William Shakespeare (April 23, 1564 - April 23, 1616) was a poet and playwright. He is usually credited with having written thirty-eight plays (which are commonly divided into the three categories; comedies, tragedies and histories), four long narrative poems and one hundred and fifty-four sonnets. Other works have been doubtfully attributed to him and there are references to works by Shakespeare that now appear to be lost. Shakespeare is widely considered to be the greatest writer in the English language and is one of the most famous and well-respected writers in the world.
Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England and moved back to the same town when he retired after a successful career in London. Not much can be said about his life with any certainty, even his date of birth is uncertain. Most of what is known about him has been pieced together from parish records, legal documents and references to him by other writers. He disappears from the record completely for seven years between 1585 and 1592. Debate continues as to whether any authentic portraits of Shakespeare exist or if any of the images made of him after his death accurately depict what he looked like.
William Shakespeare was a contemporary of Miguel de Cervantes, although it is unlikely that the two ever met.
Relatively little is known about the life of William Shakespeare. Shakespeare is known to have died on April 23, 1616 and is traditionally considered to have been born on April 23, 1564. His true date of birth is not known for certain, however he is known to have been baptised on April 26, 1564, therefore it is likely that he was born a few days earlier.
Shakespeare's mother Mary Arden came from a wealthy family in the nearby village of Wilmcote. His father John Shakespeare was a glove maker and successful merchant. He served as high bailiff (roughly equivalent to mayor) of Stratford-upon-Avon when William Shakespeare was a small boy but his fortunes declined later.
There are no records of Shakespeare's education, although it is likely that he attended the local King Edward VI Grammar School. His father would not have had to pay the usual school fee as a result of his privileged position. However, it is known for certain that Shakespeare did not attend university.
When Shakespeare was eighteen years old he married Anne Hathaway, a woman eight years older than he was. The two had three children, their first daughter Susanna was born in 1583 and twins, a son named Hamnet and a daughter named Judith, were born later. Hamnet died while still a child on August 11, 1596. As a result of the early death of his son, Shakespeare has no direct descendants.
Nothing is known about Shakespeare's life between the years 1585 and 1592. These "Lost Years" have been the subject of much speculation and whole books have been filled with theories about what he might have done during that time. In 1592 Shakespeare was living in London and attached to the theater group the Lord Chamberlain's Men as an actor, shareholder and playwright.
In 1599 Shakespeare became part owner of the Globe Theater in Southwark, London. In 1603 James I, the new king of England, changed the name of Shakespeare's theater group from the Lord Chamberlain's Men to the King's Men. In 1608 the King's Men leased a building called Blackfriar's and converted it into a theater. Unusually for the time, the theater had a roof which allowed performances to take place during bad weather. However, the open air Globe Theater remained the group's main venue.
Shakespeare retired to his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon and bought New Place, the largest house in the town at the time. Shakespeare wrote his will in 1611. He left all of his properties to his daughter Susanna, three hundred pounds to his younger daughter Judith and his "second best bed" to his wife Anne. It has been suggested that Shakespeare's "second best bed" was the bed that he usually slept in, the best bed being reserved for visitors.
Most of Shakespeare's plays were written between 1599 and 1608. His longer poems were written during periods when the theaters were closed due to outbreaks of bubonic plague. The first collection of Shakespeare's plays, the First Folio, was published seven years after his death. Containing 36 of the 38 surviving plays generally attributed to Shakespeare, it remains the primary source of his plays.
Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, there have been several debates over the authorship of the works attributed to Willlam Shakespeare.
'Anti-Stratfordians' — a collective term for adherents of the various alternative-authorship theories — say that Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon was a front to shield the identity of the real author or authors, who for some reason did not want or could not accept public credit. Eighty people, including Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe and Samuel Daniel, have all been suggested to have been either the true author, or one of the true authors.
- Antony and Cleopatra
- Cymbeline, King of Britain
- Julius Caesar
- King Lear
- Romeo and Juliet
- Timon of Athens
- Titus Andronicus
- Troilus and Cressida
- The Two Noble Kinsmen (co-written with John Fletcher, not in the First Folio)
- All's Well That Ends Well
- As You Like It
- The Comedy of Errors
- Love's Labour's Lost
- Measure for Measure
- The Merchant of Venice
- The Merry Wives of Windsor
- A Midsummer Night's Dream
- Much Ado About Nothing
- Pericles, Prince of Tyre (not in the First Folio)
- The Taming of the Shrew
- The Tempest
- Twelfth Night
- The Two Gentlemen of Verona
- The Winter's Tale
- King John
- Edward III (accepted by most modern Shakespeare scholars as being partially written by Shakespeare and partially by another writer, probably Thomas Kyd)
- Richard II
- Henry IV Part One
- Henry IV Part Two
- Henry V
- Henry VI Part One
- Henry VI Part Two
- Henry VI Part Three
- Richard III
- Henry VIII (probably co-written with John Fletcher)
- Venus and Adonis
- The Rape of Lucrece
- The Passionate Pilgrim
- The Phoenix and the Turtle
- Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare
- "The Portrait of Mr. W.H."
- Stories from Shakespeare
- Tales from Shakespeare
- Works of William Shakespeare on Wikisource.
- Quotations by and about William Shakespeare on Wikiquote.
- Free public domain audiobooks of William Shakespeare's works from LibriVox.
- Shakespeare Wiki.
- No Sweat Shakespeare: Modern Shakespeare Resources, famous quotes, ebooks, rewrites in modern English, etc.