William Shakespeare. The name may make you shudder with the memory of English classes, or revel in your passion for his works. For many, he is the greatest English writer of all time, at the least certainly the most well regarded by modern culture.
People quote lines from plays they have never read and use words and phrases he created in everyday parlance, often without realising ("A laughing stock", "In stitches", "Vanish into thin air", and "Method in my madness" are just some examples from his works.)
The BBCs 2002 poll of the 100 Greatest Britons placed him at number five between Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton, and yet there remain doubts as to who this man really was. Academics have been making cases since the 19th century suggesting that Shakespeare did not write the plays credited to him, that they were instead the work of one or a number of other writers at the time. The truth is, well, we don't know the truth.
Due to a combination of becoming a legendary cultural figure and a lack of comprehensive paperwork from the 16th century, there are a number of myths and assumptions made about the man and his life that, although commonly held, are not correct.