William Shakespeare - Quotes, Plays & Wife (2023)


Who Was William Shakespeare?

William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright and actor of the Renaissance era. He was an important member of the King’s Men company of theatrical players from roughly 1594 onward.

Known throughout the world, Shakespeare's writings capture the range of human emotion and conflict and have been celebrated for more than 400 years. And yet, the personal life of William Shakespeare is somewhat a mystery.

There are two primary sources that provide historians with an outline of his life. One is his work — the plays, poems and sonnets — and the other is official documentation such as church and court records. However, these provide only brief sketches of specific events in his life and yield little insight into the man himself.

When Was Shakespeare Born?

No birth records exist, but an old church record indicates that a William Shakespeare was baptized at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 26, 1564. From this, it is believed he was born on or near April 23, 1564, and this is the date scholars acknowledge as Shakespeare's birthday.

Located about 100 miles northwest of London, during Shakespeare's time Stratford-upon-Avon was a bustling market town along the River Avon and bisected by a country road.


Shakespeare was the third child of John Shakespeare, a leather merchant, and Mary Arden, a local landed heiress. Shakespeare had two older sisters, Joan and Judith, and three younger brothers, Gilbert, Richard and Edmund.

Before Shakespeare's birth, his father became a successful merchant and held official positions as alderman and bailiff, an office resembling a mayor. However, records indicate John's fortunes declined sometime in the late 1570s.

Childhood and Education

Scant records exist of Shakespeare's childhood and virtually none regarding his education. Scholars have surmised that he most likely attended the King's New School, in Stratford, which taught reading, writing and the classics.

Being a public official's child, Shakespeare would have undoubtedly qualified for free tuition. But this uncertainty regarding his education has led some to raise questions about the authorship of his work (and even about whether or not Shakespeare really existed).

Wife and Children

Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway on November 28, 1582, in Worcester, in Canterbury Province. Hathaway was from Shottery, a small village a mile west of Stratford. Shakespeare was 18 and Anne was 26, and, as it turns out, pregnant.

Their first child, a daughter they named Susanna, was born on May 26, 1583. Two years later, on February 2, 1585, twins Hamnet and Judith were born. Hamnet later died of unknown causes at age 11.

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Shakespeare’s Lost Years

There are seven years of Shakespeare's life where no records exist after the birth of his twins in 1585. Scholars call this period the "lost years," and there is wide speculation on what he was doing during this period.

One theory is that he might have gone into hiding for poaching game from the local landlord, Sir Thomas Lucy. Another possibility is that he might have been working as an assistant schoolmaster in Lancashire.

It's generally believed he arrived in London in the mid- to late 1580s and may have found work as a horse attendant at some of London's finer theaters, a scenario updated centuries later by the countless aspiring actors and playwrights in Hollywood and Broadway.

The King's Men

By the early 1590s, documents show Shakespeare was a managing partner in the Lord Chamberlain's Men, an acting company in London with which he was connected for most of his career.

Considered the most important troupe of its time, the company changed its name to the King's Men following the crowning of King James I in 1603. From all accounts, the King's Men company was very popular. Records show that Shakespeare had works published and sold as popular literature.

Although the theater culture in 16th century England was not highly admired by people of high rank, some of the nobility were good patrons of the performing arts and friends of the actors.


William Shakespeare - Quotes, Plays & Wife (1)

Actor and Playwright

By 1592, there is evidence Shakespeare earned a living as an actor and a playwright in London and possibly had several plays produced.

The September 20, 1592 edition of the Stationers' Register (a guild publication) includes an article by London playwright Robert Greene that takes a few jabs at Shakespeare: "...There is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tiger's heart wrapped in a Player's hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes factotum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country," Greene wrote of Shakespeare.

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Scholars differ on the interpretation of this criticism, but most agree that it was Greene's way of saying Shakespeare was reaching above his rank, trying to match better known and educated playwrights like Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Nashe or Greene himself.

Early in his career, Shakespeare was able to attract the attention of Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton, to whom he dedicated his first and second published poems: "Venus and Adonis" (1593) and "The Rape of Lucrece" (1594).

By 1597, Shakespeare had already written and published 15 of his 37 plays. Civil records show that at this time he purchased the second-largest house in Stratford, called New House, for his family.

It was a four-day ride by horse from Stratford to London, so it's believed that Shakespeare spent most of his time in the city writing and acting and came home once a year during the 40-day Lenten period, when the theaters were closed.

Globe Theater

By 1599, Shakespeare and his business partners built their own theater on the south bank of the Thames River, which they called the Globe Theater.

In 1605, Shakespeare purchased leases of real estate near Stratford for 440 pounds, which doubled in value and earned him 60 pounds a year. This made him an entrepreneur as well as an artist, and scholars believe these investments gave him the time to write his plays uninterrupted.

Shakespeare’s Writing Style

Shakespeare's early plays were written in the conventional style of the day, with elaborate metaphors and rhetorical phrases that didn't always align naturally with the story's plot or characters.

However, Shakespeare was very innovative, adapting the traditional style to his own purposes and creating a freer flow of words.

With only small degrees of variation, Shakespeare primarily used a metrical pattern consisting of lines of unrhymed iambic pentameter, or blank verse, to compose his plays. At the same time, there are passages in all the plays that deviate from this and use forms of poetry or simple prose.

William Shakespeare's Plays

While it’s difficult to determine the exact chronology of Shakespeare’s plays, over the course of two decades, from about 1590 to 1613, he wrote a total of 37 plays revolving around several main themes: histories, tragedies, comedies and tragicomedies.

Early Works: Histories and Comedies

With the exception of the tragic love story Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's first plays were mostly histories. Henry VI (Parts I, II and III), Richard II and Henry V dramatize the destructive results of weak or corrupt rulers and have been interpreted by drama historians as Shakespeare's way of justifying the origins of the Tudor Dynasty.

Julius Caesar portrays upheaval in Roman politics that may have resonated with viewers at a time when England’s aging monarch, Queen Elizabeth I, had no legitimate heir, thus creating the potential for future power struggles.

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Shakespeare also wrote several comedies during his early period: the whimsical A Midsummer Night's Dream, the romantic Merchant of Venice, the wit and wordplay of Much Ado About Nothing and the charming As You Like It and Twelfth Night.

Other plays written before 1600 include Titus Andronicus, The Comedy of Errors, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew, Love’s Labour’s Lost, King John, The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry V.

Works after 1600: Tragedies and Tragicomedies

It was in Shakespeare's later period, after 1600, that he wrote the tragedies Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth. In these, Shakespeare's characters present vivid impressions of human temperament that are timeless and universal.

Possibly the best known of these plays is Hamlet, which explores betrayal, retribution, incest and moral failure. These moral failures often drive the twists and turns of Shakespeare's plots, destroying the hero and those he loves.

In Shakespeare's final period, he wrote several tragicomedies. Among these are Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale and The Tempest. Though graver in tone than the comedies, they are not the dark tragedies of King Lear or Macbeth because they end with reconciliation and forgiveness.

Other plays written during this period include All’s Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure, Timon of Athens, Coriolanus, Pericles and Henry VIII.

When Did Shakespeare Die?

Tradition holds that Shakespeare died on his 52nd birthday, April 23, 1616, but some scholars believe this is a myth. Church records show he was interred at Trinity Church on April 25, 1616.

The exact cause of Shakespeare's death is unknown, though many believe he died following a brief illness.

In his will, he left the bulk of his possessions to his eldest daughter, Susanna. Though entitled to a third of his estate, little seems to have gone to his wife, Anne, whom he bequeathed his "second-best bed." This has drawn speculation that she had fallen out of favor, or that the couple was not close.

However, there is very little evidence the two had a difficult marriage. Other scholars note that the term "second-best bed" often refers to the bed belonging to the household's master and mistress — the marital bed — and the "first-best bed" was reserved for guests.

Did Shakespeare Write His Own Plays?

About 150 years after his death, questions arose about the authorship of Shakespeare's plays. Scholars and literary critics began to float names like Christopher Marlowe, Edward de Vere and Francis Bacon — men of more known backgrounds, literary accreditation, or inspiration — as the true authors of the plays.

Much of this stemmed from the sketchy details of Shakespeare's life and the dearth of contemporary primary sources. Official records from the Holy Trinity Church and the Stratford government record the existence of a Shakespeare, but none of these attest to him being an actor or playwright.

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Skeptics also questioned how anyone of such modest education could write with the intellectual perceptiveness and poetic power that is displayed in Shakespeare's works. Over the centuries, several groups have emerged that question the authorship of Shakespeare's plays.

The most serious and intense skepticism began in the 19th century when adoration for Shakespeare was at its highest. The detractors believed that the only hard evidence surrounding Shakespeare from Stratford-upon-Avon described a man from modest beginnings who married young and became successful in real estate.

Members of the Shakespeare Oxford Society (founded in 1957) put forth arguments that English aristocrat and poet Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, was the true author of the poems and plays of "William Shakespeare."

The Oxfordians cite de Vere's extensive knowledge of aristocratic society, his education, and the structural similarities between his poetry and that found in the works attributed to Shakespeare. They contend that Shakespeare had neither the education nor the literary training to write such eloquent prose and create such rich characters.

However, the vast majority of Shakespearean scholars contend that Shakespeare wrote all his own plays. They point out that other playwrights of the time also had sketchy histories and came from modest backgrounds.

They contend that Stratford's New Grammar School curriculum of Latin and the classics could have provided a good foundation for literary writers. Supporters of Shakespeare's authorship argue that the lack of evidence about Shakespeare's life doesn't mean his life didn't exist. They point to evidence that displays his name on the title pages of published poems and plays.

Examples exist of authors and critics of the time acknowledging Shakespeare as the author of plays such as The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Comedy of Errors and King John.

Royal records from 1601 show that Shakespeare was recognized as a member of the King's Men theater company and a Groom of the Chamber by the court of King James I, where the company performed seven of Shakespeare's plays.

There is also strong circumstantial evidence of personal relationships by contemporaries who interacted with Shakespeare as an actor and a playwright.

Literary Legacy

What seems to be true is that Shakespeare was a respected man of the dramatic arts who wrote plays and acted in some in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. But his reputation as a dramatic genius wasn't recognized until the 19th century.

Beginning with the Romantic period of the early 1800s and continuing through the Victorian period, acclaim and reverence for Shakespeare and his work reached its height. In the 20th century, new movements in scholarship and performance have rediscovered and adopted his works.

Today, his plays are highly popular and constantly studied and reinterpreted in performances with diverse cultural and political contexts. The genius of Shakespeare's characters and plots are that they present real human beings in a wide range of emotions and conflicts that transcend their origins in Elizabethan England.

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  • Name: William Shakespeare
  • Birth Year: 1564
  • Birth date: April 23, 1564
  • Birth City: Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Birth Country: United Kingdom
  • Gender: Male
  • Best Known For: William Shakespeare, often called England's national poet, is considered the greatest dramatist of all time. His works are loved throughout the world, but Shakespeare's personal life is shrouded in mystery.
  • Industries
    • Fiction and Poetry
  • Astrological Sign: Taurus
  • Schools
    • King's New School
  • Interesting Facts
    • By the early 1590s, William Shakespeare was a managing partner in the Lord Chamberlain's Men, a popular theater company.
    • In 1599 Shakespeare and his business partners started their own theater company called the Globe.
    • Some historians have questioned whether William Shakespeare actually existed, considering the scant evidence on him.
  • Death Year: 1616
  • Death date: April 23, 1616
  • Death City: Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Death Country: United Kingdom

We strive for accuracy and fairness.If you see something that doesn't look right,contact us!

  • Article Title: William Shakespeare Biography
  • Author: Biography.com Editors
  • Website Name: The Biography.com website
  • Url: https://www.biography.com/writer/william-shakespeare
  • Access Date:
  • Publisher: A&E Television Networks
  • Last Updated: December 10, 2020
  • Original Published Date: April 23, 2014
  • The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
  • This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.
  • There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
  • Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.
  • Lord, what fools these mortals be!
  • To weep is to make less the depth of grief.
  • In time we hate that which we often fear.
  • Men at some time are masters of their fates: the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.
  • What's done cannot be undone.
  • We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.
  • Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.
  • The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.
  • All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.
  • Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.
  • I say there is no darkness but ignorance.
  • I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.
  • Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.


What are 3 of Shakespeare's most famous quotes? ›

  • “To be, or not to be: that is the question.” ...
  • “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” ...
  • “A horse! a horse! ...
  • “We are such stuff as dreams are made on.” ...
  • “The course of true love never did run smooth.” ...
  • “If music be the food of love, play on.” ...
  • “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.”
6 days ago

What is Shakespeare most famous line from his plays? ›

"To be, or not to be: that is the question." Perhaps the most famous of Shakespearean lines, the anguished Hamlet ponders the purpose of life and suicide in this profound soliloquy.

What is Shakespeare's favorite quote? ›

"Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, That I shall say good night till it be morrow.”

What is the most famous line from Hamlet? ›

To be, or not to be, that is the question. Spoken by Hamlet during his soliloquy in the nunnery scene. It remains one of Shakespeare's most famous quotes.

What is Shakespeare's one meaningful quote? ›

Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em.

What are 5 famous quotes? ›

Quotes by Famous People
  • The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. - ...
  • The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing. - ...
  • Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. ...
  • If life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavor. -
Jan 2, 2023

What are 2 famous Shakespeare quotes? ›

“…be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em.” “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind.”

What are three Shakespeare quotes? ›

William Shakespeare > Quotes
  • “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” ...
  • “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” ...
  • “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, ...
  • “Be not afraid of greatness. ...
  • “Doubt thou the stars are fire;

What is the most famous line of all time? ›

Famous Movie Quotes
  • “ May the Force be with you.” - Star Wars, 1977.
  • “ There's no place like home.” - The Wizard of Oz, 1939.
  • “ I'm the king of the world!” - ...
  • “ Carpe diem. ...
  • “ Elementary, my dear Watson.” - ...
  • “ It's alive! ...
  • “ My mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. ...
  • “ I'll be back.” -
Sep 21, 2018

What are 5 phrases that Shakespeare invented? ›

10 Phrases from Shakespeare
  • Green-Eyed Monster. What it means: envy, jealousy. ...
  • In a Pickle. What it means: ...
  • Love Is Blind. What it means: ...
  • Salad Days. What it means: ...
  • Wear My Heart on My Sleeve. What it means: ...
  • There's the Rub. What it means: ...
  • Cruel to Be Kind. What it means: ...
  • Wild Goose Chase. What it means:

What is an inspirational quote from Shakespeare about life? ›

“Listen to many, speak to a few.” “Boldness be my friend.” “ Come what come may, Time and the hour runs through the roughest day.” "The most peaceable way for you, if you do take a thief, is, to let him show himself what he is and steal out of your company."

What is the last line of the play Hamlet? ›

What is Hamlet's final line? Hamlet's final line is to his friend Horatio. Hamlet says, "The rest is silence." Hamlet tells this to Horatio as he is dying and after Gertrude, Laertes, and Claudius have all died.

What are Hamlet's final words? ›

''The rest is silence'' are the last words of Hamlet in William Shakespeare's play by the same name. The poignant phrase has gained a life far beyond the play, often being used to comment on the conclusion of dramatic or tragic events.

What are 2 key things Hamlet says? ›

Read our selection of the very best Hamlet quotes below, along with speaker, act and scene:
  • “O, that this too, too solid flesh would melt, ...
  • “Listen to many, speak to a few.” ...
  • “Neither a borrower nor a lender be, ...
  • “This above all: to thine own self be true, ...
  • “…though I am native here.

What did Shakespeare say about Love? ›

I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.” “Speak low if you speak love.” “Love goes by haps; Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps.” “I will not be sworn but love may transform me to an oyster.”

What is Shakespeare's famous quote about greatness? ›

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them. - Twelfth Night.

What are Shakespeare's most famous last words? ›

Famous Last Words from Shakespeare

' O, yet defend me, friends; I am but hurt.

What is a strong woman quote? ›

A strong woman knows she has strength enough for the journey, but a woman of strength knows it is in the journey where she will become strong.” “I'd rather regret the risks that didn't work out than the chances I didn't take at all.” "You must love and care for yourself because that's when the best comes out.”

What is a very powerful quote? ›

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” — Reinhold Niebuhr.

What are 2 inspirational quotes? ›

Motivational quotes to start your day
  • “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” — ...
  • “Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working.” — ...
  • “Don't settle for average. ...
  • “Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too.” — ...
  • “Don't bunt.
May 18, 2020

What is a famous quote from Shakespeare sonnet? ›

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate." These lines are among the most famous lines of poetry and of Shakespeare's 154 sonnets.

What is a famous short quote? ›

"If you're going through hell, keep going." "There are a terrible lot of lies going about the world, and the worst of it is that half of them are true." "The price of greatness is responsibility." "The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes."

What are some 3 word quotes? ›

110 Memorable Three-Word Quotes That Are Short And Sweet
  • “I'll be there.”
  • “I love you.”
  • “Maybe you're right.”
  • “I trust you.”
  • “Go for it.”
  • “Got your back.”
  • “How are you?”
  • “I want you.”
Mar 21, 2022

What is the best short quote of all time? ›

Short Quotes
  • “If things go wrong, don't go with them.” ~ Roger Babson.
  • “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” ~ Confucius.
  • “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci.
  • “There is no way to happiness – happiness is the way.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh.

What is the best quote about life? ›

"You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough." "I choose to make the rest of my life the best of my life." "Life has no limitations, except the ones you make." "A secret to life: Know that none of this matters, and yet... live as if every single moment does."

How does Shakespeare say goodbye? ›

Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, That I shall say good night till it be morrow. My necessaries are embark'd: farewell. Adieu!

What did Shakespeare say about beauty? ›

Beauty is but a vain and doubtful good; A shining gloss that fadeth suddenly; A flower that dies when first it 'gins to bud, A brittle glass that's broken presently.

What is Ophelia's last line in Hamlet? ›

Ophelia's final words are addressed to either Hamlet, or her father, or even herself and her lost innocence: “And will a not come again? / No, no, he is dead, / Go to thy death-bed, / He never will come again. / … / God a mercy on his soul. And of all Christian souls. God buy you.” Next, she drowns herself.

Who kills Hamlet in the end? ›

His uncle, fearing for his life, also devises plots to kill Hamlet. The play ends with a duel, during which the King, Queen, Hamlet's opponent and Hamlet himself are all killed.

What happens to Ophelia at the end of Hamlet? ›

Distraught and enraged, Laertes plots with Claudius to settle the matter with Hamlet via a duel. Claudius will give Laertes a poisoned blade and, should Hamlet win, poison the wine Hamlet would receive. Gertrude appears to lament that Ophelia has drowned herself. Ophelia loses herself to madness and drowns herself.

Did Hamlet love Ophelia? ›

Readers know Hamlet wrote love letters to Ophelia because she shows them to Polonius. In addition, Hamlet tells Ophelia, “I did love you once” (3.1. 117). He professes his love for Ophelia again to Laertes, Gertrude, and Claudius after Ophelia has died, saying, “I loved Ophelia.

What is Hamlet's famous question? ›

Full Text: "To Be, or Not to Be, That Is the Question" The famous "To be or not to be" soliloquy comes from William Shakespeare's play Hamlet (written around 1601) and is spoken by the titular Prince Hamlet in Act 3, Scene 1.

Who killed Gertrude in Hamlet? ›

Gertrude and genre

She wilfully disobeys Claudius by drinking the poisoned wine. She dies with cries of 'the drink! the drink! I am poisoned' (5.2. 264), and in so doing identifies Claudius as her killer.

What is the first word in Hamlet? ›

The opening line by the characters in Hamlet is, “Who's there?”This itself is a great question in the context of the play and the western literature. This is also a question of identity asking, “Who am I?” and “Who are you?” And the answer only increases the puzzle when it is said, “Nay, answer me.

What is Hamlet's motto? ›

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

What is the main moral of Hamlet? ›

We can take two lessons from Hamlet. The first one is that if people let anger and revenge get the best of them, they can cause damage. The second one is in life you will be able to get away with something for long but not forever. We learn these lessons through various actions committed by various characters.

What are 3 direct quotes from William Shakespeare? ›

Shakespeare on self-love
  • 'This above all: to thine own self be true.' ...
  • 'Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, as self-neglecting.' ...
  • 'Our doubts are traitors, And make us lose the good we oft might win, By fearing to attempt.' ...
  • 'There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so'
Apr 9, 2021

What are two famous Shakespeare quotes? ›

“…be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em.” “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind.”

What is the most famous line? ›

Famous Movie Quotes
  • “ May the Force be with you.” - Star Wars, 1977.
  • “ There's no place like home.” - The Wizard of Oz, 1939.
  • “ I'm the king of the world!” - ...
  • “ Carpe diem. ...
  • “ Elementary, my dear Watson.” - ...
  • “ It's alive! ...
  • “ My mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. ...
  • “ I'll be back.” -
Sep 21, 2018

What is the weirdest word Shakespeare invented? ›

11 Odd Words Shakespeare Invented That Never Caught On
  1. 1 | dispunge (Antony and Cleopatra) ...
  2. 2 | co-mart (Hamlet) ...
  3. 3 | congreeted (Henry V) ...
  4. 4 | smilets (King Lear) ...
  5. 5 | friended (Hamlet) ...
  6. 6 | immoment (Antony and Cleopatra) ...
  7. 7 | bubukles (Henry V) ...
  8. 8 | rooky (Macbeth)
Mar 20, 2018

How many phrases Did Shakespeare invent that we use today? ›

William Shakespeare is credited with the invention or introduction of over 1,700 words that are still used in English today. William Shakespeare used more than 20,000 words in his plays and poems, and his works provide the first recorded use of over 1,700 words in the English language.


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