above tweaking it further. Find out more here.

What the interior of the Globe looked like
Did Shakespeare own the Globe Theatre?

Yes, Shakespeare was a co-owner of the Globe as well as Blackfriars, which was an indoor theatre. Subsequently, he and the members of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men/King’s Men became very wealthy indeed.

Did Shakespeare own his own theatre company?

Yes, but not alone. The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, which later came to be known as The King’s Men, was a sort of co-op; there were several owners and Shakespeare was one of them.

Is Shakespeare In Love based on Shakespeare’s life?

In a word, ‘no’. Shakespeare In Love is fictional.

What was the deal with Shakespeare’s will?

When Shakespeare died, he was a very wealthy man. He left the bulk of his estate to his eldest daughter, but it wasn’t really for her, as it was to be passed to her first born son - whom she never had. The will barely mentions his wife, Anne, who survived him. This fact has left many to wonder about the state of their marriage. However, at this period, by law she was automatically entitled to 1/3 of his estate. Nevertheless, his decision to bequeath her his ‘second best bed’ has been the subject of much controversy.

Why did Shakespeare leave his wife the ‘second best bed’?

There is no way to know for sure and there are various points of view on this subject. However, it was not uncommon for homes to reserve the best bed for visitors. Consequently, the second best bed may well have been the marital bed, making the gesture a sentimental one, rather than a snub.

If I haven’t answered your burning question, please feel free to get in touch, either with a comment below, a message on the What’s It All About, Shakespeare? Facebook page or tweet me.

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