On April 23, 1564, William Shakespeare, arguably the greatest and best-known English-language playwright, was born and died on the same day in 1616, opens a new window. Read all of his plays and sonnets here, opens a new window and check out a digitized version of the 1609 sonnets. Or plan a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, opens a new window if you feel like crossing the pond, or head to Washington D.C., home of the Folger Shakespeare Library, opens a new window, the largest Shakespearean collection in the world.
You've probably heard people reference Shakespeare's First Folio. What's a folio? It's a large piece of paper that's folded into four pages (a quarto has been folded in half, then half again, for eight pages; the first Shakespeare quartos appeared in 1594). After Shakespeare's death, his friends decided to publish his works, and thus the First Folio was printed in 1623. The First Folio is significant because it's the first collection of Shakespeare's plays bound together. It also contains the Droeshout portrait of Shakespeare, opens a new window, assumed to be an authentic image of Shakespeare. Only 233 copies of the First Folio survive today, opens a new window.
THE AUTHORSHIP CONTROVERSY
A few scholars debate if Shakespeare really wrote Shakespeare. After all, there's not a lot of historical evidence to link Shakespeare—a small-town boy who spells his name differently in historical records, opens a new window—to a legend who invented words, opens a new window and wrote astounding works of literature. Read a brief summary, opens a new window of the authorship controversy (anti-Stratfordians!) and then read about why others completely disagree that anyone else other than Shakespeare could have authored Shakespeare, opens a new window.
Romeo + Juliet, opens a new window. This 2013 adaptation stars Hailee Steinfeld as Juliet and Douglas Booth as Romeo.
Macbeth, opens a new window. This 2015 film stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in Shakespeare's play about ambition and greed.
West Side Story, opens a new window. Also based on Romeo and Juliet, this 1961 film won 10 Oscars including Best Picture, Director, and Best Actor and Actress in a Supporting Role.
Coriolanus, opens a new window. This 2011 film about revenge stars Ralph Fiennes and Gerard Butler.
Cymbeline, opens a new window. This 2014 film stars Ethan Hawke, Ed Harris and Milla Jovovich.