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Things to know about Shakespeare, 400 years after his death

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LONDON (AP) — Theater-lovers in Britain and around the world are marking the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. A few things to know about the famous playwright:


He may have died on his birthday. Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616 in his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon. He’s believed to have been born exactly 52 years earlier, though the date is an educated guess — the earliest record is of his baptism on April 26, 1564. April 23 is also St. George’s Day, England’s national day.



Shakespeare wrote 37 plays that have been firmly attributed to him, and gave the English language hundreds of common phrases, including “break the ice,” ”brave new world,” ”heart of gold,” ”the be-all and the end-all” and “with bated breath.”



His plays have been performed in almost every country on Earth. Since 2014, Shakespeare’s Globe theater has taken a production of “Hamlet” to 197 countries including Afghanistan, Somalia and Saudi Arabia — where they were one of the first troupes allowed to let men and women perform together.



Settings for Shakespeare’s plays range from Italy and Greece to the desert island Troy, but he probably never left England.



Some people don’t believe that William Shakespeare, a small-town boy who never went to university, wrote the plays and poems that bear his name. Dissenters — known as “anti-Stratfordians” — have argued that the true author may be Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford; philosopher-scientist Francis Bacon; playwright Christopher Marlowe; or even Queen Elizabeth I. Most scholars dismiss these as conspiracy theories and believe William Shakespeare of Stratford did write the plays.



In his will, Shakespeare bequeathed his wife Anne Hathaway “my second-best bed.” Debate has raged about whether this was a slight to his spouse. There’s no record of who got the best bed.



Shakespeare is buried in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon — but his skull may be missing. Archaeologists recently used ground-penetrating radar to explore the playwright’s tomb and found “an odd disturbance at the head end.” The discovery may give weight to a claim, long dismissed as myth, that the Bard’s skull was stolen by grave-robbers in the 18th century. But there are no plans to disturb the grave to find out for sure.

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