Shakespeare's childhood home in Stratford-upon-Avon
William Shakespeare was born in the small market town of Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564, the third of eight children. The register of Holy Trinity, the parish church in Stratford, records his baptism on April 26. According to the custom at that time, infants were baptized about three days after their birth. Therefore, the general accepted date for his birth is April 23.
Beginning at the age about 7, William probably attended the Stratford grammar school with other boys his social class. The school's highly qualified teachers were graduates of Oxford University. Students spent about nine hours a day in school.. They attended classes the year round, except for three brief holiday periods. They teachers enforced strict discipline and physically punished students who broke the rules.
Holidays provided fun times for Shakespeare as a child
In spite of the long hours spent in high school, Shakespeare's boyhood was probably not all boring study. As a market center, Stratford was a lively town. Holidays provided popular pageants and shows, including plays about the legendary outlaw Robin Hood and his merry men. By 1569, traveling companies of professional actors were performing in Stratford. Stratford also held two large fairs each year, which attracted numerous visitors from other countries. For young Shakespeare, this can be an exciting place to live.
After arriving In London, Shakespeare began an association with one of the city's repertory theatre companies. These companies consisted of a permanent cast of actors who presented a variety of plays week after week. The companies had aristocratic patrons, and the players were technically servants of the nobles who sponsored them. But the companies were commercial operations that depended on selling tickets to the general public for their income.
Shakespeare's early plays
Scholars do not know which of the various companies first employed Shakespeare. Scholars have noted connections between Shakespeare's early plays and a number of plays that were performed by the queens men, a company that played in Stratford in 1587. What is certain is that by 1594 Shakespeare was a sharer in the Lord Chamberlain's men. As a sharer, Shakespeare was a stockholder in the company and entitled to a share in the company's profits.
The Lord Chamberlain's Men were one of the most popular companies in London. In large part because of Shakespeare's talents, they would go on to become the dominant company in England during the late 1500's. Shakespeare's position as sharer allowed him to achieve a level of financial success unmatched by the other dramatists of the age, many of whom lived in poverty. Most playwrights were free-lancers who were paid a one-time fee for their plays and usually worked for several companies. After 1594, Shakespeare maintained a relationship with a single company.
During his last eight years, Shakespeare was the sole author of only three plays. He collaborated with John Fletcher. In the past, some scholars argued that the Tempest was Shakespeare's last play. Such a theory was encouraged by the presence in the play of passages that sound like a farewell to the stage.
However, in 1612 and 1613, Shakespeare worked closely with Fletcher, who replaced him as the chief dramatist for the King's Men, on Cardenio, King Henry VII, and two noble kinsmen. In addition, Shakespeare purchased a house in the Blackfriars district of London in 1613. The evidence thus suggests that Shakespeare gradually reduced his activity in London rather than ending it abruptly.
Shakespeare became a famous playwright
By 1612, Shakespeare had become England's most successful playwright. He apparently divided his time between Stratford ad London. He had lodgings in London at least until 1604 and probably until 1611. Such family events as his daughter Susanna's marriage in 1607 and his mothers death in 1608 would likely have called him back to Stratford. By 1612, he may have spent much of his time in the comforts of New Place in Stratford.
Shakespeare's death monument
On Feb.10, 1616, Shakespeare's younger daughter, Judith, married Thomas Quinery, the son of his Stratford neighbor Richard Quinery. Six weeks later, Shakespeare revised his will. Within a month, he died. He was buried inside the Stratford parish church. HIs monument records the day of death on April 23.