William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564, in Stratford-on-Avon.  The third child of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden, he was the eldest surviving son of eight children.  Shakespeare is thought to have attended the King’s New School in Stratford, but no official record exists today.  He married Anne Hathaway in 1582 when he was eighteen.  She was eight years his senior and gave birth to their first daughter six months after their marriage.  Two years later, Anne had twins, a son and daughter, and for nearly the next decade, little is known about Shakespeare’s life. Starting around 1594, his plays were performed in London by Lord Chamberlain’s Men, which eventually became the King’s Men, London’s premier company of players.  Among this group, a partnership formed to build a new playhouse, the Globe, which became the most popular theater of its time.

Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets, consisting of three quatrains followed by a couplet, a style mimicked by future writers and attributed to the poet as Shakespearean.  He is well-known for his command of the English language and is credited with expanding the vernacular extensively through the creation of new words, greatly shaping English as we know it today.  In addition to his poetry, Shakespeare is probably best known for his plays, most notably tragedies like Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Hamlet, and Othello.  However, he wrote plays in several other genres, including histories, comedies, and romances (more than thirty plays total).

Although Shakespeare was a respected poet and playwright during his time, it was not until the 19th Century that he received the widespread recognition we associate with him today.  He deeply influenced the writers of the Romantic Movement, and since that period, he has been acclaimed as one of the greatest writers of all time.  He died April 23, 1616, and famously bequeathed his “second best bed” to wife Anne.