William Shakespeare, arguably the most famous and influential of all English writers, died 400 years ago this month. Here's some things you may not know about the man known as the 'Bard of Avon' and his work...


William Shakespeare's monument in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon. PICTURE: David Adams

• While the date of Shakespeare's death isn't conclusively known, scholars have traditionally put it on 23rd April, 1616 (based on the fact his body was recorded as being interred a couple of days later in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford on 25th April). 

• The date of his death is traditionally believed to also be that of his birth, although, again, it's not conclusively known but based on the fact he is known to have been was baptised on 26th April, 1564 (baptisms traditionally occurred three days after birth).

• Shakespeare was 52 when he died. He was survived by his wife Anne Hathaway (he had married her when he was 18-years-old and she was 26 in 1582 when she was three months pregnant with their first child) as well as two of his three children (Susanna and twins Hamnet and Judith - Hamnet died before his father at the age of just 11). 

• Shakespeare's tomb, which can still be seen in the church in Stratford-upon-Avon, is inscribed with an epitaph supposedly written by him: "Good friend for Jesus' sake forbeare, To digg the dust encloased here. Blest by the man that spares these stones, And curst be he that moves my bones." 

• A monument to Shakespeare in Holy Trinity Church bears a sculpture (pictured above) which said to be only one of two authentic representations of the Bard's image (the other is an engraving by Martin Droeshout which appeared on the title page of the "first folio" - see below). The church monument was installed sometime between his death and 1623 (for more on that date see below).

• Shakespeare is credited with writing some 38 plays, 154 sonnets and some narrative poetry and other verses. His plays made him famous and wealthy - one indication of his growing success was the publication of Love's Labour's Lost in 1598 - the first with his name on the title page (suggesting it was a selling point). Another is the properties he purchased in both London and his home town of Stratford.

• The famous first folio - without which many of his works may not have been preserved - wasn't published until some 11 years after his death in 1623 by his friends John Heminges and Henry Condell (there's a statue commemorating their role in doing so in London). While 18 of his plays were published before his death, the folio, of which only some 233 copies of the original 750 or so survive, contains 18 more, including Macbeth and The Tempest, which had not previously been published.

• Shakespeare is credited with having created or popularised hundreds of words and phrases we still use today. Among them are words such as frugal, barefaced, assassination and countless and phrases such as "there's the rub", "wear your heart on your sleeve", "vanish into thin air", "foul play" and "bated breath".

• There still remains much discussion over whether Shakespeare wrote all of the play attributed to him. Other authors suggested include Christopher "Kit" Marlowe, Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, or Francis Bacon. 

• Shakespeare's works have been translated into more than 80 languages, including Klingon from Star Trek.

Sources: BiographyBBCShakespeare BirthplaceTrustShakespeare 400