Famous Antique Autographs - William Shakespeare
This Famous Antique Game - March 2016
By Mike McLeod
These are the John Hancocks (so to speak) of the great playwright William Shakespeare, who would probably would have earned a D in penmanship in school. It is safe to say that William Shakespeare is one of the most misunderstood playwrights of all time (who can’t remember struggling in high school to understand his words?) and one of the greatest wordsmiths of all time.
Consequently, and in consequence of its rarity, his signature is worth millions of dollars, if you come across one by chance. But good luck on deciphering his signature; it seems he often spelled his name different ways or shortened it.
A few tidbits relating to Shakespeare:
At the age of 16, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway who was 24 years old. They had twins, Judith and Hamnet, on Feb. 2, 1585.
* The first recorded mention of Shakespeare and his work was a stinging criticism by poet Robert Greene who wrote in a pamphlet, “…there is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tiger's heart wrapped in a Player's hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes factotum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country.”1 Ironically, this rebuke is Greene’s only claim to fame; it is the only writing of his that is remembered.
* Eugene Schieffelin decided to import all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays that are not native to America. Among them, Schieffelin brought the starling which has since proliferated in the millions and driven other birds to near extinction. Tragically in 1960, Eastern Airlines flight 375 crashed on take-off in Boston after running into a flock of starlings. Not Shakespeare’s fault.
Since it seems Jeopardy regularly resorts to Shakespeare for a category, now is a good time to sharpen your ability to identify quotes from the bard’s plays and impress your friends. The answers are at the end.
1. “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
2. “Hell is empty and all the devils are here.”
3. “You speak an infinite deal of nothing.”
4. “Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.”
5. “To be, or not to be: that is the question….”
6. “Though she be but little, she is fierce!”
7. “By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes.”
8. “My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love as deep….”
9. “Brevity is the soul of wit.”
Considering brevity, I shall end this now, imagining Shakespeare taking a bow with a flourish.
Ted Carlton of Utah correctly identified Shakespeare’s signatures.
1 Groats-worth of Witte, bought with a million of Repentance by Robert Greene, 1592.
Quotes courtesy of Brainyquotes.com, Goodreads.com and http://nfs.sparknotes.com.
All photos, public domain.
The answers to Shakespeare’s quotes:
2. The Tempest
3. The Merchant of Venice
4. Julius Caesar
6. A Midsummer Night's Dream
8. Romeo and Juliet