Would Arnold Schwarzenegger's career exist without Shakespeare? Could the Bard's birthplace have been moved to America? Iain Spragg is the author of new book Shakespeare's Strangest Tales which details weird and wonderful stories relating to our nation's favourite poet. Below Spragg chooses ten of the best extraordinary but true tales from his book.
1.'HASTA LA VISTA, BARDY' (1970)
The Bard was posthumously responsible for Arnold Schwarzenegger's career on the silver screen when his agent got him his first break. "He claimed I was a German Shakespearean actor to get me my first acting role in [a movie called] Hercules in New York, even though I barely spoke English," confessed Arnie.
2.SHOW ME THE MONEY (1604)
Shakespeare was, it seems, as litigious as he was poetic. Records show he twice went to court to recover unpaid debts and Will was certainly something of a monetary Rottweiler, insisting on the arrest and imprisonment of one man who owed him six shillings after a 10-month legal battle.
3.MEAT IS MURDER (circa 1590)
According to an account by his first biographer, The Bard nearly ended up inside after being caught poaching deer just outside Stratford sometime between 1585 and 1592, only escaping a spell in prison by making himself scarce during what have become known as Shakespeare's 'Lost Years'.
4.DICKENS TO THE RESCUE (1847)
The Bard was born on Henley Street in Stratford-upon-Avon and when the house went up for sale in 1847, the famous American impresario P.T. Barnum tried to buy it and ship it brick by brick back to the States. It was only saved when a group including Charles Dickens raised £3000 to thwart Barnum's scheme.
5.HITLER AND THE BARD (1933)
The Fuhrer was apparently an avid Shakespeare reader and weeks after sweeping to power in 1933 he ordered the publication of a pamphlet entitled Shakespeare - a Germanic Writer. Hitler also quoted "To be or not to be" in Mein Kampf.
6.NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER (1975)
Nelson Mandela spent three years of his incarceration on Robben Island reading a contraband copy of the Complete Works of Shakespeare, smuggled in by a fellow inmate disguised as a copy of the Hindu Bible. "To be taken seriously as a politician," Mandela once said, "one must always quote from Shakespeare."
7.UNFINISHED MONKEY BUSINESS (2003)
It's often said that if you give an infinite number of monkeys and infinite number of typewriters, one of them will eventually reproduce the Bard's complete works. Researchers at the University of Plymouth teamed up with Paignton Zoo in 2003 to test the theory but sadly the apes spent more time defecating on their keyboards than knocking out Hamlet.
8.BLACK MAGIC IN LAFAYETTE (1936)
Orson Welles was nearly stabbed when he decided to stage Voodoo Macbeth in New York City in the 1930s, exchanging Scotland with Haiti and the play's witchcraft with voodoo. He was accused of racial stereotyping and attacked by a protestor outside the Lafayette Theatre during rehearsals and only saved when the burly actor playing Banquo intervened.
9.THE SECRET SEDUCTION (1602)
According to the diary of one of his friends, Shakespeare once gatecrashed a booty call arranged between his theatrical chum Richard Burbage and a groupie. The Bard passed himself off as Burbage for the assignation and "was entertained and at his game" with the lady in question.
10.LENNON AND LEAR (1967)
If you listen to the full four minutes and 33 seconds of The Beatles' "I Am the Walrus", you'll hear extracts of a BBC Radio production of King Lear as Oswald exclaims "Slave, thou hast slain me. Villain, take my purse." We later hear the exchange between Edgar and Gloucester.
Shakespeare's Strangest Tales is written by Iain Spragg and published by Portico Books. Click here for further details or to buy the book.
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