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San Domenico School

Shakespeare - Biography

by Maria Kniery and Ruthie Minor

Portrait of William Shakespeare"William Shakespeare was an English Poet and playwright widely regarded as the greatest writer of the English language, and as the world's preeminent dramatist. He wrote approximately 38 plays and 154 sonnets, as well as a variety of other poems." (2)

[He]was born in April of 1564. There is no specific date of birth because at that time the only date of importance was the date of baptism, though infants often were baptized when they were three days old. Shakespeare's baptismal date was April 26, 1564.

Holy Trinity Church Stratford-upon-AvonShakespeare was born in the village of Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire. At the time of his birth, the village had a population of 1500 people, and only 200 houses. Shakespeare's father, John Shakespeare, came from a family of yeomen, and he gained many prestigious positions in the community. Shakespeare's mother, Mary Arden, came from an ancient family of landed gentry. The whole family was Anglican. The family's financial situation was well off. Not much information is known about Shakespeare's youth, although undoubtedly he was educated in the local school, where he studied Latin and Greek, among other subjects, during a school day that often lasted from dawn to dusk.

Shakespeare's first exposure to the theater probably occurred when he was young. As a child his father probably took him to see plays when traveling troupes of actors came to town, although that was not often.

Shakespeare was married to Anne Hathaway in 1582, when he was 18; she was 26, eight years his senior. Anne was the daughter of a respected yeoman farmer. William and Anne had their first child, Susanna, in May of 1583. This was followed by the birth of twins, Hamnet and Judith, in January of 1585. Most historians believe that Shakespeare was not often in Stratford after that because historical records show him in London during the following years.

Photograph of Anne Hathaway cottage

The Hathaway cottage has been restored and is pictured at right. Itbelonged to the prosperous Hathaway family and was the pre-marital home of William Shakespeare's wife, Anne. Although referred to as a cottage, it is actually a substantial, twelve-roomed, Elizabethan farmhouse.

The first written reference to Shakespeare's existence in London occurred in 1592, when Shakespeare was in his late twenties. He seems to have been fairly well established in the theatre by that point, since the reference, written by another playwright, hints of jealousy at Shakespeare's success.

With his two patrons, the Earls of South Hampton and Pembrooke, Shakespeare rose quickly in the theater as both an actor and an author. He joined the Lord Chamberlin's Men, an acting company which was protected by the Queen, becoming a shareholder and senior member in 1595. Globe Theater, LondonBecause of his success in London, he was able to purchase New Place, the largest and most elegant house in his home town of Stratford, when he was in his early thirties.

In addition to his popularity as both an actor and playwright, Shakespeare became joint owner of the famous Globe Theater when it opened in 1599. His share of the company's management added heavily to his wealth. Shakespeare’s financial success in the London theatre enabled him to retire and return to his home in Stratford around 1610. He lived there comfortably until his death on April 23, 1616. He is buried in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Sources: (1) The Cambridge School Shakespeare. Ed. Rex Gibson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
(2)Wikipedia, 2007

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