On this day in 1564, William Shakespeare was born. Coincidentally, he also died on this day (aged 52) in 1616.
Unfortunately, there are no birth and death certificates to back up either of these facts. But the traditional custom of the period was to baptise children on the third day after their birth, and bury the dead on the second day after their death. As good luck would have it, in Shakespeare’s case there are records of these events taking place on 26 and 25 April respectively.
Officially, the Bard wrote 37 plays (though some people believe he was actually semi-illiterate and didn’t, indeed couldn’t, have written any of them). There are close to 2,000 household words and phrases still in use today that have their first recorded usage in Shakespeare’s works, including: band of brothers, foul/fair play, in a pickle, set your teeth on edge, courtship, majestic and suspicious. (Have a look at a brief list here)
As well as being perhaps the greatest playwright there has ever been, Shakespeare was also a successful businessman and made good money from property in his home town of Stratford. That was cold comfort to his wife, Anne Hathaway – he only left her his second favourite bed and its bedsheets in his will.
Many of Shakespeare’s plays involve a great many deaths and gore, with a recent adaptation at the Globe Theatre causing many audience members to faint. But the cause behind his own death is not clear cut. Many believe that he simply died after a heavy drinking session.
Despite being dead (and whoever let that stop them?) Shakespeare has over 1,000 writing credits on the film database IMDb, and has inspired countless other playwrights. He was also to leave a lasting message upon his grave, writing a curse should anyone care to disturb his bones – unsurprisingly, no one has tried to move them yet.