William Shakespeare : The Greatest Dramatist Of All Time

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Birth And Early Life

Born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564, William Shakespeare was a renowned English poet, playwright and actor. His birthday is most commonly celebrated on April 23 (baptized April 26, 1564, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England), which is also believed to be the date he died in 1616.

His father, John Shakespeare, was a burgess of the borough, who was elected as an alderman in 1565 and in 1568 bailiff (the position corresponding to mayor, before the grant of a further charter to Stratford in 1664 ). He has been involved in various types of trade and seems to have suffered some fluctuations in prosperity. His wife, Mary Arden, of Wilmcote, Warwickshire, came from an old family and was the heiress to some land.

Stratford enjoyed a good quality grammar school, and the education there was free, with the borough paying the salary of the schoolmaster. No lists of pupils at the school in the 16th century have survived, but it would be absurd to assume that the city’s bailiff did not send his son there. The education of the boys would consist mainly of Latin studies — learning to read, write, and speak the language fairly well and studying some of the Classical historians, moralists, and poets. Shakespeare did not go to college, and indeed it is unlikely that he would have been interested in the academic round of logic, rhetoric, and other studies that followed.

Shakespeare got married at the age of 18, although exact details are not known, but at the episcopal registry in Worcester preserves a bond dated November 28,1582 and is executed by Sandells and Richardson two yeomen of Stratford, as a security to the bishop for the issue of a licensed marriage of Shakespeare and “Anne Hathaway of Stratford” . The other information that was recorded in the Stratford Church is of their daughter, Susanna , who was baptized on 26th May, 1583. He also had twins after Susanna, named Hamnet and Judith, who were baptized on 2nd February, 1585.

The Making of William Shakespeare

Although no original manuscripts of Shakespeare’s plays are known to exist today but if we summarise his work it includes 38 plays, 2 narrative poems, 154 sonnets, and a variety of other poems. Indeed, it is thanks to a group of actors from the company of Shakespeare that we have about half of all the plays. After Shakespeare died, they collected them for publication, preserving the plays. In what is known as the First Folio ( ‘Folio’ refers to the size of the paper used) is where these writings were brought together. It included 36 plays from him and none of his poetry.

This only goes to show how rich his legacy was and how diverse was his work ; to this day his plays are adapted into movies, plays, and other forms of entertainment not to mention the fact that his plays have already spawned countless adaptations across multiple genres and cultures. Shakespeare’s plays have had an enduring presence on stage and films. His writings were compiled in several iterations of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, including all his plays, sonnets, and other poems.

William Shakespeare continues to remain one of the English language’s most important literary figures.

The Lost Years

We know that the twins of Shakespeare were baptized in 1585, and by 1592 Shakespeare set up his reputation in London. Wait a second! London?

When did Shakespeare go to London?

Well the intervening time period between 1585-1592 are considered a mystery and scholars generally refer to these years as ‘The Lost Years’.

Shakespeare became a founding member of The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, an actor’s company, during his time in London. This company would later become The King’s Men under the patronage of King James I (from 1603). This was the time period where Shakespeare wrote many of his famous tragedies , such as Macbeth and King Lear, as well as great romances like The Tempest and The Winter’s Tale.

Last Days At New Place

William Shakespeare purchased a home in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1597 called New Place. Recent archeological evidence found on Shakespeare’s New Place site shows that Shakespeare has always been just an intermittent lodger in London.

This suggests that he split his time between London and Stratford (a two- or three-day commute). He may have spent more time in Stratford-upon-Avon in his later years than scholars thought before.

Shakespeare retired from the stage sometime after 1612 and returned to his Stratford home. In January 1616 he drew up his will,which included his famous bequest to his wife of his “second best bed.”

On April 23, 1616, at the age of 52, Shakespeare died in Stratford-upon-Avon. He is buried in the parish church sanctuary, Holy Trinity.

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[…] All the world’s a stage /And all the men and women merely players. / They have their exits and their entrances, / And one man in his time plays many parts.[…] 

AS YOU LIKE IT ACT 2, SCENE 7

Selected Bibliography

Poetry

The Rape of Lucrece (1594)
The Sonnets of Shakespeare (1609)
Venus and Adonis (1593)

Drama

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595)
All’s Well that Ends Well (1602)
Antony and Cleopatra (1607)
As You Like It (1599)
Coriolanus (1608)
Cymbeline (1609)
Hamlet (1600)
Henry IV (1597)
Henry V (1598)
Henry VI (Parts I, II, and III) (1590)
Henry VIII (1612)
Julius Caesar (1599)
King John (1596)
King Lear (1605)
Love’s Labour’s Lost (1593)
Macbeth (1606)
Measure for Measure (1604)
Much Ado About Nothing (1598)
Othello (1604)
Pericles (1608)
Richard II (1595)
Richard III (1594)
Romeo and Juliet (1596)
The Comedy of Errors (1590)
The Merchant of Venice (1596)
The Merry Wives of Windsor (1597)
The Taming of the Shrew (1593)
The Tempest (1611)
The Winter’s Tale (1610)
Timon of Athens (1607)
Titus Andronicus (1590)
Troilus and Cressida (1600)
Twelfth Night (1599)
Two Gentlemen of Verona (1592)

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