Playwright William Shakespeare holds a place of honor in the world’s literature. For centuries, his uniquely powerful and innovative language has moved a vast audience of readers and theater audiences, most of whom know very little about the author’s life and milieu. There are still many pages missing from Shakespeare’s own history, but the bard has staying power: “Hamlet,” “Othello,” “Macbeth” and other classic plays have remained as familiar as any modern entertainment in newer media.
5 Rare Writings
Shakespeare is one of the most widely published authors in history, but not one line of his work appeared in print until seven years after his death, when the “First Folio” edition appeared in England. No original manuscripts, notes, letters, journals or other writings of the playwright himself have survived, and only six autographs that Shakespeare put to deeds, wills and other legal documents still exist. The world’s most valuable autographs, they have an estimated worth of more than $4 million each.
4 Original Shakespearianisms
You use and hear Shakespeare’s original words and expressions every day of your life. Among this playwright’s creations are such everyday words as bet, bedroom, gloomy, elbow, excitement, lonely, obscene, outbreak, torture, zany and unreal. In addition, hundreds of familiar expressions were first used in a Shakespeare play, including “all of a sudden,” “as dead as a doornail,” “good riddance,” “fair play,” “night owl,” “the game is up” and “send him packing.”
3 Panned by the First Critic
Shakespeare’s first published critic, Robert Greene, showed no mercy, expressing his strong contempt for a lowly actor with no university education who would presume to write plays—the proper hobby, in his view, of lettered gentlemen. In his pamphlet Greene’s Groats-Worth of Wit, Greene took exception to “an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that…supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you.” In revenge, Shakespeare may have modeled Falstaff, a windy blowhard who appears in several of his plays, on Greene.
2 Multilingual Shakespeare
Shakespeare’s plays have been translated into 80 languages, including Klingon, the language of Star Trek’s intergalactic bad guys. You can enjoy a Klingon version of “Hamlet” as well as the comedy “Much Ado About Nothing.” The original Klingon “Hamlet”—the longest Klingon text available—was published by the Klingon Language Institute in a run of 1,000 numbered hardbound copies, as well as 26 now-rare deluxe copies.
1 Missing Shakespeares
Shakespeare wrote a lot of plays—more than you think. In addition to the 37 generally accepted plays in the Shakespeare canon, scholars believe that at least 20 plays have been lost, and the bard collaborated on many plays for which he received no author’s credit.