We all learn about England’s most beloved playwright, William Shakespeare in school, but when people think of Shakespeare’s theater, they usually think of something very posh and literary, of a man hunched over a desk, muttering to himself in Ye Olde English, creating masterpieces of fiction that were enjoyed by the elite.
Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth behind the most famous playwright in history will probably surprise you. Here’s several facts about William Shakespeare that your English teacher didn’t tell you.
Shakespeare’s Parents Were Probably Illiterate
It’s not known for certain, but since Shakespeare came from a family of farmers, it’s possible that his parents never learned how to read or write. This theory mostly stems from the fact that despite his father holding several civic duties, he never signed with his signature. He only signed with a mark – a common stand-in when the one signing was illiterate. William did not learn to read and write at home. Rather, he went to the local grammar school.
His Plays Were Actually Really Rude
Most people think of Shakespeare’s plays, like Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and A Much Ado About Nothing, as the height of literary drama. This is mostly because they’re written in archaic English that many literature students find difficult to understand. The reality is, Shakespeare wrote for the masses, and his plays are riddled with sarcasm, potty humor, sex jokes, puns, and political satire…all buried under layers of Elizabethan English.
He Was Kind Of A Hippie
One of the most famous paintings of William Shakespeare depicts our bard as a fashionable Elizabethan hippie heartthrob. Shakespeare is painted with a full beard, a receding hairline, loosened shirt-ties (in a time where even a bit of chest hair was considered ridiculously immodest and sensual), and one shiny gold-hoop earring in his left ear. This could be a completely contrived interpretation of the Elizabethan celebrity poet…but it’s kind of fun to imagine Shakespeare dressing so flamboyantly.
His Grave Is Cursed…Sort Of!
William Shakespeare died an old and famous man at the ripe old age of 52, on April 23, 1616. Historians aren’t sure what killed him, whether it was old age, an illness, or an injury. A friend did write that he fell ill after a night of partying hard with a fellow bard and playwright. Before he died, Shakespeare penned his own epitaph with a curse against any who might disturb his final resting place. It’s written in poetic verse, in true Shakespearean fashion, and reads:
“Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbeare, / To dig the dust enclosed here. Blessed be the man that spares these stones, / And cursed be he that moves my bones.”
Shakespeare and His Wife Were a Bit Scandalous
Shakespeare and his wife were anything but the conventional couple. For one, Anne Hathaway was eight years older than William. Their wedding was a rushed affair, since by the time their engagement was announced, Anne was three months pregnant with William’s daughter. The two rarely spent time together, lived apart, and Shakespeare referred to her as his “second-best bed” in his will.
His Father Was Paid to Drink Beer
Shakespeare’s father was a son of a tenant farmer. Seeking a better life, he moved to Stratford-upon-Avon in 1551, and began selling leather, wool, malt, and corn. In 1556, he was officially appointed the borough’s “ale taster”, making him responsible for testing and inspecting all the bread and malt alcohol the area had to offer…which was a pretty cushy job. Eventually he married Mary Arden, the daughter of a rich farmer, and became a moneylender and even served as mayor of Statford at one point in his life.