Biography of William Shakespeare


William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, a small country town. Stratford was famous for its malting. The black plague killed in 1564 one out of seven of the town's 1,500 inhabitants. Shakespeare was the eldest son of Mary Arden, the daughter of a local landowner, and her husband, John Shakespeare (c. 1530-1601), a glover and wood dealer. John Aubrey (1626-1697) tells in Brief Lives that Shakespeare's father was a butcher and the young William exercised his father's trade, "but when he kill'd a Calfe he would do it in a high style, and make a speech." In 1568 John Shakespeare was made a mayor of Stratford and a justice of peace. His wool business failed in the 1570s, and in 1580 he was fined Ģ40, with other 140 men, for failing to find surety to keep the peace. There is not record that his fine was paid. Later the church commissioners reported of him and eight other men that they had failed to attend church "for fear of process for debt". The family's position was restored in the 1590s by earnings of William Shakespeare, and in 1596 he was awarded a coat of arms.

Very little is known about Shakespeare early life, and his later works have inspired a number of interpretations. T.S. Eliot wrote that "I would suggest that none of the plays of Shakespeare has a "meaning," although it would be equally false to say that a play of Shakespeare is meaningless." (from Selected Essays, new edition, 1960). Shakespeare is assumed to have been educated at Stratford Grammar School, and he may have spent the years 1580-82 as a teacher for the Roman Catholic Houghton family in Lancashire. When Shakespeare was 15, a woman from a nearby village drowned in the Avon. Her death was ruled accidental but it may have been a suicide. Later in Hamlet Shakespeare left open the question whether Ophelia died accidentally or by her own hand. At the age of 18, Shakespeare married a local girl, Anne Hathaway (died 1623), who was eight years older. Their first child, Susannah, was born within six months, and twins Hamnet and Judith were born in 1585. Hamnet, Shakespeare's only son, died in 1896, at the age of 11. It has often been suggested, that the lines in King John, beginning with "Grief fills the room of my absent child", reflects Shakespeare's grief.

Hamlet was first printed in 1603. It is Shakespeare's largest drama, based on a lost play known as the Ur-Hamlet. Prince Hamlet, an enigmatic intellectual, mourns both his father's death and his mother's remarriage. His father's ghost appears to him and tells that Claudius, married to Queen Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, poisoned him. Hamlet, fascinated by cruelly witty games, swears revenge. "The time is out of joint; O cursed spite, That ever I was born to set it right!" He arranges an old play whose story has a parallel to that of Claudius. Hamlet's behavior is considered mad. He kills the eavesdropping Polonius, the court chamberlain, by thrusting his sword through a curtain. Polonius's son Laertes returns to Denmark to avenge his father's death. Polonius's daughter Ofelia loves Hamlet, but the prince's sadistically brutal behavior drives her to madness. "Get thee to a nunnery: why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?" he tells Ophelia who dies by drowning. Before the slaughter that ends the story, Hamlet says to his friend Horatio: "I shall win at the odds. But thou wouldst not think how ill all's here about my heart." A duel takes place and ends with the death of Gertrude, Laertes, Claudius, and Hamlet, whose final words are "the rest is silence."

According to a legend, he left Stratford for London to avoid a charge of poaching. After 1582 Shakespeare probably joined as an actor one or several companies of players. By 1584 he emerged as a rising playwright in London, and became soon a central figure in Londonīs leading theater company, the Lord Chamberlainīs Company, renamed later as the Kingīs Men. He wrote many great plays for the group. In 1599 a new theater, called The Globe, was built.

Shakespeare was known in his day as a very rapid writer: "His mind and hand went together," his publishers Heminges and Condell reported, "and what he thought, he uttered with that easiness that we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers." Despite all the praise, some writer's were not enthusiastic about his plays. Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) called A Midsummer Night's Dream "the most insipid, ridiculous play that I ever saw in my life." Voltaire wrote: "Shakespeare is a drunken savage with some imagination whose plays please only in London and Canada," "Shakespeare is the Corneille of London, but everywhere else he is a great fool..." Shakespeare wrote also two heroic narrative poems, Venus and Adonis (1593) and Lucrece (1594). His sonnets were written earliest by 1598 and published in 1609. The sonnets refer cryptically to several persons, among them a handsome young man, a woman called the 'Dark Lady', and a rival poet. Shakespeare's name was also on the title page of The Passionate Pilgrim (1599), issued by the publisher William Jaggard. The identity of the brunette, who appreared in Shakespeare's later poems, has been a mystery. According to one theory, she was the Countess of Pembroke. George Bernard Shaw believed she was one of Elizabeth I's ladies-in-waiting, Mary Fritton. Some have thought she was the mother of Shakespeare's supposed illegitimate son, Henry Davenant. Or she might have been Marie Mountjoy, Shakespeare's London landlady, or the black prostitute Luce Morgan, or Emilia Bassano, the daughter of a court musician and mistress of the Lord Chamberlain, Lord Hunsdon. And there is a theory that the Dark Lady was not a "she" at all, but Shakespeare's patron Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton. About 1610 Shakespeare returned to his birthplace, where he had a house, called New Place. He lived as a country gentleman, drank beer, and co-wrote with John Fletcher The Two Noble Kinsmen, first published in 1634. A number of Shakespeare's plays were published during his lifetime, but none of the original dramatic manuscripts have survived. The original Globe burned down in 1613, but was rebuilt next year. Shakespeare's later plays were also performed at the Blackfriars Theatre, which was run by a seven-man syndicate. Shakespeare was one of its members. Shakespeare's company used the Globe in the summer and the indoor Blackfrian in the winter. Under the patronage of King James I, the company also performed at court, more often than during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The dramatist John Dennis (1657-1734) claimed, that The Merry Wives of Windsor was written at her command. Macbeth, with its witches and portrayal of the legendary ancestor of the Stuart kings, Banquo, had a special appeal to James. He had also written a book about demology.

Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616. His widow was legally entitled to a third of the estate. Shakespeare also bequeathed his "second-best bed" to his wife - at that time the best bed was the grand prize of a forfeited estate. Anne Hathaway died seven years after her husband. Accroding to a story, she and her daughter wished to be buried in Shakespeare's grave.

In 1623 appeared a folio edition of Shakespeare's collected works - known as the First Folio. On Shakespeare's gravestone are four lines of verse. It is not certain that the Bard of Avon wrote the famous epitaph: "Good friend, for Jesusī sake forbeare / To digg the dust enclosed here! / Blest be ye man that spares thes stones / And curst be he that moues my bones." However, in the text there is an onomatopoetic to his name, with "sake" in the first line, and "spares" in the third.


Romeo and Juliet is about begins with the children of two feuding families, Romeo of the Montague family and Juliet of the Capulet family, will both love and die in the course of this play... The play will be a tragedy.

Here you will find a list of characters from Romeo & Juliet

Romeo - The male half of the star-struck duo. Romeo is a teenager who falls in love easily and hard. He begins the play deeply enamored of a girl named Rosaline (who never appears on-stage), but this infatuation instantly vanishes when he meets Juliet. His affection for both girls seems to be based primarily on physical beauty, although Juliet's ability to keep up with his quick-witted eloquence surely plays some part in his deeper love for her. His capacity for love allows him to transcend the petty feuding of his family and Juliet's, although he is not above a little swordplay when he thinks it necessary. He shows himself to be a decent swordsman, too; he takes down two trained fencers before the play is through.

Juliet - Romeo's one true love. Juliet is also a highly emotional teenager, though a bit more practical than her eventual husband; she takes care to make sure he means his pretty proclamations of everlasting love and faithfulness. She shares Romeo's tendency to fall into deep fits of depression, as well as his lack of creativity in coming up with any means other than suicide to solve her (admittedly substantial) personal problems.

Friar Laurence - The wise old priest to whom Romeo and Juuliet repeatedly turn for ideas other than suicide. Civic-minded, sympathetic, and well-versed in the lore of medicinal plants, the friar is a useful ally for the two lovers.

Nurse - Juliet's second mother and confidant. Vuulgar, illiterate, and given to tedious and embarrassing bouts of sentimentality, she always has Juliet's best interests in mind and proves a faithful intermediary for her illicit affair with Romeo. She appreciates a handsome face, a courteous gesture, and the occasional swig of aqua vitae.

Benvolio - Romeo's cousin. A generally practical feellow with a genuine distaste for violence in public places, he is not afraid to fight when he has to (and is reported to have a nasty temper when the watch isn't around to haul him off). He sympathizes with Romeo and spends most of the play trying to get his cousin's mind off Rosaline (even after he's moved on and married Juliet).

Mercutio - Mercurial cousin of Prince Escalus. Sometimes inappropriately comical, sometimes unjustifiably severe, always quick with a pun, Mercutio is Romeo's fiercely loyal best friend. He is somewhat more volatile than his constant companion Benvolio, and is always ready to shoot his mouth off or bare his weapon (literally or euphemistically).

Tybalt - Hot-tempered cousin of Juliet. Tybalt is supremely courteous and genteel, but holds an intense hatred for all Montagues. He is quick to draw his sword on any occasion; even Capulet himself has trouble holding him back.

Capulet - Juliet's father. Old and wealthy, with an unexplained grudge against Montague, he means well and wants the best for his only living child, although he's somewhat oblivious to her actual feelings. He is capable of reason and shows himself to be quite prudent at times, but when he gets an idea in his head, he goes with it no matter what.

Lady Capulet - Juliet's mother. Lady Capulet shares her husband's hatred of the Montagues, and follows his wishes in almost everything. She ruthlessly supports the interests of her family at all times.

Paris - A count of the prince's family, Paris seeeks Juliet's hand in marriage. Slightly arrogant at times, he is overall a courteous and well-meaning fellow with genuine feelings for Juliet.

Prince Escalus - The ruler of Verona. A just and equitable man, he hates the way his feuding nobles have been disturbing the peace of his city. He deals well with the loss of two of his relatives.

Montague - Romeo's father. Another wealthy nobleman with a grudge. He is concerned about Romeo, but gives him a good deal of freedom to work through things on his own.

Lady Montague - Romeo's doting mother.

Here you will find a brief summary of each of the five Acts.

Act I.

Sampson and Gregory, servants to the Capulets and Abraham and Balthasar, servants to the Montague family start a street fight, which is joined by Benvolio (Montague) and Tybalt (Capulet). Escalus, the Prince of Verona who angrily learns of this fight, declares a death penalty for further feuding between the two families. Romeo we learn is lovesick; Rosaline, the object of his affections will not requite (return) his love. His friend Benvolio tells Romeo to look at other girls...

Meanwhile Capulet is keen for Paris to marry his daughter Juliet and plans a party to be held later that night. Romeo and friends decide to turn up uninvited, Romeo hoping to see Rosaline, whom he still pines for...

Lady Capulet discusses the idea of marriage to Paris with Juliet. Juliet keeps her options open. The Nurse wishes Juliet every possible happiness...

Meanwhile Mercutio attempts to cheer a lovesick Romeo up, telling him to be rough with love if need be.

At the Capulet's party, Romeo who is disguised by a masque (mask), falls in love with Juliet on sight. Capulet stops Tybalt from attacking Romeo at his party, telling him there will be other opportunities. Both Romeo and Juliet learn that they are each enemies of the other's family... A Prologue sung by a choir dramatizes the conflict both Romeo and Juliet feel between their love for one another and their loyalty to their respective families.

 Now, by my maidenhead, at twelve year old,
I bade her come. What, lamb! what, ladybird!
God forbid! Where's this girl? What, Juliet!


Act II.

Ignoring the danger, Romeo scales the Capulet's wall to be near Juliet, the woman he cannot forget... Unnoticed in Juliet's orchard, Romeo learns of Juliet's love for him. After declaring their feelings for each other, the two decide to marry. Juliet will send Romeo a messenger in the morning to make plans for their wedding...

The very next day, we meet Romeo's friend, Friar Laurence. He wonders how Romeo can forget Rosaline so quickly but agrees to marry the two since he hopes this marriage it will end the long running Montague / Capulet feud...

Romeo catches up with his friends Mercutio and Benvolio. Juliet's messenger, the Nurse, arrives and the wedding is set for later that day. The Nurse brings Romeo "cords" or ropes which will allow Romeo to climb into Juliet's bedchamber as her husband later that night... Act II ends with Romeo and Juliet's marriage.


 Alack, there lies more peril in thine eye
Than twenty of their swords: look thou but sweet,
And I am proof against their enmity.


Act III.

Benvolio and Mercutio (both Montagues) meet Tybalt (Capulet). Tybalt attempts to provoke Romeo into fighting. Mercutio fights Tybalt and is killed. Romeo then kills Tybalt. Escalus, the Prince of Verona banishes Romeo from Verona threatening death should he ever return. Juliet learns of Romeo killing Tybalt and despite being torn between her loyalty for her family and Romeo, mourns her husband Romeo's banishment.

Romeo learns of the banishment order, realizing he will not be able to see Juliet again. Friar Laurence suggests Romeo go to Juliet's bed chamber to comfort his wife... Capulet, who does not know of Romeo and Juliet's marriage, decides that the marriage of Juliet to Paris must now proceed, bidding his wife to make Juliet aware of Paris' love for her. The day of the marriage has been decided; it will be Thursday.

We learn that Romeo has spent the night with his Juliet. Juliet who is now already secretly married to Romeo, learns that she is to marry Paris. She tries to fight her father's wishes, failing to dissuade him. Juliet decides to commit suicide if all else fails...

 Wilt thou be gone? it is not yet near day:
It was the nightingale, and not the lark,
That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear;



Act IV.

Paris reveals that the wedding will occur on Thursday. Juliet is cold to Paris. Friar Laurence tells Juliet to take a potion simulating death, allowing Romeo to take her away, unopposed to Mantua since everyone will think she is dead at the Capulet's ancient vault or burial ground.

Capulet makes plans for Juliet's wedding. Juliet, who has decided to drink Friar Laurence's potion, no longer opposes the wedding, delighting Capulet.

Hearing this good news, Capulet, who is keen to have Juliet marry Paris decides to move the wedding forward. It will now be on Wednesday morning, not Thursday as previously planned...

Juliet succeeds in sleeping alone which allows her to take the potion in privacy. Juliet worries about the Friar's intentions before the potion takes effect and she falls asleep...

Lady Capulet and the Nurse are busy making preparations for the wedding. It is 3 o'clock in the morning and now Capulet hearing music announcing Paris' arrival, tells the Nurse to wake Juliet. The Capulet's learn that their daughter Juliet is dead. The wedding preparations are changed to those of a funeral.

She's dead, deceased, she's dead; alack the day!



Act V.

In Mantua, Romeo learns of Juliet's death, deciding to risk his own life by returning to Verona at once to see Juliet one last time. Romeo also buys some poison from a local Apothecary.

Friar John explains to Friar Laurence that his letter informing Romeo that Juliet is not dead, did not reach Romeo. Friar Laurence tries again to inform Romeo of his plan and heads off to the Capulet burial chamber where Juliet will soon awaken.

Paris mourns his bride that never was. Romeo arrives, opening Juliet's coffin to look at his love one last time. Paris fights Romeo whom he believes is desecrating Juliet's grave. Paris dies, Romeo placing him beside Juliet. Romeo takes his poison, kisses Juliet and dies. Friar Laurence arrives too late. Juliet, now awakens, asking for her Romeo. Friar Laurence leaves, leaving Juliet alone. Juliet kisses Romeo and stabs herself, dying. The Prince, Capulets, and Montagues arrive, Balthasar and Friar Laurence explaining all. Escalus scolds the two families who finally end their feud. The play ends with the Prince summarizing this tragic love story.

O, comfortable friar! where is my lord?
I do remember well where I should be,
And there I am: Where is my Romeo?





Events & Publications2


Shakespeare Born


Christopher Marlowe born
John Hawkins second voyage to New World
Galileo Galilei born
John Calvin dies
The Peace of Troyes


1567(?) Richard Burbage, the greatest tragedian of the age, who would eventually portray Hamlet, Lear, Othello and all Shakespeare's great parts born

1576 James Burbage (father of Richard) obtains a 21 year lease and permission to build The Theatre in Shoreditch
1577 The Curtain, a rival theater near The Theatre, opens in Finbury


1565 Golding's translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses (1-4)
1566 Gascoigne's The Supposes
1567 Thomas Nashe born
1571 Tirso de Molina born
1572 Thomas Dekker born
1572 John Donne & Ben Jonson born
1577 Holinshed publishes The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, Shakespeare's primary source for the history plays
1579 John Fletcher born
1580 Thomas Middleton born
1580 Montaigne's Essais published


Shakespeare Married


Hakluyt's Dievers Voyages Touching the Discovery of America


Birth of daughter Susanna
The Queen's Company is formed in London




Birth of twins, Judith and Hamnet


1586 Mary Queen of Scots tried for treason


Departure from Stratford
Establishment in London as an actor/playwright

The Comedy of Errors
Titus Andronicus
The Taming of the Shrew
Henry VI, 1,2,3
Richard III

1587 Mary Queen of Scots executed
1587 Marlowe's Tamburlaine
1588 Defeat of the Armada
1588 Greene's Pandosto
1588 Marlowe's Dr. Faustus
1590 Spenser's Faerie Queen (1-3)
1590 Marlowe's The Jew of Malta
1591 Sidney'sAstrophil and Stella
1592 Robert Greene dies
1592 Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy


Preferment sought through aristocratic connections - dedicates Venus and Lucrece to Henry Wriothsley, Earl of Southampton - possibly the youth of the Sonnets

1593 Venus and Adonis
Begins writing the Sonnets, probably completed by c.1597 or earlier
Two Gentlemen of Verona
Love's Labour's Lost

1593-94 Theaters closed by plague

1593 Marlowe dies


Founding member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men

1594 The Rape of Lucrece



The Lyrical masterpieces

Prosperity and recognition as the leading London playwright.

1596 John Shakespeare reapplies successfully for a coat of arms
1596 Hamnet Shakespeare dies at age 11

Midsummer Night's Dream
Romeo and Juliet
Richard II
Merchant of

1594 Greene's Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay
1594 Marlowe's Edward II
1595 Thomas Kyd dies
1595 Sidney's An Apologia for Poetrie
1595 Sir Walter Raleigh explores the Orinoco
1596 Spenser's Faerie Queen (4-6)
1596 George Peele dies.


Artistic Maturity

Purchases New Place, Stratford with other significant investments

1599 The Globe Theater built on Bankside from the timbers of The Theatre.   Shakespeare is a shareholder and receives about 10% of the profits

Henry IV,1,2
The Merry Wives of
As You Like It
Ado About Nothing
Henry V
Julius Caesar

1597 Bacon's Essays, Civil and Moral
1598 Phillip II of Spain dies
1598 Francis Meres Palladis Tamia
1598 John Florio's A World of Words (English-Italian dictionary)
1598 Ben Jonson 's Every Man in his Humour
1599 Essex sent to Ireland and fails, is arrested on return
1599 Edmund Spenser dies


The Period of the Great Tragedies & Problem Plays

1600 The Fortune Theater opens

1601 Shakespeare's father dies

1603 The Lord Chamberlain's Men become The King's Men
who perform at court more than any other company

1607 Susanna Shakespeare married Dr. John Hall

1608 The King's Men begin playing at the Blackfriars

1608 Shakespeare's mother dies

Twelfth Night
Troilus & Cressida
Alls Well That Ends Well
Measure for Measure
King Lear
Antony and Clepatra
Timon of

1600 Kemp's Nine Daies Wonder
1600 Dekker's Shoemaker's Holiday

1601 Essex rebels against Elizabeth, fails and is executed
1601 Thomas Nashe dies

1603 Elizabeth dies, James VI of Scotland becomes James I of England
1603 Sir Walter Raleigh arrested, tried and imprisoned
1603 The plagueonce again ravages London

1604 Marston's The Malcontent

1605 The Gunpowder Plot - Guy Fawkes and accomplices arrested
1605 Bacon's The Advancement of Learning

1606 Ben Jonson's Volpone

1607 Tourneur (?) The Revenger's Tragedy
1607 The founding of Jamestown


Period of the Romances
1609 Publication of the Sonnets

Pericles Prince of Tyre
The Winter's Tale
The Tempest

1609 Beaumont & Fletcher The Knight of the Burning Pestle

1610 Prince Henry created Prince of Wales
Ben Jonson The Alchemist


Shakespeare probably retires from London life to Stratford
Works on collaborations with John Fletcher

1616 Judith Shakespeare married Thomas Quiney

March 1616 Shakespeare apparently ill revises his will

April 23, 1616 Shakespeare dies and is burried at Holy trinity Church, Stratford

Henry VIII
The Two Noble Kinsmen

1612 Henry Prince of Wales dies
1612 Webster's The White Devil

1613 Francis Bacon becomes attorney general

1614 Jonson's Bartholomew Fayre
1614 Webster's Duchess of Malfi
1614 Sir Walter Raleigh's History of the World

1616 Francis Beaumont dies
1616 Ben Jonson's Workes published in folio

1623 Publication of Shakespeare's First Folio


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