Birth and Boyhood of Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was born
in Stratford-upon-Avon, in England
in 1564. While his exact birthdate is unknown, it is most often celebrated on
April 23, the feast of St. George, and also the date upon which he would die.
He was the third of seven children born to John and Mary Arden Shakespeare.
Shakespeare's father was a tanner and glovemaker. He was a fairly prominent
political figure as well, being an alderman of Stratford for years, and serving a term as
'high bailiff' (what we would call a mayor). He died in 1616, leaving
little land to William, his eldest son. Not much is known of Mary Shakespeare,
except that she had a wealthier family than John.
William Shakespeare attended a very good
grammar school in Stratford-upon- Avon, though the time period during which he attended
school is not known. His instructors were all Oxford graduates, and his studies were
probably primarily in Latin. Little else is known of his boyhood.
Shakespeare's Marriage and Life in London
In 1582 at 18 years of age,
Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, a lady seven or eight
years older than he from Shottery, a villiage a mile from Stratford. Their first
daughter, Susanna, was born in 1583, followed by twins in 1585, Hamnet and
Judith. By 1592, Shakespeare was an established playwright in London; however, the plague kept the theaters
closed most of the time, and it was during this time that Shakespeare wrote his
earliest sonnets and poems.
Shakespeare did most of his
theater work in a district northeast of London,
in two theaters owned by James Burbage, called the Theatre and the Curtain. In
1598, Burbage moved to Bankside and built the famous Globe Theatre, in which
Shakespeare owned stock and made quite a bit of money on. Around this time,
Shakespeare applied for and got a coat of arms, with the motto: Non sanz
droict (not without right). This gave him the standing of a gentleman,
something that was not generally associated with actors, who were considered to
be in the same class with vagrants and criminals.
In 1603, Shakespeare's theatrical company was
taken under the patronage of King James I, and became known as the King's
Company. In 1608, the company aquired the Blackfriars
Theatre. Around this time, Shakespeare joined the group of the
now-famous writers who gathered at Mermaid Tavern, located on Bread Street in Cheapside. Among others, some of the writers who
frequented the Tavern were Sir Walter Raleigh (the founder), and Ben Jonson.
Death and Burial
Shakespeare retired from
theatre in 1610 and returned to Stratford.
He lost much money in 1613 when the Globe Theatre burned, but remained quite
wealthy and contributed to the building of the new Globe Theatre
. Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616 (Old Style Calendar--May 3, 1616
Gregorian) and was buried in the chancel of the Church of the Holy Trinity in Stratford. A monument to
Shakespeare was set up on the north wall of the chancel, with a bust of
Shakespeare. (Note: the bust and the engraving by Droeshout that prefixed
the First Folio are the only renderings of Shakeshpeare that are considered to
be accurate.) Shakespeare's will left most of his property to Susanna and
her daughter, except for his 'second-best bed,' which he left to his