Myths and Lies About William Shakespeare

Myths and Lies About William Shakespeare

As you may guess, we love interesting facts here. However, as the saying goes, publishers so often print the legend, obfuscating the truth. Sometimes debunking the untruths and legends is just as interesting. One such case: William Shakespeare, the celebrated bard, the man who told us for all time that all the world’s a stage. In the 400-plus years since his passing, the factual account of the great playwright’s life has mingled with myth, legend, and outright falsehood, making it difficult to discern what’s true and what’s false. You can safely sort out these myths and lies about William Shakespeare as you learn more about this celebrated cornerstone of English language and literature as we know it today.

…This earth, this realm, this England.

Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I were not the best of friends.

A lot has changed in the last four centuries, not the least of which is the social status of our thespian class. Today’s actors of stage and screen are beloved cultural figures, but society held the men who brought Shakespeare’s plays to life on stage in quite low esteem. Today’s most famous celebrities would be able to gain an audience with Queen Elizabeth II, but Shakespeare—not only a playwright but an actor—would have struggled to reach that rarefied air.

It Was All Greek to Him.

Shakespeare had nothing to do with translating the King James Bible.

Though William Shakespeare and the scholars who convened to write the King James Version of the Bible were roughly contemporaries, Shakespeare himself—whose fluency in Greek was wildly insufficient for translating Scripture—was not involved with the translation of the Bible into modern English. This is just one of the many myths surrounding this influential tome. Yes, the works of Shakespeare and the prose of the King James Bible have shaped English as we know it today—but alas, not together.

A Rose by Any Other Pen Name?

Shakespeare was indeed the author of his own works.

One of the wildest myths and lies about William Shakespeare is that “Shakespeare” was but a pen name for other writers. Some people suggest Christopher Marlowe, Shakespeare’s contemporary and sometime-rival Ben Jonson, or even a committee of ghostwriters used a communal nom de plume. The authorship of Shakespeare’s plays themselves is not in question, but we do know preexisting works deeply inspired the Bard when he was penning such plays as Romeo and Juliet. But after all, as Oscar Wilde once said, “Talent borrows; genius steals.”

Additional Resources:

Mark Twain

JD Salinger

Edgar Allan Poe

Pablo Picasso

Andy Warhol

Van Gogh

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