William Shakespeare – Poet, Playwright
William Shakespeare, known as the English national poet, and the greatest dramatist of all time, was born on April 23 and baptized at Holy Trinity Church on April 26, 1564 in Stratford-on-Avon, as the third son child of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden. He was His father was a leather merchant, and mother, a local landed heiress. He had two older sisters, Joan and Judith, and three younger brothers, Gilbert, Richard and Edmund.
Few records suggest that he was probably educated at the King Edward VI Grammar School in Stratford, where he learned Latin and Greek and read the Roman dramatists. At the age of eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway, a 26-year old woman. They had two daughters: Susanna (1583), and Judith (whose twin brother died in boyhood), born in 1585.
Little is known about Shakespeare’s activities between 1585 and 1592. These seven years is named as the “lost years,” by the scholars and there is wide speculation on what he was doing during this period. He might have begun a successful career as an actor, writer, and part-owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later known as the King’s Men, in London. Early in his career, Shakespeare dedicated his first two poems, Venus and Adonis (1593) and The Rape of Lucrece (1594) to his benefactor Henry Wriothesley, earl of Southampton. Later, in his life, evidence show that both he and his contemporaries looked to playwriting for permanent fame, rather than his poems.
Regarded as the foremost dramatist of his time, his early plays were written in the conventional style metaphors and rhetorical phrases. His innovative talent for combining thousands of words and the impressive expansion of the English language, including Latin, French, and native roots, are found in his plays and poems.
Shakespeare’s first plays were mostly histories written in the early 1590s, such as Richard II, Henry VI (parts 1, 2 and 3) and Henry V. These plays depict the critical results of weak or corrupt rulers of the Tudor Dynasty. In 1596, he wrote Romeo and Juliet, his second masterpiece tragedy romantic play. Several comedies during his early period, such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It and Twelfth Night, are his excellent witty and romantic plays. Other plays from before 1600, include Titus Andronicus, The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew and The Two Gentlemen of Verona. He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth, some of the finest works in the English language. In his final phase, he wrote several tragicomedies like Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest.
Shakespeare retired from the stage and returned to his home in Stratford sometime after 1612. He drew up his will in January of 1616, in which he left the bulk of his possessions to his eldest daughter, Susanna. The will states his famous bequest to his wife as the “second best bed.” He died on April 23, 1616, and was buried two days later at Stratford Church.