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William Shakespeare. William Shakespeare: Basic Details. Shakespeare was born in April of 1564 Grew up in a market town in Stratford Upon Avon, England . Although not much is known about his life, he was the son of a merchant and had a grammar school education.

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william shakespeare basic details
William Shakespeare: Basic Details

Shakespeare was born in April of 1564

Grew up in a market town in Stratford Upon Avon, England.

Although not much is known about his life, he was the son of a merchant and had a grammar school education.

He was well read: Virgil, Ovid, Plutarch, Holinshed’s Chronicles and the Bible. Evidence of all of these works are present in his own writing.

1582- Married Anne Hathaway. He was 18. They had three children. Susanna (1583) and twins, Judith and Hamnet (1585). Hamnet died of the plague in 1596.

By 1592- Shakespeare achieved some prominence as an actor and playwright in London.

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1593- Shakespeare is a published poet. He published Venus and Adonis and then in 1594 he published The Rape of Lucrece. Both were dedicated to the young earl of Southampton (Henry Wriothesley), who may have become Shakespeare’s patron.

These poems were written at a time when the theaters were closed because of the plague. In 1594, Shakespeare returned to acting and playwriting. He was a leading member of an acting troupe known as the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. Later it was known as the King’s Men. Shakespeare was a principal actor, dramatist, and shareholder for the rest of his career.

1599- Shakespeare’s company built a theater for themselves across the river from London, named the Globe. The theater burned down in 1613 following a fire sparked from a performance of Henry VII but it was later rebuilt. The plays considered Shakespeare’s major tragedies (Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth) as well as several comedies (Twelfth Night and Measure for Measure) were written when he was in residence at the Globe.

Shakespeare also performed at court for Queen Elizabeth I and after her death in 1603, for King James I.

Sometime between 1610-1613- Shakespeare returned to Stratford to live with his wife and daughters.

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Globe Theatre

Shakespeare’s House

Inside Globe Theatre

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April 23, 1616- Shakespeare dies in Stratford. He was buried on April 25th in Holy Trinity Church. You can still see his epitaph there.

1623- The First Folio is published. This included Shakespeare’s collected plays. It was entitled Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories and Tragedies. 36 of his 38 plays were included.

will the real william shakespeare please step forward
Will the REAL William Shakespeare Please Step Forward?
  • Since so little is know about one of the greatest playwrights in history, there has been a great deal of speculation about who actually wrote all these amazing plays!
  • Some of the possible contenders, besides William Shakespeare, are: Queen Elizabeth, Sir Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere (earl of Oxford), and Christopher Marlowe. There are various arguments for each of these individuals having written some of Shakespeare’s plays, but none of them is convincing enough to conclude that anyone other than William Shakespeare wrote the plays.
  • The Evidence for Shakespeare- Shakespeare’s plays mirror what we know of his life. We hear, “the voices of London--struggles for power, the fear of venereal disease, the language of buying and selling. One hears as well the voices of Stratford-upon-Avon--references to the nearby Forest of Arden, to sheep herding, to small-town gossip, to village friars and markets. Part of the richness of Shakespeare’s work is the influence felt there of the various worlds in which he lived: the world of metropolitan London, the world of small-town and rural England, the world of the theater, and the worlds of craftsmen and shepherds.” (xxxvi)
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Here is a scene from the movie Shakespeare in Love that gives you an idea of the time period, showcasing a common dance style, music and fashion of the day. 
shakespeare s time church state
Shakespeare’s Time: Church & State

In 17th Century England, there was no separation between Church and State. The King was head of both.

“In view of the overriding importance of religion and the spiritual life in early seventeenth-century England, and in view of the control exerted over both religion and morality by the State in this era when Parliament actually debated the death penalty for pre-marital sex.” (xiv)

Marriage Rituals- Marriage began with courtship, which was usually brief. Family involvement in marriage increased with the social status. Following courtship, there was a private promise to marry. Then there would be a more public betrothal. The ceremony was called “handfasting.” The couple usually held hands and exchanged vows before witnesses. It seems that many couples regarded themselves as married at this point, even though they had not been married in the church, and then began a sexual relationship. In the eyes of the church, and the law, a couple would not be considered wed until there was a formal church wedding, followed by a wedding feast and then the couple could consummate their marriage. (227-8)