The twenty-third of April 1564 is celebrated as the birth in Stratford of William Shakespeare as well as his death fifty-two years later, also in Stratford. This gives credibility to the account of his final hours:
Shakespeare, Drayton, and Ben Jonson had a merry meeting and it seems drank too hard, for Shakespeare died of a fever there contracted.
These fellow poet-playwrights were close members of Shakespeare’s social circle, and there is good reason to believe they were toasting Shakespeare’s fifty-second birthday on or around 23 April 1616. The OUP blog has an excellent account of Shakespeare and his circle of friends. How much do we owe the prolific bard? Top off the champagne and list a glass in celebration for much of what comprises the English language came from his pen.
Shakespeare By The Numbers
Born and Died on April 23
Had 7 Siblings and 3 children
There are more than 80 spelling variations of his name
He wrote 37 plays and 154 works that have been identified
His plays comprise 884,429 words
He introduced almost 3,000 words to the English language
He used over 7,000 words only once in his plays
He wrote close to 1/10 of the most quoted lines ever written or spoken in English
He is the second most quoted writer in the English language, but only if you count the Bible as one author.
When it comes to creative writing or speaking, there’s something rotten in Denmark: Bernard Levin said it best in The Story of English with the following –
“If you cannot understand my argument, and declare, “It’s Greek to me“, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sorrow than in anger, if your wish is father to the thought, if you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle, if you haveknitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort or too much of a good thing, if you have seen better days or lived in a fool’s paradise – why, be that as it may, the more fool you, for it is a foregone conclusion that you are (as luck would have it) quoting Shakespeare.
If you clear out bag and baggage, if you think it is high time and that that is the long and short of it, if you believe that the game is up and that truth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low till the crack of doom because yoususpect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop); without rhyme or reason, then to give the devil his due – if the truth were known (for surely you have a tongue in your head) you are quoting Shakespeare.
Even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I was dead as a doornail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then – By Jove! O Lord! Tut, Tut!; For goodness’ sake!; What the dickens! But me no buts – It is all one to me
FOR YOU ARE QUOTING SHAKESPEARE”