William Shakespeare Biography

Scholars know little about Shakespeare the Man, but significant evidence exists to suggest that Shakespeare the Writer/Producer/Actor/Director achieved success as an entrepreneur, and that he possessed an acute sense of what makes good theater and good entertainment. The very prosperous middle class that spawned him allowed William Shakespeare to parlay his sensitive understanding of entertainment into a financial success.

Shakespeare's father, a landowner who raised sheep, was a well-respected guild member in Stratford-Upon-Avon, a major midlands trade center at the heart of England. He attained public office before reaching his twentieth birthday and rose to the position of High Lord Mayor before his son William left for London in 1592. The prestige and respect that the elder Mr. Shakespeare earned in his lifetime afforded him and his descendants a coat of arms in 1596 — a veritable promotion from commoner to peer of the realm, gentry status. William Shakespeare was born to entitlement.

Born in 1564, William was the eldest son of John and Mary Shakespeare. Though no records corroborate, Shakespeare undoubtedly attended Edward VI grammar school, established in 1543 for the sons of the landed gentry of the community. The curriculum would have versed the young Shakespeare in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, and some German; he would have read the Classics and been well familiarized with the writings of Aristotle, Plautus, Cicero, and others, and he would have been schooled in Italian poetry and art.

In 1582, William Shakespeare's name appears on a marriage certificate at Trinity Church along with his wife Anne Hathaway, the daughter of a landowner in nearby Shottery. The two became parents to Susanna seven months later. A birth certificate in 1585 naming Shakespeare father to twins Hamnet and Judith provides the last record of the life he led before he left for London to join a theater company. As far as anyone can tell, Shakespeare left for London in 1585 or 1586, and his name disappears from all records for several years.

In 1592, a theater critic contemporary of Shakespeare's wrote a scathing review of a play that lists William Shakespeare as a weak and unpromising player. From then on, however, the existing reviews are increasingly positive and increasingly about Shakespeare's writing rather than his acting. By 1595 Shakespeare had attained enough of a stronghold in the London theater world to become a shareholder in the Lord Chamberlain's Men, a popular London acting company.

In 1596, the same year that his father achieved peerage, Shakespeare's only son Hamnet died. The following year William Shakespeare returned to Stratford and bought the grandest house in town, an elegant estate called New Place. Back in London, Shakespeare participated in the design and construction of the Globe Theater, which opened on Bankside in 1599.

Shakespeare's reputation and success grew each year. After his father died in 1601 and he inherited the house now known as "The (Shakespeare) Birthplace," he bought into the construction of the Blackfriars Theater, one of the first indoor theaters designed and built by contemporary architect and set designer Inigo Jones. James I, King of England, patented The Chamberlain's Men in 1603, and the company renamed itself The King's Men. As such, the players mounted approximately twelve productions a year at court. By 1609, they had moved permanently to the Blackfriars Theater where they performed year-round. In 1610, Shakespeare purchased a large townhouse in London but returned to live permanently in Stratford

After his death in 1616, Shakespeare was buried in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon. His daughters, Judith Quiney and Susanna Hall, inherited New Place, his birthplace, and all his various London and Stratford properties; Anne Hathaway inherited his "second best bed."

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