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William Shakespeare Trivia

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

Shakespeare's surviving works add up to a staggering 884,647 words and 118,406 lines.20

Hamlet is Shakespeare's longest play, clocking in at 4,042 lines. His shortest is The Comedy of Errors, with 1,787.21

Though commonly attributed to the Bard, Shakespeare never wrote or said "Oh what a tangled web we weave / When first we practice to deceive." The line belongs to Sir Walter Scott, from his 1808 poem Marmion.22

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Shakespeare coined more than 500 new words, many of which are still commonly used in English speech. Popular Will-isms include: amazement, bump, lonely, countless, useful, radiance and lackluster.23

Shakespeare has been translated into at least 80 languages, including Chinese, Bengali, Tagalog, and Uzbek.24

When the First Folio was published in 1623, you could buy a copy for £1, worth as much at the time as several hundred dollars today. In 2006, a surviving original copy of the First Folio (one of only about 230 in the world) sold for nearly $5 million.25

"Shakespeare" is spelled 80 different ways in documents dating from the Bard's time, including "Shaxpere" and "Shaxberd."26

A ticket to the Globe Theatre in Shakespeare's time would have cost you a penny, or $1.66 in today's money. At a posh indoor theater like Blackfriars, tickets started at a whopping sixpence (about $10). If you were rolling large, you could sit on the stage for two shillings ($40) or buy a box for half-a-crown ($50).27

The average number of actors required for a Shakespearean comedy is 18. For the tragedies, it's 27. Histories require 35.28

In his will, William Shakespeare bequeathed to his wife Anne Hathaway only his "second best bed." (Under the law, she was also automatically entitled to one-third of his estate and lifelong occupancy of Shakespeare's home.) There's no way of knowing whether this was a thoughtful bequest (hey, maybe she really liked that bed), some kind of inside joke, or a rather nasty insult.29

The Klingon Language Institute, the official organization dedicated to the revival of Star Trek's Klingon language, runs the Klingon Shakespeare Restoration Project. They've so far translated Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing into Klingon. (For Christian Klingon speakers, they've also translated the Bible.)30

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