William Shakespeare was born in 1564, supposedly on 22 or 23 April, in Stratford-upon-Avon. His father, John, who was a prosperous glover there, preparing and selling soft leather, became alderman and later high bailiff. Shakespeare was educated at Stratford Grammar School. When he was eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway – eight years older than he and already, she was pregnant. Six months later their daughter Susanna was born. They had twins, a boy Hamnet and a girl named Judith, two years later.
There are no records of Shakespeare’s life during the seven years that followed, ? the lost years’. But by 1592 he was already an established actor and playwright in London. He joined the Lord Chamberlain’s Men in 1594, working as a leading actor and dramatist. By 1599 this all-male company of experienced and talented players – no women appeared on the stage until the Restoration – had built their own theatre, the Globe. Its owners were seven member of the company, including Shakespeare himself, who shared in its profits.
For the next decade the Globe, on the Thames at Bankside, was to be London’s chief theatre, and the home of Shakespeare’s work. Many of his greatest plays were written during these ten years, and were acted there. Both Queen Elizabeth, and after her James I, showed the company many favors. In 1613, during a performance of Henry VIII, the Globe was destroyed by fire. But the Lord Chamberlain’s men, by now called the King’s Men, had four years earlier leased a second, smaller playhouse, the Blackfriars.
This was an indoor theatre, unlike the Globe which was open to the sky, and it had the technical facilities for scenic effects – a fact which probably accounts for the spectacular element in Shakespeare’s late plays. In 1612, Shakespeare, it seems, went home. His son Hamnet had died when only eleven, but his two daughters were in Stratford-upon-avon with his wife Anne. He was now a wealthy man and had, as long before as 1597, bought a handsome house, New Place, the second largest in Stratford.
It had two gardens, two orchards, and two barns. Here, with his family, he spent the last years of his life. Shakespeare remained friends with actors and poets, worked sometimes, and visited London. He bought a house in Blackfriars in 1613. He died on April 23rd, 1616, after entertaining Ben Jonson and Michael Drayton at New Place. He is buried at Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-avon. He wrote thirty-seven plays.
Courtney from Study Moose
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