Wednesday, January 29, 2014

measure for measure | 8 shakespearean facts

Since this is our first time bringing the Bard to our stage for a very long time, it seemed like a great idea to indulge in some background information about the man behind MEASURE FOR MEASURE. Here are eight facts about dear old William:

  1. Shakespeare lived to 52. It is known that he was born in April 1564 and that he died on 23rd April 1616. We know that he was baptized on 26th April 1564 and scholars now believe that he was born on April 23rd. He therefore died on his fifty-second birthday, coinciding with St George’s Day.
  2. Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway when he was 18. She was 26 and she was pregnant when they married. Their first child was born six months after the wedding.
  3. Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway had three children together – a son, Hamnet, who died in 1596, and two daughters, Susanna and Judith. His only granddaughter Elizabeth – daughter of Susanna – died childless in 1670. Shakespeare therefore has no descendants.
  4. Shakespeare died a rich man. He made several gifts to various people but left his property to his daughter, Susanna. The only mention of his wife in Shakespeare’s own will is: “I gyve unto my wief my second best bed with the furniture”. The “furniture” was the bedclothes for the bed.
  5. Shakespeare was buried in the Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon. He put a curse on anyone daring to move his body from that final resting place. His epitaph was, Good friend for Jesus’ sake forbear,
 To dig the dust enclosed here: 
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
 And curst be he that moves my bones.  Though it was customary to dig up the bones from previous graves to make room for others, Shakespeare’s remains are still undisturbed.
  6. During his life, Shakespeare wrote 37 plays and 154 sonnets! This means an average 1.5 plays a year since he first started writing in 1589. His last play The Two Noble Kinsmen is reckoned to have been written in 1613 when he was 49 years old. While he was writing the plays at such a pace he was also conducting a family life, a social life and a full business life, running an acting company and a theatre.
  7. Shakespeare’s profession was acting. He is listed in documents of 1592, 1598 and 1603 as an actor. We know that he acted in a Ben Jonson play and also in his own plays but it’s thought that, as a very busy man, writing, managing the theatre and commuting between London and his home in Stratford where is family was, he didn’t undertake big parts. There is evidence that he played the ghost in Hamlet and Adam in As You Like It.
  8. Shakespeare is the second most quoted writer in the English language – after the various writers of the Bible.

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