It's William Shakespeare's 450th Birthday Today

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It's the Bard's 450th birthday today, and although you may usually greet your English Literature Shakespeare classes with groans and rolled eyes, perhaps you should give the guy a break - he's not all that bad.

For example, did you know William Shakespeare's work contains the first recordings of more than 2000 English words including elbow, lacklustre and moonbeam? Or that he is also responsible for inventing a huge number of expressions still in common use today, including fancy free; lay it on with a trowel; rhyme nor reason, and wear your heart on your sleeve?

Perhaps our favourite "fun" fact is in 1613 the original Globe theatre burned down when a cannon shot during a performance of Henry VIII caused it to go up in flames. Schoolboy error.

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It's also pretty interesting that although he spelled it all kinds of ways throughout his life (such as Willm Shaksp and William Shakspere) he never actually signed his name 'William Shakespeare'. So when your teacher next marks you down for a spelling mistake, you can respond smugly in the knowledge you are just taking after the great Bard himself.

He was also a bit of a naughty boy; when Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway (no, not that one), she was already three months pregnant with their first child. Perhaps he took after his father, John Shakespeare, who made gloves for a living but in the 1570s was prosecuted four times for breaking the law by trading in wool and money-lending. Scandalous.

Yes, ploughing through Richard II may be tedious, and reading out Hamlet's sonnet in class may be trying, but old William did have a sense of humour. That's why instead of boring you with more quotes (you've got SparkNotes for that), we're spicing up Shakespeare and bringing you his best insults.

So next time you're in your English Lit class, why not throw out one of these, it may even get you an A...

20 Shakespearean Insults
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