Facts About Shakespeare

A Shakespeare "Crib Sheet"

The Cobbe portrait of William Shakespeare (1564–1616), c1610

Heritage Images / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Facts about Shakespeare can sometimes be hard to find! To help you sort the fact from the speculation, we’ve put together a Shakespeare “crib sheet.” This is a single reference page packed with facts—and only facts—about Shakespeare.

The links are there to help you delve deeper into the subject.

Key Facts About Shakespeare

  • William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564.
  • He died on April 23, 1616.
  • The dates above are approximate because there is no record of neither his birth nor death. We only have records of his baptism and burial.
  • If we accept the dates, Shakespeare was born and died on the same day—in fact Shakespeare’s death occurred on his 52nd birthday!

Facts About Shakespeare’s Life

  • Shakespeare was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon but later moved to London for work.
  • Shakespeare had three children with his wife, Anne Hathaway.
  • When he left for London, Shakespeare left his family behind in Stratford. He did, however, retire back to Stratford at the end of his career.
  • There is evidence that Shakespeare was a “secret” Catholic.
  • By the end of his life, Shakespeare was a wealthy gentleman and had a coat of arms. His final residence was New Place, the largest house in Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Shakespeare was buried inside Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.
  • Shakespeare’s grave has a curse engraved upon it.
  • Shakespeare’s birthday is celebrated worldwide every year. The main festival is in Stratford-upon-Avon on Saint George’s Day.

Facts About Shakespeare’s Time

  • Shakespeare was not a “one-off genius”, as many people would have you believe. Rather he was a product of his time.
  • Shakespeare grew up during the Renaissance.
  • Queen Elizabeth I ruled for much of Shakespeare’s life and she would sometimes come and watch his plays.

Facts About Shakespeare’s Plays

  • Shakespeare wrote 38 plays.
  • Shakespeare’s plays are split into three genres: tragedy, comedy, and history.
  • Hamlet is often regarded as the Bard’s best play.
  • Romeo and Juliet is often regarded as the Bard’s most famous play.
  • Shakespeare may have co-authored many of his plays.

Facts About Shakespeare’s Sonnets

  • Shakespeare wrote 157 sonnets.
  • The sonnets are split into sections. The first follows the Fair Youth and the second follows the so-called Dark Lady.
  • It is likely that the sonnets were never intended for publication.
  • Sonnet 18 is often regarded as Shakespeare’s most famous sonnet.
  • Shakespeare’s sonnets are written in a strict poetic meter called Iambic Pentameter and have 14 lines each.

Facts About Shakespeare’s Theater

  • The theater experience in Shakespeare’s time was very different to today—crowds would eat and talk through the production and plays would be performed in the open air.
  • The Globe Theatre was made from the materials of a stolen theatre that Shakespeare’s theatre company dismantled at midnight and floated across the Thames River.
  • Shakespeare described the Globe Theatre as the “Wooden O” because of its shape.
  • The original Globe Theatre was demolished to make way for tenements in 1644 when it fell out of use.
  • The building that currently stands in London is a replica built from traditional materials and techniques. It is not on the original site, but very close to it!
  • Today, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is the World’s leading producer of Shakespeare and is headquartered in the Bard’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon.