- 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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Other scholars note that the term "second-best bed" often refers to the bed belonging to the household's master and mistres—the marital bed—and the "first-best bed" was reserved for guests.
About 150 years after his death, questions arose about the authorship of William Shakespeare's plays. Scholars and literary critics began to float names like Christopher Marlowe, Edward de Vere and Francis Bacon—men of more known backgrounds, literary accreditation, or inspiration—as the true authors of the plays. Much of this stemmed from the sketchy details of Shakespeare's life and the dearth of contemporary primary sources. Official records from the Holy Trinity Church and the Stratford government record the existence of a William Shakespeare, but none of these attest to him being an actor or playwright.
Skeptics also questioned how anyone of such modest education could write with the intellectual perceptiveness and poetic power that is displayed in Shakespeare's works. Over the centuries, several groups have emerged that question the authorship of Shakespeare's plays.
The most serious and intense skepticism began in the 19th century when adoration for Shakespeare was at its highest. The detractors believed that the only hard evidence surrounding William Shakespeare from Stratford-upon-Avon described a man from modest beginnings who married young and became successful in real estate. Members of the Shakespeare Oxford Society (founded in 1957) put forth arguments that English aristocrat Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, was the true author of the poems and plays of "William Shakespeare." The Oxfordians cite de Vere's extensive knowledge of aristocratic society, his education, and the structural similarities between his poetry and that found in the works attributed to Shakespeare. They contend that William Shakespeare had neither the education nor the literary training to write such eloquent prose and create such rich characters.
However, the vast majority of Shakespearean scholars contend that William Shakespeare wrote all his own plays. They point out that other playwrights of the time also had sketchy histories and came from modest backgrounds. They contend that Stratford's New Grammar School curriculum of Latin and the classics could have provided a good foundation for literary writers. Supporters of Shakespeare's authorship argue that the lack of evidence about Shakespeare's life doesn't mean his life didn't exist. They point to evidence that displays his name on the title pages of published poems and plays. Examples exist of authors and critics of the time acknowledging William Shakespeare as author of plays such as The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Comedy of Errors and King John. Royal records from 1601 show that William Shakespeare was recognized as a member of the King's Men theater company (formally known as the Chamberlain's Men) and a Groom of the Chamber by the court of King James I, where the company performed seven of Shakespeare's plays. There is also strong circumstantial evidence of personal relationships by contemporaries who interacted with Shakespeare as an actor and a playwright.
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