Shakespeare 400 Years On: Part 2

atkins bookshelf shakespeareMy kingdom for a factoid! To celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, Time magazine writers Sarah Begley and Merrill Fabray collaborated with designer Heather Jones to create a brilliant, colorful infographic packed with amusing factoids highlighting the Bard’s enduring impact on culture. Titled, “Will’s Testament, 400 Years On,” the infographic lists each of Shakespeare’s plays in the order they were published (more or less), surrounded by relevant trivia. Like one of the Swan of Avon’s plays, it takes some time to read and digest. Bookshelf presents Time’s list of 36 plays broken up into tasty morsels of nine plays in four parts. Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to praise Shakespeare, not dismiss him, with thy trivia:

A Midsummer’s Night Dream
1990: Neil Gaiman featured the play in his comic The Sandman
1787: Three of the moons of Uranus are named after characters from the play (Oberon, Titania, and Puck)

King John
1737: The play’s first performance was at the Theater Royal, Drury Lane; it is the least-known and least-performed of the Bard’s plays
1942: George Orwell praised the play for its view of politics

The Merchant of Venice
1605: The earliest performance of the play was held at the court of King James
1814: Edmund Kean, a distinguished Shakespearean actor of the Drury Lane Theatre, was the first to portray Shylock as a sympathetic character, bringing dignity and humanity to the character (previously Shylock was portrayed as a repulsive clown or evil monster)

1914: The play has inspired 12 film adaptations beginning with a silent film of the same name directed by Lois Weber and Philips Smalley; the most recent adaptation was in 2004 direct day Michael Radford

Henry IV, Parts I-II
1890: Inspired Eugene Schieffelin to introduce the European starling (Sterns vulgarism) to New York City; his goal was to introduce all the birds mentioned in the Bard’s plays to North America
1965: Orson Welles adapted the play into the film Chimes at Midnight
1991: The play was the inspiration for Gus Van Sant’s film My Own Private Idaho

The Merry Wives of Windsor
1893: Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi adapts the play into the opera Falstaff

Much Ado About Nothing
1867: Karl Marx quoted the play in his three-volume magnum opus on communism, Das Kapital
1997: The play was the inspiration for Mumford & Sons album, Sigh No More

Henry V
1992: One of the play’s lines from the St. Crispin’s Day Speech was the inspiration for the title of Stephen Ambrose’s non-fiction work, Band of Brothers, that follows the men of Easy Company during World War II.

Julius Caesar
1948: A line from the play inspired the title of Thornton Wilder’s The Ides of March
1974: Another line from the play inspired the title of Frederick Forsyth’s novel, The Dogs of War
2012: And yet another line inspired the title of John Green’s novel, The Fault in Our Stars 

As You Like It
1936: Laurence Olivier made his first movie performance in this play, playing the role of Orlando
1980: Daniel Acquisto and Sammy Buck adapted the play into a musical, Like You Like It

Read related posts: The Most Common Myths About Shakespeare
Shakespeare the Pop Song Writer
Random Fascinating Facts About Shakespeare

Most Common Nicknames for Shakespeare
Most Beautiful Books of Shakespeare’s Sonnets
Were Shakespeare’s Sonnets Written to a Young Man?

What Dictionary Did Shakespeare Use?
Shakespeare’s Portrait as A Young Man Discovered


For further reading: Time Magazine, “Will’s Testament, 400 Years On,” by Sarah Begley and Merrill Fabry, April 11, 2016.

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