When it comes to Shakespeare, many people accept as “facts” things that ain’t necessarily so. So I thought I’d take a few moments to run down a list of ten commonly asserted and even sometimes accepted “facts” about the bard.
1. Shakespeare’s plays were written by someone else.
Nah. There are many theories but as scholarship has progressed, fewer and fewer people give credence to this claim (though, to be fair, I do think many of Shakespeare’s plays–especially the earliest and the latest, with the exception of The Tempest–include work by other writers).
2. Shakespeare couldn’t have written his plays because he never earned a college degree.
It’s true that Shakespeare never attended college. But neither did Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Edison or Walt Disney.
3. Shakespeare didn’t like his wife.
We don’t know how often Shakespeare saw Anne Hathaway and his children over the years, but we do know he returned to her and to Stratford for his latter years. And, yes, he bequeathed her his “second best” bed but that may not have been a slight at all.
4. Shakespeare was gay.
This is complete speculation, often based on #5.
5. Many of Shakespeare’s sonnets were written to a guy.
This is true, but many were most likely written for a guy, a patron. And to a woman. Or women.
6. Shakespeare was promiscuous.
We know that he and his wife had three children. Everything else about his sex life is legend or inference.
7. Shakespeare was a secret Catholic.
His father probably was, but I doubt that Will was a Catholic. Or a Protestant. Read more here.
8. Shakespeare invented the English language.
Well, no. But he did participate in the massive changes to the language that took place in his lifetime.
9. Shakespeare became rich and famous in his lifetime.
Well-to-do, yes. Famous, no, not in his lifetime.
10. If Christopher Marlowe had not died when he did, he would be the more famous one.
Quite possibly. Or they may have eventually shared great fame. In fact, they kinda do.