William Shakespeare's Biography
On an April night unknown, in 1564, at a humble home in Henley St. in the quiet town of Stratford, England Isle of Wight, John and Mary Shakespeare gave birth to a poet. William Shakespeare was born on what is believed to be the 23rd of April the feast day of patron saint the dragon-slayer St. George
, and though there are no known records either to confirm or deny, this date was subsequently accepted, has been established, and is widely celebrated as the day of both his birth and his death. In fact, The Book of Common Prayer states that unless there is a valid reason to postpone the ceremony, a newborn must be baptized on the first holy day following its birth and records from the Holy Trinity
Church in Stratford show that Gilielmus Filius Johannes or William Shakespeare
was baptized on 26 April, 1564. John Shakespeare was an apprentice tanner of leathers who moved from Snitterfield to Stratford in or around 1532 and made his fortune dealing farm products and wool. Eventually he was able to purchase several properties in the Stratford areathree to be exactone on Greenville St. and another on Henley St. to accompany the first. Mary Arden was the daughter of Sir Robert Arden of Wincote, a very prominent and wealthy landowner with a sixty-acre establishment called Asbies. Note: although John and Mary were prominent citizens of their community, there is evidence to support the fact that neither John nor Mary could read or write as John used a pair of glovers compasses as his signature on all official documents, while Mary used a running horse. William was the third of eight children, four sisters, three of which didnt live past age eight, one who lived to be seventy-sevenJoanwho eventually outlived all seven of her siblings, and three brothers all of whom lived to become adults though sadly, before his own death in 1616, William buried all three of them. At age seven, William attended King Edward VI Grammar School which, was founded in 1269 by Robert de Stratford and The Guild of the Holy Cross; also known as the Stratford Grammar School, the facility still exists today as an all-girls academy. At age seventeen, William married pregnant twenty-six year old Anne Hathaway and for a short time the two newlyweds lived with his parents at the original home on Henley St. The recently married Shakespeares had three children early on in their marriage, Susanna, born in May of 1583, and in January of 1585, the twins, Hamnetwho died of an unknown illness at age eleven, and Judithfor whom there really isnt much information to be found. Incidentally, the twins were named after close family friends and elected godparents, the local baker and his wife Hamnet and Judith Sadler who in turn named their first born child after William. By 1592, William, then touring with Pembrokes Men, commissioned by Henry Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke, was swiftly gaining notoriety and popularity as an actor and playwright and three of his plays, King Henry VI, Titus Andronicus, and The Comedy of Errors, were doing particularly well. On April 8, 1593, Shakespeares first critically acclaimed poem, Venus and Adonis was published marking his formal debut as a metrical writer. In 1594, Shakespeare toured with the Lord Chamberlains Men, a troupe, which also included the multi-talented actors Richard Burbage and William Kempe. Previously known as Lord Stranges Men, the Lord Chamberlains Men were well received throughout London; in addition to playing the local area venues, they performed regularly for Queen Elizabeth I, who rewarded each actor generously after every performance. By 1598, William Shakespeare, who by this time had made quite a name for himself in Londonconsidered by many to be the leading contemporary dramatistgained fame and acclamation for several of his plays, twelve in particular, which were penned during a ten-year period that spanned from 1590-1600 and which brought him great wealth and success. Some of his most famous works include Henry VI Parts I, II, & III: 1590; Richard III: 1592; The Taming of the Shrew: 1593; Romeo and Juliet: 1594; A Midsummer Nights Dream: 1595; King John: 1596; Much Ado About Nothing: 1598; Julius Caesar: 1599; and Hamlet: 1600. Shakespeare continued to write plays until 1612, four years before his death. In 1599, Shakespeare and the Lord Chamberlains Men, built the world renowned Globe Theater just outside of London on the south bank of the Thames River, to avoid persecution due to an ordinance that had been passed 25 years earlier prohibiting public theatrical performances because of the distractions and disturbances they caused. It was also decided that events directly linked to large public gatherings such as live theater and live music, promoted deviant behavior and attracted a criminal element as such events were the ideal setting for prostitutes and predators alike. In 1613, when the original Globe Theater was gutted by fire and burned to the ground, Shakespeare and the other four shareholdersalso members of the Chamberlains troupeimmediately had it redesigned and rebuilt. For the next three years, until his death in 1616, William Shakespeare held a controlling interest in the now newly refurbished Globe Theater.
Bate, Jonathan and Russell Jackson. Shakespeare: An Illustrated
Stage History. New York: Oxford UP, 1996.
Mabillard, Amanda. Shakespeare Online. Shakespeare of Stratford. 2000.
17 Nov. 2002 <http://www.shakespeare-online.com>.