Shakespeare’s Life Seth Yang Period 4 Charney

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was a genius in literature. He has inspired and changed many writings. His popular works are still being played and studied to this very day. His life though, may have been hard to trace, as the records are hard to find.

"Shakespeare, William (1564-1616), was an English playwright, poet, and actor. Many people regard him as the world’s greatest dramatist and the finest poet England has ever produced." (Lander).

Shakespeare's Life

Shakespeare worked hard to accomplish what he has done throughout his life

Shakespeare's Birth: "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 generally accepted date for Shakespeare’s birth is April 23. The Shakespeares were a family of considerable local prominence." (Lander). "In 1565, John Shakespeare became an alderman. Three years later, he was elected bailiff (mayor), the highest civic honor that a Stratford resident could receive." (Lander).

Shakespeare was born into a prosperous and religious family. He most likely didn't receive his parent's full undivided attention, being the third of eight children in his family. His birth date is possibly inaccurate.

Shakespeare's Town: "Beginning at about the age of 7, William probably attended the Stratford grammar school with other boys of his social class." (Lander). "Shakespeare’s boyhood was probably not all boring study. As a market center, Stratford was a lively town. In addition, holidays provided popular pageants and shows, including plays about the legendary outlaw Robin Hood and his merry men." (Lander). "Stratford also offered other pleasures. The fields and woods surrounding the town provided opportunities to hunt and trap small game. The River Avon, which ran through the town, had fish to catch. Shakespeare’s poems and plays show a love of nature and rural life. This display undoubtedly reflects his childhood experiences and his love of the Stratford countryside." (Lander).

Shakespeare must have had a lively childhood, being born into a booming town that served as a market center. Entertainment was everywhere in Stratford. Shakespeare's stories must have been affected by his childhood and Stratford's surroundings, too.


Shakespeare's Marriage: "Shakespeare, a minor at the time, married Anne Hathaway, who was twenty-six and already several months pregnant. Anne was the eldest daughter, and one of the seven children of Richard Hathaway, a twice-married farmer in Shottery." (Mabillard). "The Shakespeares' first child was Susanna, christened on May 26th, 1583, and twins arrived in January, 1585. They were baptized on February 2 of that year and named after two very close friends of William--the baker Hamnet Sadler and his wife, Judith." (Mabillard).

Shakespeare may have been forced to marry Anne Hathaway, because she was already pregnant with his child. Shakespeare also must have truly appreciated his close friends, to name his children after them.

Shakespeare's Catastrophic Time Period: "In 1601, his father died. In May 1602, Shakespeare made his second major investment in his hometown of Stratford (after the purchase of New Place in 1597): He purchased 107 acres of land in Stratford-upon-Avon parish from William Combe (d. 1667) and his uncle John Combe (d. 1614), members of a very wealthy family. The land consisted of open fields to the north of Old Stratford and cost the relatively large amount of £320. Further, on September 28, 1602, Shakespeare purchased from Walter Getley a nearby piece of land and cottage on Chapel Lane. In 1605, he purchased from Ralph Hubaud a substantial share in the Stratford tithes. These investments were, of course, in addition to his ownership of the house he was born in, which he inherited when his father died." (Baker). " It is perhaps not coincidental that the years during which Shakespeare made these investments witnessed disruption and uncertainty in Stratford. Two "disastrous fires" in 1594 and 1595 had destroyed upward of 200 buildings in the center of the town and placed at least 400 people on poor relief. Afterward came a series of bad harvests, along with periods of corn shortages and inflation. By 1601, about 700 people, roughly one-third of the total population of the town, were registered as paupers." (Baker). "On May 17, 1603, there was a royal warrant licensing the Chamberlain's Men (Shakespeare's Company) as the King's Men. King James became the official patron of Shakespeare's company. From the second half of the year until April 1604, the London theaters were again closed because of the plague." (Baker).

Shakespeare may have also been a genius businessman. He took advantage of when his town was in a time of need, purchasing houses a few years after a fire. From 1601 to 1605, Shakespeare's life was rough. His father died in 1601 and in 1604 London theaters were closed down.

Globe Theater

Shakespeare's Last Years: "It is thought that by about 1610, Shakespeare was spending a good deal more time in Stratford than in London. In 1611, he and others were preoccupied with defending their Stratford properties in the Court of Chancery against other claimants. Despite this, on March 10, 1613, he purchased Blackfriars Gatehouse in London from Henry Walker (d. 1616), an eminent London musician, for the fairly large sum of £140." (Baker). "On March 25, 1616, William Shakespeare made his will. Documents show that he was buried on April 25 in the Stratford-upon-Avon churchyard. Legend has it that he died on April 23, the same day and month as his birth in 1564." (Baker).

Shakespeare went back to live in his hometown Stratford. He most likely wanted to live his last days in peace. Shakespeare supposedly died on April 23, 1616.

Shakespeare's Career: "William attended grammar school, where he studied Latin grammar, Latin literature, and rhetoric (The uses of language). As far as we know, he had no further formal education." (Anderson). "We know that several years later, by 1592, Shakespeare had already become an actor and a playwright. By 1594, he was a charter member of the theatrical company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, which was later to become the King's Men. (As the names of these acting companies indicate, theatrical groups depended on the support of a wealthy patron- the King's Men were supported by King James himself.) Shakespeare worked with this company for the rest of his writing life. Year after year he provided it with plays, almost on demand. He had a theater that needed plays, actors who needed parts, and a family that needed to be fed." (Anderson).

Shakespeare mastered in only literature and language. He wrote plays for a theatrical group to earn money and gain attention.

Shakespeare's Achievements: "Shakespeare's Henry VI plays were apparently very successful. The theatrical entrepreneur Philip Henslowe (1555/6–1616), who is a major source for a good deal of our knowledge of London Elizabethan theatrical activity during the last decades of the 16th century and early 17th century, noted in his diary on March 3, 1592, a new performance of what he called "Harry VI" (Dobson and Wells: 200). Over a 10-month period, the play was performed at least 15 times. The second part, Henry VI, Part 2 was published in a quarto version, which appeared in 1594 with the title The First Part of the Contention of the Two Famous Houses of York and Lancaster (some scholars believe that Henry VI, Part 2 was actually written before Henry VI, Part 1). Publication of a play implied its popularity." (Baker). " As we have seen, by 1594, William Shakespeare was an established dramatist on the London stage. But the first of his works to appear in print was not a play but the 1194-line narrative poem Venus and Adonis." (Baker). " Between 1599 and 1606, he produced a series of masterpieces, including the great tragedies Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, Coriolanus, and Antony and Cleopatra, as well as "problem plays" or "bitter comedies" such as All's Well That End's Well, Troilus and Cressida, and Measure for Measure. It was a flowering of genius perhaps unmatched in literary history." (Baker).

Shakespeare's mind was like no other. He created many successful stories that were very popular among his time and still live on today.

Few of Shakespeare's stories

Shakespeare's Adversaries: "Unlike his associates and fellow dramatists—Ben Jonson, Thomas Nashe, and John Marston—Shakespeare carefully avoided literary quarrels and had little to say about his contemporaries. No trace of professional jealousy, no involvement in contemporary issues, and no personal letters giving his opinions and attitudes remain. Encomiastic praise of patrons, often abundant in the works of his contemporaries, is sparse in Shakespeare’s. His rival Ben Jonson left in his poetry, dramas, and criticism astute and at times caustic opinions about his contemporaries and his audience, in addition to numerous eulogistic verses to patrons. Views that he left unwritten were preserved by William Drummond, a Scottish poet whom Jonson visited in 1619. Drummond, an admirer, took the trouble of recording and later publishing Jonson’s scathing criticisms of his rivals in poetry, and the collection adds much to posterity’s impression of Jonson’s prickly personality." (Archer).

Shakespeare did his best to avoid drama or conflict in literature. His associates though, drowned in their criticism.

Shakespeare and the Theatrical World: "At some point after his marriage, and probably after the birth of his children, Shakespeare must have made his way to London and joined the theatrical world there. Little is known for certain about how this happened, but it is thought that Shakespeare might have first worked as a minor actor in one of London's theater companies before making his name as a playwright." (Baker). " On March 15, 1595, Shakespeare's name appears as a joint payee of the Chamberlain's Men for court performances. He eventually became a principal shareholder." (Baker).

Shakespeare was searching for a way to live his life, and found what he wanted to do. He decided to work in the theatrical world. He made and acted in many plays, even creating the Globe Theater to show his plays.

Works Cited

Anderson, Robert. “William Shakespeare’s Life: A Genius From Stratford.” Holt Literature & Language Arts: Mastering the California Standards: Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking, by G. Kylene Beers et al., Austin, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 2003, pp. 776-77.

Archer, Stanley. “Shakespeare.” Magill’s Literary Annual 1993. Ed. Frank N. Magill. Hackensack: Salem, 1993. n. pag. Salem Online. Web. 12 Dec. 2016.

Baker, William. “Shakespeare, William.” In Baker, William, and Kenneth Womack, eds. The Facts On File Companion to Shakespeare. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2012. Bloom’s Literature, Facts On File, Inc.

Lander, Jesse M. “Shakespeare, William.” World Book Advanced. World Book, 2016. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.

Mabillard, Amanda. “Shakespeare of Stratford.” Shakespeare Online. Sept. 11 2005: n.p. SIRS Renaissance. Web. 12 Dec. 2016.


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