Widely considered the greatest writer
of all time, William Shakespeare is the author of over three dozen astounding plays and 150 poems.
He was born in Stratford-on-Avon and was christened in the town's parish on April 26, 1564. For
seven years, he attended the Stratford Grammar School, where he learned Latin and studied the Bible
and English composition. It is believed that Shakespeare became an apprentice to a butcher after
leaving school. At eighteen, he married the twenty-seven-year-old Anne Hathaway with whom he had
three children. It is unknown how Shakespeare supported this family, but tradition says that he
was a schoolteacher.
believe that Shakespeare's interest in plays grew as he attended the performances of traveling drama
troupes. He left his family and moved to London between 1587 and 1588. By 1592, he was busy
and successful in London theater. From 1592 to 1613, Shakespeare was continuously a member of
one company. He became famous in 1593 as the author of the best-selling erotic poem Venus and
Adonis. He began to prosper in 1596 and then in 1599 joined the Lord Chamberlain's Men, a drama
troupe. His group financed the famous Globe Theater on the south side of the Thames. By
1600, Shakespeare was earning money as a playwright, actor and a shareholder in the theater and six
of his plays had been given command performances at the court of Queen Elizabeth I. The Lord Chamberlain's
Men company also prospered under the reign of King James of Scotland, Elizabeth's successor. James
took the company under his patronage and renamed them the King's Men. This patronage brought Shakespeare
much prosperity and he was able to make profitable real estate investments in London and Stratford.
In 1612 Shakespeare decided to retire
from his plays and theatrical enterprises to his home in Stratford. During the first performance
of Henry VIII in 1613 at the Globe, the firing of a cannon in Act 1 set the theater on fire. Fortunately,
Shakespeare's beloved Globe was rebuilt and reopened in 1614. It is believed that he spent the
last two years of his life at New Place (a handsome estate in Stratford) with his daughter Susanna and
granddaughter Elizabeth. He died on April 23, 1616 and was buried under the floor of Stratford
Church. His first folio, a collection of eighteen of his plays was published in 1623.