William Shakespeare

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William Shakespeare (baptised April 26, 1564 - died April 23 (New style: May 3) 1616) was an English poet and playwright. He wrote about thirty-eight plays (the precise number is uncertain), a collection of sonnets and a variety of other poems. Already a popular writer in his own lifetime, his work became increasingly celebrated after his death and has been adulated by numerous prominent cultural figures through the centuries.[1] Shakespeare now has a reputation as the greatest writer in the English language, as well as one of the greatest in Western literature, and the world's pre-eminent dramatist.[2] In addition, Shakespeare is the most quoted writer in English-speaking and world history, as surveyed by the Oxford English Dictionary [3]. He is often considered the English or British national poet [4], and is sometimes referred to as the "Bard of Avon" (or simply "The Bard") [5] or the "Swan of Avon" [6].

Shakespeare is believed to have produced most of his work between 1586 and 1616, although the exact dates and chronology of the plays attributed to him are often uncertain. He is counted among the very few playwrights who have excelled in both tragedy and comedy, and his plays combine popular appeal with complex characterisation, poetic grandeur and philosophical depth.

Shakespeare's works have been translated into every major living language, and his plays are continually performed all around the world. In addition, many quotations and neologisms from his plays have passed into everyday usage in English and other languages. Over the years, many people have speculated about Shakespeare's life, raising questions about his sexuality, whether he was secretly Catholic, and debating whether someone else wrote some or all of his plays and poetry.

Early life

William Shakespeare (also spelled Shakspere, Shaksper, and Shake-speare, due to the fact that spelling in Elizabethan times was not fixed and absolute[7]) was born in Henley Street, in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England, in April 1564, the son of John Shakespeare, a successful tradesman and alderman, and of Mary Arden, a daughter of the gentry. Shakespeare's baptismal record dates to April 26 of that year. Because baptisms were performed within a few days of birth, tradition has settled on April 23 (May 4 on the Gregorian calendar) as his birthday. This date provides a convenient symmetry because Shakespeare died on the same day in 1616.

William Shakespeare probably attended King Edward VI Grammar School in central Stratford. While the quality of Elizabethan-era grammar schools was uneven, the school probably would have provided an intensive education in Latin grammar and literature. It is presumed that the young Shakespeare attended this school, since as the son of a prominent town official he was entitled to do so (although this cannot be confirmed because the school's records have not survived). At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, who was 26, on November 28, 1582 at Temple Grafton, near Stratford. Two neighbours of Anne posted bond that there were no impediments to the marriage. There appears to have been some haste in arranging the ceremony, presumably due to the fact that Anne was three months pregnant.

After his marriage, William Shakespeare left few traces in the historical record until he appeared on the London theatrical scene. Indeed, the late 1580s are known as Shakespeare's "lost years" because no evidence has survived to show exactly where he was or why he left Stratford for London. On May 26, 1583, Shakespeare's first child, Susannah, was baptised at Stratford. Twin children, a son, Hamnet, and a daughter, Judith, were baptised on February 2, 1585. Hamnet died in 1596.

London and theatrical career

By 1592 Shakespeare was a playwright in London and had enough of a reputation for Robert Greene to denounce him as "an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and beeing an absolute Johannes factotum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey." (The italicised line parodies the phrase, "Oh, tiger's heart wrapped in a woman's hide" which Shakespeare wrote in Henry VI, part 3.) By 1598 Shakespeare had moved to the parish of St. Helen's, Bishopsgate, and appeared at the top of a list of actors in Every Man in His Humour written by Ben Jonson.

Soon after this Shakespeare became an actor, writer and finally part-owner of a playing company, known as The Lord Chamberlain's Men � the company took its name, like others of the period, from its aristocratic sponsor, in this case the Lord Chamberlain. The group became popular enough that after the death of Elizabeth I and the coronation of James I (1603), the new monarch adopted the company and it became known as the King's Men.

Various documents recording legal affairs and commercial transactions show that Shakespeare grew rich enough during his stay in London to buy a property in Blackfriars, London and own the second-largest house in Stratford, New Place.

Later years

Shakespeare's last two plays were written in 1613, after which he appears to have retired to Stratford. He died on April 23, 1616, at the age of 52. He remained married to Anne until his death and was survived by his two daughters, Susannah and Judith. Susannah married Dr John Hall, but there are no direct descendants of the poet and playwright alive today.

Shakespeare is buried in the chancel of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon. He was granted the honour of burial in the chancel not on account of his fame as a playwright but for purchasing a share of the tithe of the church for �440 (a considerable sum of money at the time). A bust of him placed by his family on the wall nearest his grave shows him posed in the act of writing. Each year on his claimed birthday, a new quill pen is placed in the writing hand of the bust.

He is believed to have written the epitaph on his tombstone:

Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear, To dig the dust enclosed here. Blest be the man that spares these stones, But cursed be he that moves my bones.

Wikipedia's Shakespeare page