A Shakespeare sign outside Shakespeare's Schoolroom to illustrate Shakespeare: the basics, on Stratfordblog ©Stratfordblog.com

Shakespeare: the basics

Shakespeare: the basics is your brief guide to William Shakespeare, Stratford’s most famous son and the Bard of Avon.

Every minute of every day Shakespeare is in the hearts and minds of people across the globe, whether they’re at the theatre, reading a play, or uttering one of the many phrases Shakespeare introduced to the English language.

And while we know so much about William Shakespeare – the greatest English playwright of all time – we actually know very little about the man himself.

If he were alive today, he’d be tweeting his sonnets, sharing his likes on Facebook and getting snapped on the red carpet at his latest premiere. Instead we have centuries-old registers, scrawled documents and memories recorded long after he was buried in Stratford’s Holy Trinity Church.

So this is a brief snapshot of his mysterious but productive life and, with so much guesswork involved, merely a list of the most widely-acknowledged “facts”.

A guide to William Shakespeare: the basics

23: The date in April 1564 recognised as Shakespeare’s birthday

8: Shakespeare is one of eight children born to the Shakespeares of Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon

26: The date in April 1564 Shakespeare is baptised in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon

200+: plague victims in Stratford in the year of Shakespeare’s birth

1580s: the potato is introduced to England as Shakespeare reaches adulthood

18: years of age when Shakespeare marries a pregnant Anne Hathaway in 1582

26: the age of Anne Hathaway when she marries a teenage William Shakespeare

6: months after their marriage that daughter Susanna arrives

20: Shakespeare is 20 years old when twins Judith and Hamnet arrive in early 1585

1587: Shakespeare probably arrives in London

1590: believed to be the year Shakespeare writes his first play – Henry VI, Part I

20+: spelling variations of the name Shakespeare, including Shaksper and Shaxberd

11: the age of Hamnet when he dies in 1596

1599: the Globe opens after being transported across the Thames, bit by bit, to dodge a lease dispute

1613: the Globe burns down after a stage canon ignites the thatched roof

37: plays written by William Shakespeare

154: sonnets written by William Shakespeare

30,557: words in Shakespeare’s longest play – Hamlet

14,701: words in Shakespeare’s shortest play – The Comedy of Errors

358: speeches by Hamlet, the most by any male character in a Shakespeare play

204: speeches by Cleopatra, the most by any female character in a Shakespeare play

2: characters in Titus Andronicus (Chiron and Demetrius) killed and baked in a pie

1597: the year a wealthy Shakespeare buys New Place in Stratford-upon-Avon as a family home (learn more about Stratford’s history)

41: age of Shakespeare when the Gunpowder Plot of November 1605 takes place (and fails)

6: surviving Shakespeare signatures on legal documents

23: date he died in April 1616, at the age of 52

4,000,000,000 (that’s 4 billion): estimated sales of his work

90,800,000: Google search results for William Shakespeare

7,430,000: results for William Shakespeare memes

580: schoolchildren given parts in a 2016 nationwide tour of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (including this writer’s stepdaughter)

1,000,000+: annual visitors to the RSC’s Stratford-upon-Avon theatres


What other fact would you include on Stratfordblog’s numerical guide to William Shakespeare? Post your comment below.

Information correct at date of publication