Willm Shaksp. William Shakespe. Wm Shakspe. Willm Shakspere. William Shakspeare.
These are the different ways in which the world’s (arguably) best known dramatist’s name has been spelt in documents dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. Funnily, the one spelling that has not been used is the one currently used today — William Shakespeare (1564–1616). One can also not be reasonably sure as to how the name was pronounced either. In fact, one cannot be reasonably sure about many things about William Shakespeare — what he looked like, what was the order in which his plays were written, did he ever travel outside England, his sexuality, his likes or dislikes… or even when he was born. It is quite ironical that while most of Shakespeare’s own works have survived, nothing about Shakespeare himself survives. It is almost as if he did not exist !
Although he left nearly a million words of text, we have just 14 words in his own hand… Not a single note or letter or page of manuscript survives… We can only know what came out of his work, not what went into it… It is because we have so much of Shakespeare’s work that we can appreciate how little we know of him as a person.
All this information and more form the basis of a biography on William Shakespeare by Bill Bryson. Simply titled Shakespeare, this book is based on information gathered from many sources, as well as previously published work and is presented in trademark Bill Bryson style. The book is not just about Shakespeare, his life and works, but is also about Elizabethan England, Protestantism, 16th century London and more.