The Family History of a Renaissance Man
William Shakespeare lived during the Renaissance period of Europe, a time of growth and learning when great contributions were made to the arts and literature. Shakespeare is considered by many to be the world’s finest poet and playwright.
Most of what is known of Shakespeare’s private life comes from church records, tax documents and property deeds. Scholars believe he was born on April 23, 1564, in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. He is the son of a middle-class family, the third child of eight. Both his older sisters died in childhood. Shakespeare’s formal education ended with grammar school at the age of fourteen.
William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway in 1582. He was eighteen years old and she was an older woman of twenty-six and pregnant, a shocking scandal at the time! The couple’s oldest child, daughter Susanna, was born six months after their marriage. Twins Hamnet and Judith were born two years later in February of 1585. Sadly, son Hamnet died at the age of eleven, a victim of the Bubonic Plague.
Shakespeare left his home and family to find work in London as an actor. Shakespeare wrote and acted in his own plays. He performed with Lord Chamberlain’s Men, a very successful troupe with ties to Queen Elizabeth’s court. His plays helped the troupe become even more successful. Shakespeare was a shareholder in the group and part owner of the Globe Theatre which opened in 1599. He became very successful and wealthy.
William Shakespeare is credited with writing thirty-eight plays including comedies, tragedies and histories. Today, his plays are read worldwide and revered as some of world’s greatest literature.His famous works include:
The Merchant of Venice
The Taming of the Shrew
Bard of Avon
Besides his famous plays, Shakespeare is know for his many sonnets and five other poems. His 154 fourteen-line sonnets are especially famous. Some of the most familiar lines and phrases in the English language come from Shakespeare’s works: “To be or not to be" from Hamlet, “O Romeo, O Romeo" from Romeo and Juliet, and “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day" from sonnet eighteen. He is the most widely read of all authors, in English speaking countries, and second only to the Bible.
The Death of William Shakespeare
The life of William Shakespeare ended at the age of fifty-two. Nothing is known of the cause or place of his death, but his gravestone is in Holy Trinity Church graveyard in Stratford and lists the date of death as April 23, 1616. It is believed he wrote the inscription for his tombstone:
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones
Shakespeare is buried under the church floor and 17 feet of stone and, although not confirmed, it appears his last wish remains true and his bones have never been moved.
The Language of Literature. McDougal Littell, 2006
LiteraryGenius.info, Biography of William Shakespeare
Wikimedia Commons/Paul Barlow