“”Few authors today write with such universal understanding that theirworks will be popular with all types of people, and so successfully that theirwork survives centuries. These authors posses qualities we can seldom identifyin their lifetimes. Yet we do know this — William Shakespeare was one of them. William Shakespeare’s parents were John Shakespeare and Mary Arden. John Shakespeare was born in 1529.
His father was a small tenant farmer inSnitterfield, near Stratford-upon-Avon. He became a successful glover andtrader, and owned civic office in Stratford. He was not born to the nobility,but he did have some authority in the town. In 1596 he was given by the Collegeof Arms the right to a coat of arms and a crest. Doing that advanced his statusto that of a country gentleman. He would belong to the upper class of ruralsociety.
That was the class just under the knights and the nobility to which thecountry gentleman could be promoted if he made money in trade or the law and hadinfluence at court. His rise in authority began the year after he was married. He became constable of Stratford, in charge of keeping the town safe. From 1561to 1565, he was Chamberlain, responsible for the oversight and maintenance ofCorporation of Stratford property.
In 1564, his name appeared on the list ofCapital Burgesses. He was likely a member for a number of years, just withouthis name on the list. Capital Burgesses were the main English parliamentrepresentatives for towns or boroughs. Later on, he was bailiff of the town,and held many important positions throughout his life. William Shakespeare’smother, Mary Arden, was born to nobility, a wealthy family. She was theyoungest daughter of Robert Arden, also a country gentleman, of Wilmcote.
Heleft in his will to Mary the estate of Asbies in Wilmcote and six pounds,thirteen shillings, and sixpence. Within a year of her father’s death, in 1557,Mary married John Shakespeare. William Shakespeare was the third child, born after Joan and MargaretShakespeare. Margaret died before William was born, and Joan died sometimebefore 1569. William was born in 1564. His exact birth date is not known,though it is known that he was baptized on April 26 in the Holy Trinity Churchof Stratford.
His birthday could have been any of the four or five days beforethat day. Traditionally, it has been said that he was born on the 23 of April,the same day of his death and St. George’s Day, but this is more because of thecoincidence than based on fact. Gilbert Shakespeare was born in 1566, Anne wasborn in 1571, Richard in 1574, and Edmund in 1580.
This made William the eldest. Little is known about William’s childhood. He was educated for free atthe local grammar school, and learned Latin and a little bit of Greek. Hisplays suggest that he did not enjoy school, and it seems that he did enjoysports. Many different play companies came to Stratford to perform, and sinceJohn Shakespeare was in charge of the theater at some times, it is almost forsure that William saw many plays while he was growing up.
This probably gavehim the background that he needed for writing plays. His family was well offand he lived easily until he was fifteen. That year, his father began to loseauthority and money. William enjoyed the outdoors as a teenager, and was knownto go on long walks in the country. He met Anne Hathaway when he was seventeen,probably on one of those walks.
She was the daughter of Richard Hathaway andlived at Hewland’s Farm, now known as Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Anne was alsoabout 8 years older than William, an unheard of thing in the English countryside. Yet they decided to be married soon afterwards, though William was a minor. They received their marriage license on November 27, 1582, soon after Anne’sfather died. Curiously, their first child was born only six months later!Susanna Shakespeare was born in late May of 1583.
Twins, a boy and agirl named Hamnet and Judith were born two years later. They were named aftera couple who lived nearby. Hamnet was William’s very good friend. The twinswere conceived in 1584, obviously, so Shakespeare must have been in Stratford atthe time. What happened to the next seven years? It is not known. Some thinkthat he was drawn to London for riches or to seek his fortune.
However, thereis a different rumor. It is said that Shakespeare was arrested for poaching deerin Charlcote Park, owned by Sir Thomas Lucy. As punishment, Shakespeare waswhipped, and as revenge he composed a nasty poem about Lucy. This doubled thepunishment, and caused Shakespeare to flee Stratford for London.
Some say that Shakespeare and his wife were estranged. My guess is thatthey were still friends, but did not have any sort of romantic relationship. Myreasoning is that Shakespeare visited Anne at different times when the theatersin London were closed, and did not just leave her completely, and when he boughta new house, she moved there. Also, in his will, Shakespeare left Anne hissecond best bed with the furniture.
No one knows for sure what is implied bythe “second best bed” but another man in English history who wrote fondly ofhis wife left her the second best bed as well, and I translate that as being agood thing. Some say that they were not happy because all the other actors inthat theater in London lived with their wives during the working season, butmaybe Anne was content in Stratford with the children. It remains a mystery. The most important part of Shakespeare’s career was his years in London.
No one is sure what he did until 1592, when a pamphlet stated that Shakespearewrote Henry VI in that year. The pamphlet was written by Robert Greene, awriter for the combination of the Admiral’s and Lord Strange’s Men theatergroups at the Rose Theater in London. We do not know the exact order in whichthe plays were written, but we do know the order of the types of plays. FirstShakespeare wrote histories and comedies, including the three parts of Henry VI,The Comedy of Errors, and Titus Andronicus.
Titus Andromecus was the first ofhis plays to appear in print, in 1594. During the years Shakespeare wrote the early plays, he was an actor ina few different play groups. Two that are known are Sussex’ Men and Pembroke’sMen. The exact times that he was in the play groups are unknown, but in 1594Shakespeare probably became an actor and playwright for the Lord Chamberlain’scompany, and stayed there for the rest of his years in London. This was believedto be the first play group that made him one of the partners, instead of givinghim a lowly job like those he had in all the other play groups. It wasprobably because a fellow player recognized his great talent in writing.
Shakespeare probably did not act in any plays after he joined Lord Chamberlain’scompany. In 1596, while Shakespeare was in London, his son Hamnet died. A yearlater, Shakespeare bought New Place, an important house in Stratford, and Annewent to live there. A woman called The Dark Lady was referred to in some ofShakespeare’s sonnets, which were probably written in the 1590’s. Shakespeareobviously had an affair with her during that time period. She was said to havean ill complexion, and dark hair, and there is evidence that her father wasItalian.
The most probably candidate is Emelia Lanier, who was married to anmusician in the royal court. When her husband was off on an expedition to theAzores with the Earl of Southampton, she was the mistress of Simon Forman, anastrologer, and wrote a book of poems about how much she hated men. This isgood evidence that she was the Dark Lady because the Dark Lady was oftenreferred to as an ugly, unfashionable whore, teased by many men. She was alsosaid to be a mistress of a young actor in the King’s Men, who was Shakespeare’sfrien d.
His plays were printed without his name until he wrote Love’s Labor’sLost in 1598. In that year, a man named Francis Meres published a book inwhich he listed 12 of Shakespeare’s plays, and two of his poems, which tells usthat they had been written by 1598. In 1598 a man named Francis Meres publisheda book with his opinions of plays, and listed twelve of Shakespeare’s plays. That tells us that Shakespeare had at least that many written by 1598. In 1599he became one of seven sharers of the Globe Theater. It was the biggest and thegrandest playhouse in London at the time.
In 1603, James I took over the company, and it was renamed the King’sMen. In the first ten years of the 17th century, Shakespeare wrote his greatestworks. Included were Macbeth, Hamlet, and King Lear. It was those plays thatprobably caused the King’s Men in the Globe Theater to be ranked first of allof the play groups in London. In 1609, the company bought a theater called theBlackfriars. This would come to be the company’s winter headquarters.
Theresidents who lived around the new theater enjoyed old fashioned romance andhistorical plays, which influenced the company’s plays. During these years,Shakespeare became rather wealthy and invested money in Stratford. He owned anumber of businesses there and had shares in many as well. Shakespeare probablytook many trips to Stratford in that time period to conduct business as well asto make plans for his retirement. He was reaching the middle of his life, andin his time, people did not often live to old age.
In about 1610 Shakespeare retired . Maybe he retired because of poorhealth, or maybe he was tired of the busy, fast life he had in London. Orpossibly he had an urge to spend the last years of his life with his family,whom he had neglected for so many years. In 1613, he bought the formerBlackfriars Monastery gate house. During that year, he began writing again.
Hewrote Henry VIII and some other less known plays with a man called John Fletcherwho worked with the company. During the first performance of that play, twocannons were shot, which were stopped by paper or “dummy shot. ” The papercaught fire, and it spread to the thatch above, setting the Globe Theater onfire. No one was hurt, but the theater burnt down, and that ended Shakespeare’scareer on a bad note. He did not invest in the new Globe Theater being built,and he went back to Stratford.
Shakespeare’s first daughter, Susanna, was already married to John Hall,and in February of 1616, his daughter Judith married Thomas Quiney. It seemsthat once his two daughters were settled, Shakespeare’s life began to wane. OnMarch 25, 1616, he signed his will. He was believed to have fallen deathly illaround the time that the will was written.
In his will he left his property toSusanna, a large sum of money to Judith, money as well to many of his friendsfrom London, and he left his wife the second-best bed. Shakespeare died onApril 23, 1616, and was buried two days later. He was buried under the floor inthe Holy Trinity Church of Stratford. Shakespeare’s tombstone says thefollowing: Good friend for Jesus sake forebeare To dig the dust enclosed here! Blest be the man that spares these stone And curst be he that moves my bones. The author of these lines is said to be Shakespeare himself.
They mean to scareoff anyone who wants to dig up his grave. Shakespeare wrote a total of 36 plays in his lifetime. The following isa list of the plays: A Midsummer Night’s Dream All’s Well that Ends Well Antony and Cleopatra As You Like It Coriolanus Cymbeline Hamlet the Prince of Denmark Henry IV (two parts) Henry V Henry VI (three parts) Henry VIII Julius Caesar King John King Lear Love’s Labors Lost Macbeth Measure for Measure Much Ado about Nothing Othello Pericles Richard I Richard II Richard III Romeo and Juliet The Comedy of Errors The Merchant of Venice The Merry Wives of Windsor The Taming of the Shrew The Tempest The Winter’s Tale Timon of Athens Titus Andronicus Troilus and Cressida Twelfth Night Two Gentlemen of Verona Venus and AdonisThe list of Shakespeare’s plays is very long, and this has led some tobelieve that other authors wrote some or all of Shakespeare’s plays. This iscalled the “authorship controversy.
” The people who believe that Shakespearedidn’t write the plays think that the author was the Earl of Oxford. They claimthat the portraits of Shakespeare the playwright do not look like those ofWilliam Shakespeare. Another belief is that the Earl of Oxford always drew ashaking spear as his signature, and that his nickname was Shake-Spear. All ofthe different spellings of Shakespeare are also their evidence. The majorityof authorities believe that Shakespeare did write the plays, otherwise wouldn’tit be widely known that Shakespeare was not really Shakespeare at all? William Shakespeare was an educated genius, who spent his life doingwhat he loved. It is said that he wrote so fast, he never spelled anythingcorrectly and didn’t use punctuation.
Maybe that is why his writing is sofresh, creative, and funny. He may not have been very interested in exactdetails in his plays, in perfection, but somehow that is what he has achieved. It is the lack of perfection that makes his works so understandable anduniversal, and that will continue to be true for as long as his plays are inprint. Bibliography1) Fido, Martin.
Shakespeare. Maplewood: Hammond Publishers, 1978. 2) Brown, Ivor. Shakespeare and His World. New York: H. Z.
Walck, Incorporated,1966. 3) Ludowyk, E. F. C. Understanding Shakespeare.
Cambridge: University Press, 1962. 4) William Aldis Wright. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. GardenCity: Garden City Publishing Company, Incorporated.
5) Dawson, Giles E. The Life of William Shakespeare. United States of America:Folger Shakespeare Library, 1979.aCategory: English