(Zoe Bramley’s article appeared on History Extra  4/19; via Pam Green.)

Here, writing for History Extra, Bramley brings you seven things you probably didn’t know about the bard…

1) ‘William Shakespeare’ was ‘a weakish speller’

One of the most curious facts about William Shakespeare is that his name can be reshuffled to create the sentence ‘I am a weakish speller’. We might wish for a more heroic anagram for one of our nation’s greatest playwrights, but unfortunately ‘I am a weakish speller’ does in fact ring true when applied to Shakespeare.

It was a man named Donald L Holmes who first discovered the anagram, possibly while musing about the frivolity of early modern orthography (the art of writing words with the proper letters). Shakespeare was writing in the era before Samuel Johnson’s dictionary – which started the process of standardising English spelling – so he was rather relaxed about words. Indeed, he could not even decide how to spell his own name. Consider the following variants on his signature when he was finalising legal documents such as the mortgage deeds on property in Blackfriars, and his will: Shaksper, Shakespe, Shakespere, and Shakspeare.


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