William Shakespeare is one of the world’s most influential playwrights, but his life continues to be shrouded in mystery. Since his death in 1616 at the age of 52, no handwritten manuscripts have ever surfaced, and even his six supposed signatures all spell his name differently.

According to the English playwright Sir Mark Rylance — the first artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe theater in London, a replica of the Bard’s original stage — all that may have been part of the dramatist’s lifelong performance.

“Shakespeare shakes you. The spear of his imagination shakes you, and the story shakes you," Rylance told The Japan Times during an interview in 2001. "The first time his name was published for his first poem, 'Venus and Adonis,' he wrote his name as 'Shake-Speare' — 'Will I am Shake-Speare.' ... He knew from classical thought that the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena, is called the 'Spear Shaker' — she has a spear that she shakes at ignorance. She has a mirror that reflects the world — like a play reflects the world. She has a helmet that makes her invisible — like an actor is invisible. And from behind this mirror she shakes this spear at ignorance.”