William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon. He was the most documented Elizabethan playwright who was recognised in his own lifetime. After retiring and making his will out on March 25, 1616, Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616. Nothing is recorded on the cause of his death.
John Shakespeare, William's father, was a glover and a whittawer. He was a highly successful and respected man of high status. His father held many public official positions: mayor, town council man, and justice of peace. Shakespeare's father was not able to write. In 1576, John's business went down. He stopped attending meetings and social events. Shakespeare was twelve at this point in time.
Shakespeare's mother was Mary Arden. She came from a wealthy family who paid a handsome dowry to marry her off. While living on Henly Street, she bore eight children with the Shakespeare name.
Shakespeare went to Stratford Grammar School where he studied classics written in Greek and Latin. His teachers gave him the incentive to read. He was taught by two Oxford graduates, Simon Hunt and Thomas Jenkins. Shakespeare had an unusual keen observation of both nature and mankind. His education was said to have ended here.
On November 27, 1582, Shakespeare married Ann Hathaway who was twenty-eight years old. On May 26, 1583, Ann bore their first daughter, Susanna. In 1585, a set of twins were born, Judith and Hamnet. Hamnet died at the age of eleven in 1596. No evidence was found of Shakespeare between the years of 1585 1592. These years of Shakespeare's life were called "The Hidden Years".
During Shakespeare's Hidden Years, many people suspected that he ran away from the law or became a butcher's apprentice. Christopher Beston, called "The Chronicle of the Stage", was also a prominent theatrical manager. Beston told John Aubry, who wrote "Brief Lies", that Shakespeare was probably a school teacher during these years. No evidence was found of Shakespeare's whereabouts until 1592 in London.
In London, Shakespeare established himself as an actor who began to write many plays. In 1593, he found a patron, Henry Wriothsley, to sponser him. During this time, he wrote two long poems. His first long poem, "Venus and Adonius", was written in 1593. In 1594, he wrote his second long poem, "Rape of Lucrece". The theatres also opened again after the plague during this year.
Shakespeare worked for "Lord Chamberlain's Men" company that later became "The King's Men" in 1603 after King James I took over. This company became the largest and most famous acting company because Shakespeare performed and worked for them. His plays were usually performed by this company. All 154 of his sonnets were published in 1609. At this time, Richard Burbage was considered the greatest actor. James Burbage, Richard's father, was the first to build a theatre in London called "The Theatre" in 1576. In 1599, "The Globe" was built in a circular shape. The plays in this theatre usually lasted for three days. The first day, expenses were paid, the second day, the actors were paid, and the third day, the playwright was paid. Other theatres to follow were the following: "The Curtain", "The Rose", "The Swan", "The Fortune", "The Red Bull", and "The Hope".
As an actor, writer, director, and a stockholder in "The King's Men" company, Shakespeare had multiple sources of income. He was becoming a very wealthy man. In 1597, Shakespeare bought New Place which was a very large house for his family to live in.
Shakespeare left London in 1611 and retired. On March 25, 1616, Shakespeare made a will. He died April 23, 1616 at the age of fifty-two. The cause of his death was unknown. Many people believe that Shakespeare knew he was dying; however, he didn't want anyone to know that he was. At Shakespeare's time, after the graveyard was full, they would dig one's corpse up and burn the person's bones in a huge fireplace. Some people would strip the corpse after the burial. Shakespeare hated this type of treatment after death, so he wrote his own epitaph.
"Good Friends, for Jesus' sake forbear,
To dig the bones enclosed here!
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones."
Due to the fact that the people at this time were superstitious, no one ever bothered his corpse. A while ago, a few people wanted to dig him up and check his bones to be sure that the person buried there was Shakespeare. However, the government would not allow it.
In 1623, Shakespeare's first folio was published. The folio included: 154 sonnets, 37 plays, and 2 long poems. His friends compiled all of his work into this folio before anyone could reproduce his plays and claim them as their own. Many of his plays are famous and are studied by students today.
The history of Stratford-upon-Avon goes back to the time when a small settlement developed at the point where a Roman road, from Alcester to the Fosse way, crossed the Avon. Originally it was only a few houses controlled by the church of Worcester. The town developed under guidance of mediaeval guilds.
In 1553 the town grew out to be a busy market area, with a big bridge giving north-south acces across the river. The bridge still exists today.
In 1767 Stratford council decided to rebuild the Town Hall, and there was an open space on the north wall. Because they didn't really have enough money to rebuild it, they asked David Garrick to pay for it, in return he would be made citizen of the town. He said he was delighted to do it.
In 1827 a corner stone was laid as a foundation for the building of the Shakespeare Centre. This was celebrated with a performance of ‘As You Like It'. During the years the town got more theatres.
Today the town still has the atmosphere of a market town. People call Stratford ‘The Shakespeare Industry', because this has developed over the centuries. You can find Shakespeare in the whole town, whether it is in one of the hundred souvenir shops, or in the Shakespeare Properties. It is perfectly clear that Stratford would not be this Stratford if Shakespeare had never lived there. In the whole town you can feel the presence of Shakespeare, because almost all of the total economy is based on him.
Back to Adrian's Home Page..