Shakesperience.com

The Complete Shakespeare Experience    

WILLIAM

SHAKESPEARE

“The Bard of Avon”

Born 1564

Died 1616

W

ith his plays being staged for more than 400 years, William Shakespeare is the world’s most famous playwright. His stories have been studied, produced in theaters, films, and television and watched by millions of people.

His work, including 38 plays, 154 sonnets and four epic poems, endures because they people can relate to the characters he has developed and the stories he tells, of love, laughter, and the human experience.  


Early Years


William Shakespeare was born in 1564, in a prosperous town about 100 miles northwest of London, England, called Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire County. His exact birth date is not known but his baptism was recorded on April 26, 1564, probably a few days after his birth, as was the custom then.  He was born when Queen Elizabeth I ruled England, a period known as the Elizabethan Age.


He was the third child born to John Shakespeare and Mary Arden Shakespeare. His father worked tanning leather and making gloves, and held office as an alderman and bailiff (equivalent to a mayor today) of Stratford. Little is known about his mother except that she came from a wealthy family. He most likely attended the local public school there which mainly taught Latin and the Classics.


When Shakespeare was 18-years-old, he married Anne Hathaway, a woman about seven years older than William. There first child, Susanna, was born about six months after they were married in 1583. Twins, Hamnet (a boy) and Judith, were born in 1585.


Little is known about what Shakespeare did between 1583 and 1592, but at some point, he began working as an actor in the theater. By 1592 he was well known in the London theater scene as an actor and playwright. The plague, a horrible epidemic which swept the country, keep London’s theaters closed from 1592 to 1594 to avoid spreading the disease. During this time Shakespeare wrote some of his sonnets and two of his longer poems, Venus and Adonis, and The Rape of Lucrece.


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Shakespeare’s Professional Career


Shakespeare’s professional work was at first limited to the area northeast of London known as Shoreditch where two playhouses, the Theatre and the Curtain, were located. These theaters were managed by James Burbage, whose son, Richard, was the most well-known tragic actor of his time and Shakespeare’s good friend.


Before 1599, Shakespeare moved to the Bankside district on the other side of the Thames River where the Rose and the Swan theaters were located. The Burbages relocated to this district in 1598 and built the Globe Theatre there in which Shakespeare became a part owner, and with which he was affiliated during the rest of his professional career. His ownership in the Globe made him a wealthy man.

The wealth he made in the theater helped him buy Stratford’s largest house, New Place, and other properties in Stratford and London.


In 1598, Shakespeare’s name first appeared on the title pages of his printed plays.


When Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, she was succeeded by King James I. James took Shakespeare’s theatrical company, Lord Chamberlain’s Company, into his patronage and they became known as the King’s Company. The king’s patronage mean Shakespeare and the actors in his company became officers in the royal household, a far step above from the vagrants and thieves under which most actors of the time were classified. The King’s Company bought the Blackfriars Theatre in 1608 and the King’s Company performed at both playhouses afterward. The plays were also performed at the royal court and for noblemen at their castles. Shakespeare’s work as an actor seem to subside after 1603 and it seems he became quite ill in 1607, the year his daughter, Susanna, married a doctor, John Hall. His brother, Edmund Shakespeare, also an actor, died in 1607, at age 27.


Shakespeare retired from theater in 1610 at the age of 46 and returned to Stratford. The Globe Theatre burned in 1613. Shakespeare died at the age of 52 on April 23, 1616, and was buried in the chancel of the Church of the Holy Trinity in Stratford, in which he had previously invested. He gravestone warns anyone who tries to move his remains will be cursed forever and when the church was remodeled, his grave was untouched.


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John Shakespeare’s house, thought to

be William Shakespeare’s birthplace.