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William Shakespeare was an English playwright, poet, and actor who is regarded both as one of the greatest wordsmiths of all time as well as the greatest English writer in history. His critically acclaimed plays have been performed over the centuries and include tragedies such as Romeo and Juliet, comedies such as The Merchant of Venice, and historical plays such as King John. His extant pieces including collaborations, consists of 154 sonnets, 38 plays, 2 long narrative poems, and numerous verses. Shakespeare’s plays have been translated into all major living languages and have been performed more than those of any other playwright.
William Shakespeare was born to alderman (member of borough council) John Shakespeare and Mary Arden, a prominent landowner’s daughter. He was the third born and had seven siblings. There are no records to show his exact birthrate although it is celebrated on Saint George’s Day on April, 23th. He was born in the small town of Stratford-upon-Avon and received his baptism in the town on April 26th, 1564. Historians believe that William Shakespeare attended King’s New School in Stratford where he learned reading and writing, arithmetic, and basic Latin which was mandatory through a royal decree. William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway at the age of 18 years with Hathaway being 26 years old and received their marriage certificate on November 27th, 1582. Six months after the wedding, the couple had their first child, Susanna, who was later baptized on May 26th, 1583.
There is little knowledge of Shakespeare's early adulthood and the period between 1585 and 1592 is referred to by historians as the “Lost Years” of Shakespeare. The earliest known reference to Shakespeare to theatrical work is his criticism by fellow playwright, Robert Greene in his play, “Groats-Worth of Wit.” Biographers place the beginnings of his career to the mid-1580s. After several years in the industry, Shakespeare became famous and made the decision to have his plays only be performed by his company Lord Chamberlain’s Men in 1594. In 1603, the company was renamed to “The King’s Men,” after receiving a royal patent for the name from King James I.
The majority of Shakespeare’s plays and poems were masterpieces, and his playwright ability was unprecedented. The plays include Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Othello, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, As You Like It, The Merchant of Venice, and many historical plays such as Richard II, Henry IV-Henry VIII. These plays were popular in London and attracted huge numbers of spectators. The success of his acting group made it possible for the group to establish a large theater in 1599 at the banks of River Thames known as the Globe Theater as well as buying the indoor theater known as Blackfriars.
William Shakespeare faced several challenges both in his personal life and during his time on stage. The 17th century Bubonic Plague affected the theatres with many public playhouses being closed for extended periods of time. On a personal level, many biographers believe that Shakespeare’s marriage to Hathaway who was eight years his senior was forced on him by Hathaway’s family after he impregnated her.
Death and Legacy
In his sunset years, William Shakespeare spent his time between Stratford and London where he continued making appearances in his plays and writing few collaborations with other playwrights of the King’s Men. William Shakespeare died on April 23rd, 1616 aged 52 years. He was buried at the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon. Shakespeare left a lasting impression in the playwright industry with many plays written after that being influenced by his work. Many of his plays have been performed all over the world and have been used in many educational curriculums.
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