Shakespeare’s Life

cropped-shakespeare.jpgWilliam Shakespeare was born in April 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, on England’s Avon River.

Shakespeare almost certainly attended the King’s New School in Stratford, a grammar school that educated young men in Latin grammar and literature. Boys began at four or five in the “petty school,” where they learned reading and writing. After two years, they entered the lower form, which covered Latin grammar and texts. At ten or eleven, they went to the upper form, where they wrote Latin speeches, studied Latin history and rhetoric, and learned Greek.

In 1582, at eighteen, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway. Their daughter Susanna was born in 1583 and the twins, Judith and Hamnet, in 1585. (His daughters lived to adulthood, but Hamnet died in 1596.)

At some point, he left for the London theatrical world. By 1592, Shakespeare had achieved some prominence in London as an actor and a playwright. In 1593 he became a published poet, with his long narrative poem Venus and Adonis; in 1594, he followed it with Lucrece. Both were written when the theaters were closed due to plague.

In late 1594, when the theaters reopened, he was a leading member of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later named the King’s Men, the acting company for which he would be a principal actor, dramatist, and shareholder for about two decades. In the 1590s, he wrote his English history plays, several comedies, and at least two tragedies, Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet. Many of Shakespeare’s sonnets (published in 1609) were also probably written in the 1590s.

Shakespeare’s plays were performed at court and other locations, but they are most associated with his acting company’s theaters. In 1599, his company built the Globe. He wrote Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth while the company was at the Globe, as well as comedies like Twelfth Night and Measure for Measure. From about 1608, his plays were also performed at the company’s new indoor Blackfriars theater. Shakespeare wrote very little after 1612, the year he probably wrote Henry VIII.

Sometime between 1610 and 1613, Shakespeare seems to have returned to live in Stratford-upon-Avon. His wife and his daughters and their husbands lived there, and he owned a large house and other property.

William Shakespeare died in Stratford on April 23, 1616, and was buried there on April 25. Seven years after his death, in 1623, his collected plays were published in the work now known as the First Folio.

Source: Folger Shakespeare Library

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