April 23, 2014 marks Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. As poet Ben Jonson observed in his eulogy of Shakespeare (appearing in the First Folio, 1623), “Triumph, my Britaine, thou hast one to showe, / To whom all scenes of Europe homage owe. / He was not of an age, but for all time!” Amazingly, 450 years later, Shakespeare still towers over every literary figure — his plays have never ceased being performed, by professional and amateurs alike, as well as finding their way into various film adaptations; his plays are translated, read, and studied in high school and universities around the globe; his words and phrases form an important part of the English lexicon; and his work continues to inspire artists, filmmakers, poets, and writers.
Any individual that is larger than life and whose work endures for almost five centuries will inevitably give rise to a body of myths — some fictional and some erroneous — about his or her life, beliefs, and achievements. In their fascinating and thought-provoking book, 30 Great Myths About Shakespeare, Shakespeare experts Laurie Maguire and Emma Smith elaborate on the myths that surround the immortal Bard: “Myths abound about Shakespeaere in part because of half-remembered or out-of-date scholarship from schooldays, because Shakespeare the man is such an elusive and charismatic cultural property, and because interventions in Shakespeare studies, particularly biographical and theatrical ones, make headline news [eg, Shakespeare’s beliefs, his sexuality, or the infamous authorship issue]. Put simply, myths are told and retold about Shakespeare because no other writer matters as much to the world.”
Below are the some of the common myths that the authors explore, using the latest scholarly research to prove that some of these myths are partly true, some completely false, and others cannot be proven true or false. The authors succeed in packing an enormous amount of Shakespearean scholarship in a short book (216 pages). Certainly, anyone who reads this engaging book will no longer be myth-informed about the world’s most famous playwright.
Shakespeare was the most popular writer of his time.
Shakespeare was not well educated.
Shakespeare was not interested in having his plays printed.
Shakespeare’s tragedies are more serious than his comedies.
Shakespeare hated his wife.
Shakespeare wrote in the rhythyms of everyday life.
Hamlet was named after Shakespeare’s son
The coarse bits of Shakespeare are for the groundlings; the philosophy is for the upper class.
Shakespeare was a Stratford playwright.
Shakespeare was a plagiarist.
We don’t know much about Shakespeare’s life.
Shakespeare wrote alone.
Shakespeare’s sonnets are autobiographical
The Tempest was Shakespeare’s farewell to the stage.
Shakespeare had a huge vocabulary.
Shakespeare’s plays are timeless.
Shakespeare did not revise his plays.
Boy actors played women’s roles.
Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare.
See the poster here: Shakespeare 450th Anniversary
Read related posts: When Was Shakespeare Born?
The Legacy of Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folio
Who Are the Greatest Characters in Shakespeare?
Shakespeare and Uranus
Best Editions of Shakespeare’s Sonnets
For further reading: 30 Great Myths About Shakespeare by Laurie Maguire and Emma Smith, Wiley-Blackwell (2013)101 Things You Didn’t Know About Shakespeare by Janet Ware, Adams Media (2005)