11 Fun Facts That Didn’t Make It Into The Bard and the Bible

Many readers and reviewers of The Bard and the Bible (A Shakespeare Devotional) say their favorite feature of the book is the “fun facts” that conclude each day’s reading. But because of space considerations, there were many such factoids that didn’t make into the book. Here are ten of my favorites:

portia-by-millais-detail

  1. Portia, in The Merchant of Venice (above) is not the only female in Shakespeare to struggle with an inability to choose her own husband; Juliet (Romeo and Juliet), Katherina (The Taming of the Shrew), and Hermia (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) faced similar situations, which were the norm in Shakespeare’s day.
  2. Some people believe that Robert Greene’s 1592 reference in a pamphlet to an “upstart crow beautified with our feathers” who is criticized for pride and plagiarism caused Shakespeare much grief and perhaps some loss of respect and revenue. Later that year, the publisher of that pamphlet, Henry Chettle, seems to have issued a public apology, praising Shakespeare for “his uprightness of dealing, which argues his honesty, and his facetious grace in writing.”
  3. In Shakespeare’s day, “May Day” (May 1) was celebrated as the beginning of summer in England; “midsummer,” as portrayed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, occurred on the summer solstice in June.
  4. At least some of Shakespeare’s plays have been lost to history: Love’s Labour’s Won, a probable sequel to Love’s Labour’s Lost (though some scholars suggest it is an alternate name for one of the romance plays we do know) and a play titled Cardenio.
  5. Henry VI Part 1 is thought by some to show evidence that Shakespeare collaborated with other playwrights on some of his early plays. The most likely collaborator is Thomas Nashe, who co-wrote a play with Ben Johnson (generally recognized as the second greatest English dramatist, after Shakespeare).
  6. There is no record of the complete text of Henry VI Part 2 being performed for three hundred years after 1592. The next known performance was in April 1864 at the Surrey Theatre in London.
  7. Falstaff was originally named Sir John Oldcastle, after a dissenter who was hanged and burned for heresy and treason in 1417. Most likely, political pressure after the play premiered precipitated the name change—a few hints remained, such as Prince Hal calling Falstaff “my old lad of the castle” in Henry IV Part I.
  8. The Battle of Shrewsbury, depicted in Henry IV Part I, was the first in which English archers engaged each other on English soil.
  9. Only two female characters appear in more than one of Shakespeare’s plays: Queen Margaret (in Henry VI Part 1; Henry VI Part 2; Henry VI Part 3; Richard III) and Mistress Quickly (who is called “Hostess” in the Henry IV plays and Henry V).
  10. In Henry V, Shakespeare depicted a unified fighting force under King Henry, one that includes the Irish MacMorris, the Welsh Fluellen, and the Scottish Jamy. Though these characters have their differences, they reflect a “Great Britain” that didn’t yet exist in Henry’s time . . . or Shakespeare’s.
  11. Printed books existed before the Elizabethan era but were too expensive for most people. In Elizabeth’s reign, however, seven thousand new titles were published and made available to people like William Shakespeare.

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About writerhoss

I am a writer from southwestern Ohio, and a frequent speaker at churches, conferences, and retreats. My books include The Bard and the Bible (A Shakespeare Devotional).
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