William Shakespeare
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William Shakespeare (abt. 1564 - 1616)

William "The Bard of Avon" Shakespeare
Born about in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married Nov 1582 [location unknown]
Descendants descendants
Died in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, Englandmap
Profile last modified | Created 7 Aug 2008
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Biography

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William Shakespeare is Notable.
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William Shakespeare was born in Warwickshire, England.

English poet and playwright William Shakespeare is widely considered to be the best English language writer and dramatist of all time. A prolific writer, his enduring contributions to literature include 154 sonnets and popular plays such as Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. His influential works continue to be studied and performed all over the world.

Contents

Early life

William was born in April 1564 in the market town of Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, to John Shakespeare and his wife Mary Arden.[1][2][3][4] He was baptised on 26 April 1564 at Holy Trinity, Stratford, and entered in the parish register as: "Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakspere" (William son of John Shakspere).[5][6] His exact date of birth is not recorded, but is widely celebrated on 23 April, St George's Day. This date is not supported by contemporary sources and originates from an error by 18th century scholars.[7][4][8]

John Shakespeare's house in
Henley St, Stratford-upon-Avon

His family lived in Henley Street, Stratford, in the building now known as Shakespeare's Birthplace. His father worked as a glover and for a time prospered, buying the house in Henley Street and other local properties. He served as an alderman from 1565[9] and held the office of bailiff of Stratford, the town's civic head, in 1568-9.[10] As the years passed, John Shakespeare fell on hard times. Struggling to pay his creditors, he was replaced as alderman in 1586,[11] and in 1592 recorded as recusant from church services "for feare of processe for debtte."[12][8][13]

William was the eldest son and third of eight children.[8] Most modern biographers agree he was educated at the King's New School, a free school not far from his home in Stratford, although no record has survived of his attendance.[8][14] According to one local tradition, he was apprenticed to his father.[1]

Marriage and family

Anne Hathaway's Cottage in Shottery

In 1582 he married Anne Hathaway, the daughter of Richard Hathaway, husbandman, of Shottery, a small village about a mile west of Stratford. William was age 18 and Anne was about 26.[15][16][17]

The date and location of their wedding are unknown, other than it was held after the Bishop of Worcester granted them a marriage licence on 27 November 1582.[18][15] A marriage bond for £40 given the next day by two friends of the Hathaway family states:

if hereafter there shall not appere any lawfull lett or impediment ... William Shagspere one thone partie, and Anne Hathwey, of Stratford in the Dioces of Worcester, maiden, may lawfully solemnize matrimony together, and in the same afterwards remaine and continew man and wiffe[16][19][17]

The licence dispensed with the usual requirement for marriage banns to be read out on three consecutive Sundays before the wedding, and instead allowed them to marry after a single reading of banns.[19][15][16][17]

Their haste to get married is probably explained by Anne being about three months pregnant.[15][16] Their first child, Susanna, was baptised on 26 May 1583. Two years later, she was followed by twins, Hamnet and Judith, probably named after two of the Shakespeare family’s friends, Hamnet and Judith Sadler.[8] The parish register of Holy Trinity, Stratford, records:

  • 1583: "May ... 26. Susanna daughter of William Shakspere."[20][21]
  • 1584/5: "February 2. Hamnet & Judeth sonne & daughter to Williã Shakspere."[22][23]

Very little is recorded about Shakespeare’s life between 1585 and 1592. This period, known by scholars as his "lost years," has been the subject of much speculation.[24] According to one anecdote, he worked as a "schoolmaster in the Countery,"[1] and an apocryphal story first published in 1709 accused him of fleeing Stratford after he was caught poaching deer from the nearby estate of Sir Thomas Lucy.[25]

Literary and theatrical career

Title page of Shakespeare's
First Folio, published in 1623

The earliest surviving record of Shakespeare's rise in the London theatre scene is from 1592, when Robert Greene's pamphlet, Groates-worth of Witte, attacked him as:

an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tyger's heart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and beeing an absolute Johannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.[26]

By this time he is thought to have written the parts of Henry VI, Taming of the Shrew, perhaps The Comedy of Errors and other plays, although it is difficult to date them with precision.[27] The success of Henry VI, Part 1 prompted playwright Thomas Nashe to write in 1592:

How would it have joy'd brave Talbot (the terror of the French) to thinke that after he had lyne two hundred yeare in his tomb, he should triumph againe on the stage, and have his bones newe embalmed with the teares of ten thousand spectators at least[28][27]

An outbreak of the plague forced the closure of London's theatres for much of the two years from June 1592. When the plague abated in 1594, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, a new company of actors founded by Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, emerged as a leading playing company in London. Shakespeare was one of the company's original members and wrote plays exclusively for them from that time on. After the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603, the new King, James I, became the company's patron and they continued under the name the King's Men.[8]

Romeo and Juliet's balcony scene
(Ford Madox Brown, 1870)

Shakespeare shared in the profits of the company and by 1597 had accumulated enough wealth to purchase New Place, reportedly the second largest house in Stratford-upon-Avon, including two barns, two gardens and two orchards. He is thought to have divided his time between his work in London and living with his wife and children in Stratford.[8] His only son, Hamnet, died at age 11 and was buried at Holy Trinity, Stratford on 11 August 1596.[29][30]

In 1599, six members of the Lord Chamberlain's Men, including Shakespeare, opened the Globe theatre, an open-aired amphitheatre on land owned by Nicholas Brend, just south of the River Thames in Southwark, Surrey. In 1608, the partnership also acquired the lease of the Blackfriars Theatre, a more prestigious indoor theatre, and the company played both venues.[8]

Throughout his career Shakespeare performed in his own and other plays, but his forte was writing. He composed 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and other verses. His 36 or more extant plays include comedies, histories, tragedies and romances, with A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet among his acclaimed works.[8]

Death

His playwriting career continued until 1613.[31] According to his early biographers, he retired to Stratford "some years before his death,"[32] although evidence suggests he continued to travel to London until at least 1614.[8]

Shakespeare's monument
(Dugdale's Warwickshire, 1656)

He died at Stratford on 23 April 1616 from an undocumented illness.[33] He had made his will less than one month earlier on 25 March 1616 in which he is described as being "in p[er]fect health & memorie."[34][35]

He was buried in the chancel of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford, on 25 April 1616.[36][37] The stone slab over his grave bears this eroded inscription, reputedly devised by Shakespeare himself:

Good frend for Jesus sake forbeare,
To digg the dust encloased heare:
Bleste be ye man yt spares thes stones.
And curst be he yt moves my bones.[38]

He was survived by his wife Anne and their two married daughters. Susanna, the elder of the two, was the wife of Dr John Hall, a physician, and Judith, had recently married Thomas Quiney, vintner.[39][40]

Shakespeare's signature on his will, 1616

Under his will, his only bequest to his wife Anne was his "second best bed w[i]th the furniture." He gave £300 to his daughter Judith, subject to conditions, and smaller legacies to his sister, nephews and others. He gave his daughter Susanna a life interest in his houses in New Place and Henley Street, Stratford, and Blackfriars, London, and also made her and her husband residual beneficiaries and executors of the will. He appointed Thomas Russell and Francis Collins as overseers.[34][41][35][42]

The full text of his will is here. His will was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury by his son-in-law John Hall on 22 June 1616.[34][41][35][42]

Shakespeare has no living descendants. His four grandchildren died young without having children of their own.[40][43]

Sources

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Andrew Clark (ed), 'Brief Lives,' Chiefly of Contemporaries, set down by John Aubrey, between the Years 1669 & 1696, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1898, volume 2, pages 225-7. Internet Archive (accessed 25 Mar 2020)
  2. Samuel Johnson (ed), The Plays of William Shakespeare, in Eight Volumes, London, 1768, volume 1, pages cvlvi, clxv-clxvi Google Books (accessed 18 Mar 2020)
  3. Thomas Fuller, The History of the Worthies of England, London: Thomas Tegg, 1840, volume 3, page 284 Google Books (accessed 18 Mar 2020)
  4. 4.0 4.1 S. Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare A Compact Documentary Life, Oxford University Press, 1977, pages 23-6 Internet Archive (accessed 2 Apr 2020)
  5. Richard Savage, The registers of Stratford-on-Avon, in the County of Warwick, Baptisms, 1558-1652 , London: privately printed, 1897, page 9. Internet Archive (accessed 18 Mar 2020)
  6. 'Parish register entry recording William Shakespeare's baptism', 26 Apr 1564, Shakespeare Documented, Folger Shakespeare Library (accessed 1 Apr 2020)
  7. Bolton Corney, An argument on the assumed birthday of Shakespere: Reduced to shape A.D. 1864, privately printed, 1864, page 4 et seq. Google Books (accessed 1 Apr 2020)
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 8.8 8.9 Peter Holland, ‘Shakespeare, William (1564-1616), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn Jan 2013 (accessed 18 Mar 2020).
  9. 'Record of a meeting of the Stratford-upon-Avon Corporation when John Shakespeare was elected an alderman' 4 Jul 1565, Shakespeare Documented, Folger Shakespeare Library (accessed 2 Apr 2020)
  10. 'Meeting of the Stratford-upon-Avon Corporation at which John Shakespeare was elected bailiff', 4 Sep 1568, Shakespeare Documented, Folger Shakespeare Library (accessed 2 Apr 2020)
  11. 'Meeting of the Stratford-upon-Avon Corporation at which John Shakespeare and John Wheeler are removed from the office of aldermen', 6 Sep 1586, Shakespeare Documented, Folger Shakespeare Library (accessed 2 Apr 2020)]
  12. 'Second certificate of the commissioners for Warwickshire showing John Shakespeare failing to attend church "for feare of processe for debtte"', 25 Sep 1592, Shakespeare Documented, Folger Shakespeare Library (accessed 2 Apr 2020)
  13. S. Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare A Compact Documentary Life, Oxford University Press, 1977, pages 30-43 Internet Archive (accessed 21 Mar 2020)
  14. S. Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare A Compact Documentary Life, Oxford University Press, 1977, pages 65-71 Internet Archive (accessed 2 Apr 2020)
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 S. Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare A Compact Documentary Life, Oxford University Press, 1977, pages 75-88 Internet Archive (accessed 2 Apr 2020)
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 J. Payne Collier, The plays of William Shakespeare, London: Whittaker, 1844, volume 1, pages lxxxvi-lxxxvii. Google Books (accessed 27 Mar 2020)
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 E K Chambers, William Shakespeare A Study Of Facts And Problems, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1930, volume 2, pages 41-52. Internet Archive (accessed 13 May 2020)
  18. 'Entry in the Bishop's register concerning the marriage of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway', 27 Nov 1582, Shakespeare Documented, Folger Shakespeare Library (accessed 2 Apr 2020)
  19. 19.0 19.1 'The Shakespeare marriage bond', 28 Nov 1582, Shakespeare Documented, Folger Shakespeare Library (accessed 2 Apr 2020)
  20. Richard Savage, The registers of Stratford-on-Avon, in the County of Warwick, Baptisms, 1558-1652 , London: privately printed, 1897, page 35 Internet Archive (accessed 28 Mar 2020)
  21. 'Parish register entry recording Susanna Shakespeare's baptism', 26 May 1583, Shakespeare Documented, Folger Shakespeare Library (accessed 2 Apr 2020)
  22. Richard Savage, The registers of Stratford-on-Avon, in the County of Warwick, Baptisms, 1558-1652 , London: privately printed, 1897, page 39 Internet Archive (accessed 28 Mar 2020)
  23. 'Parish register entry recording Hamnet and Judith Shakespeare’s baptisms', 2 Feb 1585, Shakespeare Documented, Folger Shakespeare Library (accessed 2 Apr 2020)
  24. S. Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare A Compact Documentary Life, Oxford University Press, 1977, pages 95-117 Internet Archive (accessed 28 Mar 2020)
  25. Nicholas Rowe (ed), The Works of Mr. William Shakespear; in six volumes, London: John Tonson, 1709, volume 1, page v. Google Books (accessed 2 Apr 2020)
  26. Robert Greene, Groats-Worth of Witte: Bought with a million of Repentance, The Repentance of Robert Greene, London. 1592 (reprinted 1923), pages 45-6 Google Books (accessed 30 Mar 2020)
  27. 27.0 27.1 S. Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare A Compact Documentary Life, Oxford University Press, 1977, pages 159-62 Internet Archive (accessed 30 Mar 2020)
  28. Thomas Nash, Pierce Penniless's supplication to the Devil, London: Shakespeare Society, 1842, page 60 Internet Archive (accessed 2 Apr 2020)
  29. Richard Savage, The registers of Stratford-on-Avon, in the County of Warwick, Burials, 1558-1622-3 , London: privately printed, 1905, page 55 Internet Archive (accessed 30 Mar 2020)
  30. 'Parish register entry recording Hamnet Shakespeare’s burial', 11 Aug 1596, Shakespeare Documented, Folger Shakespeare Library (accessed 2 Apr 2020)
  31. S. Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare A Compact Documentary Life, Oxford University Press, 1977, pages 278-9 Internet Archive (accessed 1 Apr 2020)
  32. Nicholas Rowe (ed), The Works of Mr. William Shakespear; in six volumes, London: John Tonson, 1709, volume 1, page xxxv. Google Books (accessed 2 Apr 2020)
  33. S. Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare A Compact Documentary Life, Oxford University Press, 1977, page 310 Internet Archive (accessed 5 Apr 2020). His funerary monument at Holy Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon, records: "Obiit Ano Doi 1616 Aetatis 53 Die 23 Apr" (Died in the year 1616 age 53 23rd day of April).
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 The National Archives. Reference: PROB 1/4. Description: Will of William Shakespeare 25 March 1616. Proved 22 June 1616. Date: 22 June 1616. A transcript is here.
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 'Shakespeare's last will and testament: made 25 March 1616, proved 22 June 1616.' Shakespeare Documented, Folger Shakespeare Library (accessed 8 Apr 2020)
  36. Richard Savage, The registers of Stratford-on-Avon, in the County of Warwick, Burials, 1558-1622-3 , London: privately printed, 1905, page 90 Internet Archive (accessed 1 Apr 2020)
  37. 'Parish register entry recording William Shakespeare's burial', 25 Apr 1616, Shakespeare Documented, Folger Shakespeare Library (accessed 8 Apr 2020)
  38. S. Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare A Compact Documentary Life, Oxford University Press, 1977, page 306 Internet Archive (accessed 1 Apr 2020)
  39. S. Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare A Compact Documentary Life, Oxford University Press, 1977, pages 286-96 Internet Archive (accessed 5 Apr 2020)
  40. 40.0 40.1 Nicholas Rowe (ed), The Works of Mr. William Shakespear; in six volumes, London: John Tonson, 1709, volume 1, page xxxvtt. Google Books (accessed 5 Apr 2020)
  41. 41.0 41.1 The National Archives. Reference: PROB 11/127/771. Description: Will of William Shakespeare, Gentleman of Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire. Date: 22 June 1616.
  42. 42.0 42.1 'Will of William Shakespeare, Gentleman of Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire', Shakespeare Documented, Folger Shakespeare Library (accessed 8 Apr 2020)
  43. 'William Shakespeare’s Family', Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (accessed 7 Apr 2020)

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Comments: 13

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Hi Ian,

I took some really good photos of Shakespeare's birthplace (inside and out!) When I was in Stratford in 2018. Please let me know if you would like one or two of the best for the profile and I will upload them for you with date, place, and photography info. You can delete them if you are not wild about them. please contact me at Baldwin-3428. Thank you, Carol Baldwin

posted by Carol Baldwin PhD, RN
I plan to work on the profile of William Shakespeare (Shakespeare-1) on behalf of the England Project's Managed Profiles team. My plan is to expand the biography and add some more sources. Please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions.

Thanks Ian

posted by I. Speed
The picture of Stratford Mill by John Constable has nothing to do with William Shakespeare. The picture by John Constable is of the River Stour in Suffolk in 1820 over 200 years after Shakespeare's death

https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/john-constable-stratford-mill

posted by Roger Hancock
In light of these arguments (circumstantial though they may be) and absent a Catholic Baptism and or Confirmation certificate, I think we can say that Shakespeare was suspected of being a Catholic in his own time and present day scholars are inclinded to agree with that suspicion.
posted by Michele Britton
B) circa 1676, while speaking of Shakespeare's death 60 years in the past, protestant clergyman Richard Davis said the writer "died as a papist".

4. Shakespeare's daughter, Susanna, had refused to take the oath of supremacy which affirmed the English monarch as the head of the church. That refusal was a position held by many Catholics and one that landed Susanna in the court of the Recusant.

5. In 1613 Shakespeare purchased the Blackfriars Gatehouse in London and leased it out as a safehouse for Catholics fugitives and priests.

6. Brother of the Gatehouse tenent went to Rome to study for the priesthoid after such activity was banned in England.

posted by Michele Britton
Arguing for Shakespeare's clandestine Catholicism are the following:

1. Shakespeare's writings "clearly point to somebody who was not just saturated in Catholicism, but occasionally argued for it," said Claire Asquith, a scholar and author of "Shadowplay: The Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of William Shakespeare.

Asquith continues on by discussing Hamlet and how it portrays a Catholic's point of view.

2. "Author of 'Through Shakespeare's Eyes: Seeing Catholic Presence in the Plays', scholar Joseph Pearce takes this conflict a step further by saying the play is speaking out against England's persecution of Catholic priests. "The play illustrates the venting of Shakespeare's spleen against the spy network of England which had led to many a Catholic priest being arrested, tortured and martyred," said Pearce, who is director of the Center for Faith and Culture in Nashville, Tennessee and author of three books on Shakespeare."

3. Contemporary instances of Shakespeare having been recognized as Catholic:

A) In 1611, John Speed, a protestant & government propagandist accused Shakespeare if being "a Papist" after Shakespeare wrote a parody about the protestant martyr, John Oldcastle.

posted by Michele Britton
Quoted from Schneible

"While scholars agree that Shakespeare's writings indicate sympathies for the Catholic cause, definative proof from his life that he was a covert Catholic is harder to come by. in fact, Asquith said, there is even resistance among the academic community regarding his possible relationship with the Catholic Church, despite the vast evidence from the writings of Shakespeare and his contemporaries."

posted by Michele Britton
Additional source

Schneible, Ann. "Was Shakespeare Actually a Secret Catholic?" CRUX. Crux Catholic Media Inc., 24 Apr. 2016. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.<http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2016/04/24/was-shakespeare-actually-a-secret-catholic>

posted by Michele Britton
Although Shakespeare is best known for his works in literature, many people also know him for the controversy his name brings up. There are many different views on different aspects of Shakespeare's life including his religious affiliations, whether or not he actually wrote his plays or stole them from someone else, his sexual orientation, among many other things.

This whole thought I think should be deleted from the narrative because it is only modern speculation. Too little is known about Shakespeare to support this as a fact. It would also eliminate the dangling preposition phrase "brings up".

(100 _______ northwest of London)???

posted by Vincent Piazza
someone else, his sexual orientation, among many other things.

there should be an "and" in this sentence or a semi-colon, I would go with an "and" before "his sexual orientation"

also, would it be amongst (I'm not an expert with that word but among doesn't sound right in this sentence)

posted by Vincent Piazza
...to be the best English language writers of all time.

either "one of" (or something similar) is missing from this sentence or writers is singular.

posted by Vincent Piazza