William Shakespeare is the world’s most admired
playwright and poet. He was born in April, 1564 in
Stratford-upon-Avon, about 100 miles northwest of
London. According to the records of Stratford’s Holy
Trinity Church, he was baptized on April 26. As with most
sixteenth century births, the actual day is not recorded but
people are guessing that he was born on April 23.
Shakespeare’s parents were John and Mary Shakespeare,
who lived in Henley Street, Stratford. John, the son of
Richard Shakespeare, was a maker, worker and seller of
leather goods like purses, belts and gloves and a dealer in
agricultural commodities. He served in Stratford
government successively as a member of the Council ,
constable , chamberlain , alderman and finally high bailiff
which is the equivalent of town mayor. About 1577 John
Shakespeare’s fortunes began to decline for unknown
reasons. There are records of debts.
William had seven siblings. He was the third child and
first born son. In the sixteenth century
Stratford-upon-Avon was an important agricultural center
and market town. The building in Henley street known
today as the birthplace of William Shakespeare was at the
time of his birth, two different buildings that John
Shakespeare bought at two different times.
William went to school at the Stratford Grammar
School. He had to show up at six or seven A.M. depending
on the season and stay there most of the day, six days a
week. William studied many different authors and
dramatists including Caesar, Cicero, Virgil, Horace, Livy,
and Ovid. Ovid was his favorite. Grammar school was the
beginning of Shakespeare’s career. Almost everything he
mastered he learned there. After grammar school, William
went to the Warwickshire Countryside. There he played
parts in plays and wrote poetry.
The years 1594-1599 were momentous for
Shakespeare. He produced a steady stream of plays of the
highest quality. He continued as a principal actor and
manager in the Chamberlain’s men, blessed with a stable
work environment in the theater. Finally in 1599, he
became part owner in the most prestigious public
playhouse in London, the Globe.
His first works which were heavily influenced by the
classical examples he had learned as a student were The
Comedy of Errors and Titus Andronicus. He invented a
new genre called the history play. His early works in this
genre were the three Henry VI plays, and Richard III. He
got his idea for Venis and Adonis and Rape of Lucrece
from his favorite author, Ovid.
Over the years 1594-1599 the Chamberlain’s Men had
become the most popular acting company in London, being
invited to perform at court far more often than any other
group. Shakespeare must have done a great deal of acting.
He is listed by Ben Jonson in Jonson’s magnificent 1616
Folio of his Works as having acted as the chief comedian in
Every Man In His Humour in 1598. The Globe Theater
burned down in 1613 and many of Shakespeare’s
manuscripts were ruined. It was then rebuilt by a carpenter
named Peter Rose.
Shakespeare’s last work before he retired was The
Temptest. Then he died in 1616 and was then buried in the
Parish Church. His death was sudden and they don’t know
what caused it but they think he could have lived much
longer. Almost all his things went to his oldest daughter
Susanne. His younger daughter Judith got 300 pounds, and
his wife got all the furniture.
After he died Judith married John Quiney. He cheated
on her and got another girl pregnant. That baby died. Judith
and John had three children together. One they named
Shakespeare died as an infant. There other two, Richard
and Thomas died at the ages of 21 and 19.
Shakespeare was one of the greatest playwrights and
poets ever. He was a big part in literature. He invented a
new genre and made many plays that everybody loves. He
was a great man. On his grave it says:
GOOD FRIEND FOR JESUS
SAKE FOR BEAR
TO DIG THE DUST
BLESSED BE YE MAN WHO
SPARES THESE STONES
AND CURSED BE HE WHO
MOVES MY BONES