William Shakespeare was a great English playwright,
dramatist and poet who lived during the late sixteenth and
early seventeenth centuries. Shakespeare is considered to
be the greatest playwright of all time. No other writer's
plays have been produced so many times or read so widely in
so many countries as his.
Shakespeare was born to middle class parents. His father,
John, was a Stratford businessman. He was a glove maker who
owned a leather shop. John Shakespeare was a well known and
respected man in the town. He held several important local
governmental positions. William Shakespeare's mother was
Mary Arden. Though she was the daughter of a local farmer,
she was related to a family of considerable wealth and
social standing. Mary Arden and John Shakespeare were
married in 1557.
William Shakespeare was born in Stratford in 1564. He was
one of eight children. The Shakespeare's were well
respected prominent people. When William Shakespeare was
about seven years old, he probably began attending the
Stratford Grammar School with other boys of his social
class. Students went to school year round attending school
for nine hours a day. The teachers were strict
disciplinarians. Though Shakespeare spent long hours at
school, his boyhood was probably fascinating. Stratford was
a lively town and during holidays, it was known to put on
pageants and many popular shows. It also held several large
fairs during the year. Stratford was a exciting place to
live. Stratford also had fields and woods surrounding it
giving William the opportunity to hunt and trap small game.
The River Avon which ran through the town allowed him to
fish also. Shakespeare's' poems and plays show his love of
nature and rural life which reflects his childhood.
On November 28, 1582, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway of
the neighboring village of Shottery. She was twenty-six,
and he was only eighteen at the time. They had three
children. Susana was their first and then they had twins,
Hamnet and Judith. Hamnet, Shakespeare's son, died in 1596.
In 1607, his daughter Susana got married. Shakespeare's
other daughter, Judith, got married in 1616. In London,
Shakespeare's career took off. It is believed that he may
have become well known in London theatrical life by 1592.
By that time, he had joined one of the city's repertory
theater companies. These companies were made up of a
permanent cast of actors who presented different plays week
after week. The companies were commercial organizations
that depended on admission from their audience. Scholars
know that Shakespeare belonged to one of the most popular
acting companies in London called The Lord Chamberlain's
Men. Shakespeare was a leading member of the group from
1594 for the rest of his career. By 1594, at least six of
Shakespeare's plays had been produced.
During Shakespeare's life, there were two monarchs who
ruled England. They were Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Both
were impressed with Shakespeare which made his name known.
There is evidence that he was a member of a traveling
theater group, and a schoolmaster. In 1594, he became an
actor and playwright for Lord Chamberlain's Men. In 1599,
he became a part owner of the prosperous Globe Theater. He
also was a part owner of the Blackfriars Theater as of
1609. Shakespeare retired to Stratford in 1613 where he
wrote many of his excellent plays.
He is generally considered to be both the greatest
dramatist the world has ever known as well as the finest
poet who has written in the English language. He was able
to find universal human qualities and put them in a
dramatic situation creating characters that are timeless.
Yet he had the ability to create characters that are highly
individual human beings. Their struggles in life are
universal. Sometimes they are successful and sometimes
their lives are full of pain, suffering, and failure.
In addition to his understanding and realistic view of
human nature, Shakespeare had a vast knowledge of a variety
of subjects. These subjects include music, law, Bible,
stage, art, politics, history, hunting, and sports.
Shakespeare had a tremendous influence on culture and
literature throughout the world. He contributed greatly to
the development of the English language. Many words and
phrases from Shakespeare's plays and poems have become part
of our speech. Shakespeare's plays and poems have become a
required part of education in the United States. Therefore,
his ideas on subjects such as romantic love, heroism,
comedy, and tragedy have helped shape the attitudes of
millions of people. His portrayal of historical figures and
events have influenced our thinking more than what has been
written in history books.
The world has admired and respected many great writers, but
only Shakespeare has generated such enormous continuing
interest. Shakespeare's plays are usually divided into
three major categories; comedy, tragedy, and history. Three
plays which are in the category of comedy are "The Comedy
of Errors", "The Taming of the Shrew", and "The Two
Gentlemen of Verone". Three plays which are in the category
of tragedy are "Romeo and Juliet", "Titus Andronicus", and
"Julius Caesar". In the category of history, three plays
are "Henry V", "Richard II", and "Richard III".