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Understanding Shakespeare: Home

A page with useful resources for watching, understanding and writing about the works of William Shakespeare.



William Shakespeare was baptized in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire, on April 26, 1564. April 23, 1564 is the day that most believe to be his birthday, but there are no records that state what day he was born. His father, John Shakespeare, was a whittawer by profession and held several important town offices. His mother, Mary Arden, was from a fairly wealthy family. In all the Shakespeares had eight children, and William was their first son.

Shakespeare did not have an extensive education. He attended Stratford grammar school, a school that specifically served prominent citizens. It is not known how long Shakespeare attended, but it is assumed that this is the only education he received.

On November 28, 1582 Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, a farmer's daughter. Anne was twenty six years old when they married, and William was only eighteen. Anne and William's first daughter, Susanna, was Baptiste on May 26, 1582. A set of twins, Hamnet and Judith, were born two years later. In 1596 Hamnet died at the age of eleven. Between 1585 and 1592 no records of Shakespeare were found, and that period of his life is usually referred to as "The Lost Years". Some have speculated that he either became a school teacher, became a butcher's apprentice, or was running from the law during this time.

The first evidence of Shakespeare after 1592 was in London. Here he had established himself as a playwright and actor and had found a sponsor, Henry Wriothsley. However, Shakespeare's work in the theaters came to a halt in January of 1593 when the theaters closed because of the plague. The company that Shakespeare worked for was called "Lord Chamberlain's Men" and changed their name to "The King's Men" after King James I took over in 1603. Because Shakespeare worked and performed for them, this company became the biggest and most famous acting company. Shakespeare became very wealthy as a director, writer, actor, and stockholder in "The King's Men".

In 1611 Shakespeare retired and left London. He made a will on March 25, 1616, and died on April 23, 1616. He was fifty two years old. The cause of Shakespeare's death is not known. Shakespeare also wrote his own epitaph because during his time, when the graveyard was full, people would dig up someone's corpse and burn it so that another could be buried in that person's place. This disgusted Shakespeare, and he didn't want this type of disrespect after his death. His epitaph reads as follows:

"Good Friends, for Jesus' sake forbear,
To dig the bones enclosed here!
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones."

To this day no one has disturbed Shakespeare's grave.


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