William Shakespeare Biography & Works
William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 23rd, 1564. Three days later, on April the 26th, baby William was baptized at the Trinity Church before his proud parents, John Shakespeare and Mary Arden. John was a glover and merchant of leather. Mary Arden was a land heiress. William was the third child of eight children in the Shakespeare household. Only five of the children lived to be adults. John Shakespeare enjoyed considerable success as both a merchant and an alderman and high bailiff of Stratford. Before William would set out on his own, however, John suffered somewhat of a reversal of fortune in the late 1570's.
Truth be told, the formative calculus of young William's education is more than a little mysterious, although it is known that he studied at the free grammar school in Stratford, which at the time rivaled Eton. Few records exist establishing just where he came into his formative knowledge of Latin and Classical Greek. It is known that William Shakespeare never went to University. This fact in and of itself has often fomented debate vis-à-vis the sheer possibility of his authorship of so many brilliant plays and verse.
On November 28th, 1582, when William was 18-years-old, he betrothed Anne Hathaway. She was eight years his senior and with child at the time. Their first daughter, Susanna, was born on May 26th, in 1583. A bit less than two years later the couple also had twins, Hamnet and Judith, who were born February 2, 1585. They were happily christened, like their father, at the Trinity Church. Unhappily, however, young Hamnet never lived to see his twelfth birthday, dying at 11, on August 11th, 1596.
It was not until seven years later, in 1592 that Shakespeare reappears in the public light. During this unknown period, it has been speculated that young Shakespeare was up to no good, and may have been in fact a poacher. Evidently he got caught illegally hunting on the land of Sir Thomas Lucy, while working as an assistant schoolmaster, and it was this incident which forced the young man to flee the hinterlands for the big city of London, to establish himself as an actor and playwright.
Envied from the start, for his unthinkable talent, a London playwright called Robert Greene lampooned the newcomer, in the daily paper, with "…an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his tiger's heart wrapped in a player's hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes for totum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country."
Despise him or envy him or cherish him, it was clear William Shakespeare demonstrated a streak of brilliance so bright it was impossible to name. By 1594, he was not only acting and writing for Lord Chamberlain's Men (called the King's Men after the ascension of James I in 1603), but was a managing partner in all aspects of the enterprise as well. Lord Chamberlain's Men ran the gamut between grandiose tragic actors like Richard Burbage to master comedians like Will Kempe. The London Troupe became a favorite form of entertainment visited by the general theatre going public as well as the highest of Royalty. Although Shakespeare could not count himself wealthy, he could well afford a new house by 1611, which he built in his hometown of Stratford.
To get there, he would write, in addition to serried sonnets, the following Plays:
All's Well That Ends Well; As You Like It; The Comedy of Errors; Cymbeline; Love's Labours Lost; Measure for Measure; The Merry Wives of Windsor; The Merchant of Venice; A Midsummer Night's Dream; Much Ado About Nothing; Pericles, Prince of Tyre; Taming of the Shrew; The Tempest; Troilus and Cressida; Twelfth Night; Two Gentlemen of Verona; Winter's Tale; Henry IV, Part I; Henry IV, Part II; Henry V; Henry VI, Part I; Henry VI, Part II; Henry VI, Part III; Henry VIII; King John; Richard II; Richard III; Antony and Cleopatra; Coriolanus; Hamlet; Julius Caesar; King Lear; Macbeth; Othello; Romeo and Juliet; Timon of Athens; and Titus Andronicus.
Although many venues have put on the above plays, it was more often than not in Shakespeare's co-owned Globe Theatre, which was 3000 seat labor of love put together with stolen scraps and woodworking talents in a somewhat dubious neighborhood in London. The Globe Theatre may well emulate Shakespeare in fame and significance in the world of Drama, and enabled the playwright a guaranteed outlet for his prolific output.
When he died, as legend has it on his birthday, besides his home, William Shakespeare left but 300 pounds to his surviving daughter Judith, and to Anne, his wife, he left (his) "second best bed." To Western civilization, however, he left the above works, which have endured for over four hundred years to this day.
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