A short biography of William Shakespeare the playright.
Easy to understand – Shakespeare – ideal for kids homework and assignments!
William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)
William Shakespeare was born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, England in a house on Henley Street, Stratford, in the house now known as Shakespeare’s Birthplace.
He was the eldest son of John Shakespeare who was a glover and wool dealer of good standing who held the office of Bailiff of the Borough in 1568, and his wife Mary Arden the daughter of Robert Arden, a yeoman farmer. John and Mary lost two children before William was born. They had five more children, another of whom died young.
From the age of seven to about 14, he attended Stratford Grammar School receiving an excellent well rounded education.
From the age of seven to about 14, he attended Stratford Grammar School receiving an excellent well rounded education. Shakespeare’s works display a knowledge of classical Latin literature, including texts closely studied by pupils in Elizabethian Grammar Schools. We believe this knowledge of Latin literature must have come from his attendance to the Stratford Grammar School. Some of his ideas for plots and characters came from Ovid’s tales, the plays of Terence and Plautus and Roman history.
It is not known what Shakespeare did when he left school at fourteen, as was usual, possibly he tutored?
When he was 18 he married Anne Hathaway in Stratford. Her home, now known as Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, still stands in the village of Shottery, a mile from Stratford. Anne was seven years his senior and already pregnant. She gave birth to a daughter called Susannah. Twins were born in 1585, a son Hamnet and a daughter Judith. Unfortunately Hamnet died in 1596 when he was 11 years old.
For reasons we are uncertain of, Shakespeare left for London, although we do not know what year this happened. There is a period of time in Shakespeare’s life between 1585 and 1592, that has become to be known as, ‘The Lost Years’ as it is not known what Shakespeare did. A possible early belief of claims for these ‘Lost Years’, is that Shakespeare was a schoolmaster for some years. When he was growing up, drama was a significant part of Stratford’s social life. Not only did local people put on amateur shows, but the town was visited regularly by London-based companies of actors and Shakespeare may have joined one of them, possibly arriving in London around 1587.
Shakespeare’s reputation was established in London by 1592. Shakespeare’s earliest plays included the three parts of Henry VI, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Titus Andronicus.
Shakespeare’s first printed works were two long poems, Venus and Adonis (1593) and The Rape of Lucrece (1594). Most of the Sonnets were probably written about this time, too, although they were not published until 1609.
In 1594, Shakespeare joined others, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, in forming a new theatre company, under the patronage of the Lord Chamberlain, with Richard Burbage as its leading actor. For almost twenty years Shakespeare was its regular dramatist, producing on average two plays a year. Burbage played roles such as Richard III, Hamlet, Othello and Lear.
In 1596 Shakespeare’s father was granted a coat-of-arms. On his father’s death in 1601, Shakespeare inherited the arms and the right to call himself a gentleman, even though, at that time, actors were generally regarded as rogues and vagabonds! Shakespeare’s success in the London theatres made him wealthy and in 1597 he bought New Place, one of the largest houses in Stratford. Although his professional career was spent in London, he kept in contact with his family in Stratford and often visited.
In 1599, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, built a new theatre called the Globe. It was situated on the south bank of the Thames, in Southwark, London. The Globe is the theatre most closely associated with Shakespeare’s plays. Two of his plays, Henry V and Julius Caesar, were almost certainly written during the year in which the Globe opened. In 1613, during a performance of Henry VIII, a fire broke out and destroyed the Globe, but it was rebuilt the following year.
When James Ist came to the English throne in 1603, he granted royal patronage to Shakespeare’s acting company, which then became the King’s Men. In 1609 the King’s Men acquired an indoor theatre, the Blackfriars to use alongside the Globe.
Some of Shakespeare’s most famous plays were written in the early 1600′s, including Hamlet and Othello, King Lear and Macbeth. His late plays, often known as the Romances include Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest.
From around 1611, Shakespeare seems to have spent most of his time at his Stratford house, New Place. Shakespeare died in Stratford, aged 52, on 23 April 1616 and was buried in Holy Trinity Church two days later. Within a short time a monument to him was put up, probably by his family, on the wall close to his grave. His widow, Anne, died in 1623 and was buried beside him.
A short easy to understand video Biography of William Shakespeare’s Life.
Good Shakespeare website links to visit for more detail and help -
A really great Shakespeare website that covers nearly everything to do with Shakespeare ( and I mean nearly everything! ) – including study guides, family trees, facts and figures, quizzes and links to loads more….
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