- NAME: William Shakespeare
- OCCUPATION: Playwright, Poet
- BIRTH DATE: c. April 23, 1564
- DEATH DATE: April 23, 1616
- EDUCATION: King's New School
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom
- PLACE OF DEATH: Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom
- Nickname: "Bard of Avon"
- Nickname: "Swan of Avon"
- AKA: Shakspere
- AKA: Will Shakespeare
- Nickname: "The Bard"
Best Known For
William Shakespeare, often called the English national poet, is widely considered the greatest dramatist of all time.
Alan Cumming - Macbeth (3:40)
Though little is known about William Shakespeare's personal life, his works such as "Hamlet," "Romeo and Juliet," and "King Lear," have influenced literature and theater for over 400 years.
William Shakespeare is one of the most well known and influential playwrights of our time, yet little is known about his childhood. Discover how Shakespeare became the bard the world knows today.
An inside look at Alan Cumming's one man version of William Shakespeare's "Macbeth". Video courtesy of Simon & Schuster.
During Christopher Marlowe's short career, he produced one of the most controversial and well-known plays of all time, "Doctor Faustus." The truth behind his sudden death still remains suspicious and unresolved.
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William Shakespeare was baptized on April 26, 1564, in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. From roughly 1594 onward he was an important member of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men company of theatrical players. Written records give little indication of the way in which Shakespeare’s professional life molded his artistry. All that can be deduced is that over the course of 20 years, Shakespeare wrote plays that capture the complete range of human emotion and conflict.
“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”
“This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
“Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.”
“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”
“To weep is to make less the depth of grief.”
“In time we hate that which we often fear.”
“Men at some time are masters of their fates: the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
“What's done cannot be undone.”
“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”
“Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”
“The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.”
"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."
"Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice."
"I say there is no darkness but ignorance."
"I wasted time, and now doth time waste me."
"Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them."
Known throughout the world, the works of William Shakespeare have been performed in countless hamlets, villages, cities and metropolises for more than 400 years. And yet, the personal history of William Shakespeare is somewhat a mystery. There are two primary sources that provide historians with a basic outline of his life. One source is his work—the plays, poems and sonnets—and the other is official documentation such as church and court records. However, these only provide brief sketches of specific events in his life and provide little on the person who experienced those events.
Though no birth records exist, church records indicate that a William Shakespeare was baptized at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 26, 1564. From this, it is believed he was born on or near April 23, 1564, and this is the date scholars acknowledge as William Shakespeare's birthday.
Located 103 miles west of London, during Shakespeare's time Stratford-upon-Avon was a market town bisected with a country road and the River Avon. William was the third child of John Shakespeare, a leather merchant, and Mary Arden, a local landed heiress. William had two older sisters, Joan and Judith, and three younger brothers, Gilbert, Richard and Edmund. Before William's birth, his father became a successful merchant and held official positions as alderman and bailiff, an office resembling a mayor. However, records indicate John's fortunes declined sometime in the late 1570s.
Scant records exist of William's childhood, and virtually none regarding his education. Scholars have surmised that he most likely attended the King's New School, in Stratford, which taught reading, writing and the classics. Being a public official's child, William would have undoubtedly qualified for free tuition. But this uncertainty regarding his education has led some to raise questions about the authorship of his work and even about whether or not William Shakespeare ever existed.
William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway on November 28, 1582, in Worcester, in Canterbury Province. Hathaway was from Shottery, a small village a mile west of Stratford. William was 18 and Anne was 26, and, as it turns out, pregnant. Their first child, a daughter they named Susanna, was born on May 26, 1583. Two years later, on February 2, 1585, twins Hamnet and Judith were born. Hamnet later died of unknown causes at age 11.
After the birth of the twins, there are seven years of William Shakespeare's life where no records exist.
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