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William Shakespeare Biography

Last updated date: 17th Apr 2024
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William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was an English poet, actor, and playwright, and is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the world. No birth record exists of William Shakespeare, but an old church record exists that says that he was baptised in April, 1564, at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon. He is called the “Bard of Avon” and is often referred to as England’s National Poet. William Shakespeare is considered to be the greatest dramatist of all time.

Throughout his career, he worked on 37 plays, 154 sonnets, and two long narrative poems. His plays are very famous and have been translated into every language present on this planet, and are considered to be the most performed plays of any other playwright. William Shakespeare passed away on April 23, 1616, in Stratford-upon-Avon.

About Shakespeare’s Life

William Shakespeare’s Full Name: William Shakspere’s full name is the same only. He is also known as “the Bard of Avon”.

William Shakespeare’s Birth Date: April 1564

William Shakespeare’s Death: April 1616

Who is William Shakespeare?

Who William Shakespeare is is a smaller question as he had a bigger contribution towards society.  William Shakespeare was the greatest English poet, actor, and playwright of the Renaissance era. He was baptised on 26 April, 1564, at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon. From 1594 onwards, he was a very important member of the King’s Men company of theatrical players. For more than 450 years, Shakespeare’s writing is celebrated throughout the world as his writing captures human emotions perfectly. In spite of being known all around the world, William Shakespeare’s life has been a mystery.

The outline of his life has been provided through his work on various poems, sonnets, plays, and others. Other sources that provide information about his life are official documentations, such as church and court records. However, seven years of his life have not been recorded as his work and the documents at the church only provide a brief sketch of specific events in his life and yield little insight into the man himself.

William Shakespeare’s Birth Date

According to the church record, William Shakespeare was baptised at the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 26, 1564, but no official birth record exists to his name. Many scholars believe that he was born on April 23, 1564, and because of this reason, many scholars celebrate it as Shakespeare’s birthday.

John Shakespeare, a leather merchant, was his father and a local landed heiress by the name of Mary Arden was his mother. He was the third child of his father. Joan and Judith were the two older sisters of Shakspeare. He also had three younger brothers by the names Gilbert, Richard, and Edmund. John Shakespeare was a very successful merchant and held the position of alderman and bailiff, an office resembling a mayor’s. Records suggest that John Shakespeare’s fortune declined in the late 1570s. There is no official record of Shakespeare’s schooling, but many scholars believe that he attended the King’s New School in Stratford, which helped him in learning reading and writing. That school was 400 m away from his home. During the Elizabethan era, the quality of grammar schools were high. The royal decree standardised the Latin text and the school had an intense grammar education that was based on Latin classical authors. 

On November 28, 1582, Shakespeare married Anne Hathway in Worcester, in Canterbury Province. Shakespeare was 18 and Anne Hathway was 26 when they married each other, and they had three children. Their first daughter, Susanna, was born on May 26, 1583. Two years later, they were blessed with twin daughters, named Hamnet and Judith.

There are seven years of Shakespeare’s life where there is no record of his life after the birth of his twins. Many scholars call this period the “Lost years”. These “lost years” gave birth to many stories about Shakespeare by the biographers. The first biographer of Shakespeare, Nicholas Rowe, told a story of Stratford, which was legendary. According to it, Shakespeare left the town and went to London, in order to escape from the prosecution for poaching deers in the estate of Thomas Lucy. By writing a ballad about Lucy, Shakespeare was supposed to take revenge on him. Another story came up about Shakespeare that he started his career in theatres by minding the horse of the theatre patrons in London. It was reported by John Audrey that Shakespeare was a country master. Scholars of the twentieth century suggested that Alexander Hoghton of Lancashire employed Shakespeare as a school master. Alexander Hoghton was a landowner, catholic by religion, named William Shakeshafte in his will. There is not much evidence to substantiate these stories which were heard and collected after his death, and it was also true that Shakeshafte was a common name in Lancashire. 

Shakespeare as an Actor and a Playwright

In 1592, Shakespeare began his career as a playwright and an actor in London and also produced several plays.

He continued to write and perform plays and in 1593, Shakespeare was able to attract the attention of the Earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesley, to whom he dedicated two poems, "Venus and Adonis" published in 1593, and "The Rape of Lucrece" in 1594. These poems showed the guilt and moral confusion that results from uncontrolled lust. Both of these poems were very popular and were reprinted many times during Shakespeare’s lifetime.

The third poem by the name of A Lover's Complaint also became very famous and was printed in the first edition of the Sonnets in 1609.

By 1597, Shakespeare had already written and published around 15 plays. In 1599, Shakespeare, with the help of his friends, built his own theatre on the south bank of the Thames River. The theatre was named Globe Theatre.

The exact chronology of Shakespeare’s plays is very difficult to determine, but many scholars believe that over the course of two decades, from about 1590 to 1613, he wrote a total of 37 plays based on themes like tragedies, comedies, histories, and tragicomedies.

Shakespeare’s first plays were based on history. Plays like Henry V, Henry VI, and Richard II were dramas that portrayed the destructive result of a corrupt ruler.

William Shakspeare also wrote the famous Roman political drama, Julius Caesar, through which Shakespeare wanted to give a message of how arrogance can have a deadly result.

Shakespeare is also very known to have written many comedies during his early periods, such as the romantic Merchant of Venice, the witty and wordplay-filled Much Ado About Nothing, the whimsical A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the charming As You Like It, and Twelfth Night.

Before 1600, he wrote several plays, such as The Comedy of Errors, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, King John, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry V, and The Taming of the Shrew.

In 1600, William Shakespeare wrote many tragedies, such as Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth. Many people praise these plays as Shakespeare’s characters showed powerful impressions of human temperament that are considered to be timeless and universal.

The play that has stood the test of time is Hamlet, which explores retribution, incest, hatred, betrayal, and moral failure. The moral failure that the characters have shown in his plays drives the twists and turns of his plots. Hamlet has been adapted into movies in many countries and is considered to be one of the best plays ever written. In his final period, William Shakespeare turned towards tragic comedies and romantic dramas, such as Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, and The Tempest.

William Shakespeare Biography in Short

William Shakespeare was baptized on 26th April 1564, at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon. He was a great poet, actor, and playwright. His life has been a mystery for many but one thing is for certain, he has the greatest contribution to Society. After his marriage to Anne Hathaway in 1582, he was blessed with three daughters. Susann was the firstborn and later, after two years of marriage, he was blessed with two twin daughters by the names of Judith and Hamnet.

There are no records of Shakspeare’s life from the year 1582 to 1592. These years are called the “Lost Years''. From 1592, he got involved in writing and acting in the London theatre. Later in 1593, he published two poems, “Venus and Adonis’’ and ‘’The rape of Lucrece’’, which made him a household name. He wrote a lot of plays and they were performed by many around the world. The fortune he earned and the popularity he had let him build the Globe Theatre.

Shakespeare wrote 37 plays and they were divided into histories, comedies, romance, and tragedies. His most famous works are Henry IV, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, Taming of the Shrew, The comedy of errors, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Measure for measure, Winter’s Tale, and so on. In the last years of his life, he decided to go back to Stanford, where he died in 1616. The reason for his death is unknown, but many scholars believe that he was very ill at the time of his death.

Many plays of Shakespeare were published in editions of diversifying the accuracy and quality of his lifetime. Two actors and friends of Shakespeare in 1623, Henry Condell and John Heminges published the First Folio, which is a more conclusive text, a collected edition of the dramatic works of Shakespeare’s that consists of all his plays, except two. A poem by Ben Jonson was its preface that praised Shakespeare with the famous tag that meant his work wasn’t for any age span but for the whole time of life. 

William Shakespeare’s life has been a mystery to many, but his plays remain highly popular today and are constantly studied and performed all around the world.

FAQs on William Shakespeare Biography

1. Which are Shakespeare's shortest and longest Plays?

The shortest play of William Shakespeare is The Comedy of Errors, which is the only play with fewer than fifteen thousand words. Hamlet is considered to be the longest William Shakespeare play with more than thirty thousand words. The most difficult play of William Shakespeare to perform is Macbeth. As the plot of the story is complicated, it is considered to be the hardest play of Shakespeare.

2. Write about the reputation of William Shakespeare. 

Shakespeare received a great amount of praise, but he was not admired in his entire life span. Francis Meres, a cleric and author in 1598, among many English playwrights, singled him out as the most excellent in the genres tragedy and comedy,. Shakespeare was called “delight, the applause, the soul of the age, and the wonder of the stage” in the First Folio by Ben Jonson. It is also a fact that he made a remark about Shakespeare somewhere else, that he lacked skill. Critics of the time, between the end of the seventeenth century and the restoration of the monarchy, rated Shakespeare below Ben Jonson and John Fletcher.