5 Things You Didn't Know About William Shakespeare

April 23, 1564, is considered to be William Shakespeare's birthday. Often called England's national poet, Shakespeare is considered to be the greatest dramatist of all time. Here are 5 things you didn't know about William Shakespeare.


Shakespeare Likely Died on His Birthday According to tradition, William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 23, 1564. It is impossible to be certain the exact day on which he was born, but church records show that he was baptized on April 26, and three days was a customary amount of time to wait before baptizing a newborn. Shakespeare’s date of death is conclusively known, however: it was April 23, 1616. That would make his birth and death days the same. 

We Probably Don’t Spell His Name Correctly—But, Then Neither Did He. Sources from William Shakespeare’s lifetime spell his last name in more than 80 different ways, ranging from “Shappere” to “Shaxberd.” Only six signatures exist, and they are found on legal documents. Shakespeare spelled his name differently on each one, and on two, he neglected to write his entire last name, abbreviating it instead. However it’s spelled, Shakespeare is thought to derive from the Old English words “schakken” (“to brandish”) and “speer” (“spear”), and probably referred to a confrontational or argumentative person.


Shakespeare Wore an Earring. Only one portrait of the many painted of William Shakespeare can be traced as being done during his lifetime. In the painting, believed to have been done by John Taylor, Shakespeare is bearded and has a receding hairline, but he is also wearing a gold hoop earring in his left ear. During this period of the English Renaissance, both courtiers and sailors wore an earring, although those worn by sailors were intended to pay for their funeral expenses if they died.

He Made up Words. Are you feeling lonely as a result of social distancing? Has your productivity dwindled? Are your attempts at work producing lackluster results? If so, you can thank Shakespeare for your ability to describe what's going on. Shakespeare was known to have created many words for his plays, but the list is more extensive -- and common -- than a lot of people realize. Lonely, lackluster, dwindle, critic, uncomfortable, and surprisingly, skim milk, are among the many words that Shakespeare pulled out of thin air. The Oxford English Dictionary credits Shakespeare with adding nearly 3,000 new words to the language.

The Moons of Uranus Are Named After Shakespearean Characters While most of the satellites orbiting other planets take their names from various mythologies, Uranus' moons are unique in being named for Shakespearean characters, along with a couple of the moons being named for characters from the works of Alexander Pope. To date 27 moons have been discovered around Uranus, those named after characters from Shakespeare include Titania (A Midsummer Night's Dream), Oberon (A Midsummer Night's Dream), Ariel (The Tempest), Miranda (The Tempest) and Puck (A Midsummer Night's Dream).