William Shakespeare, a name that almost anyone interested in literature can recognize regardless of the time period. To many, he’s the English playwright and poet whose works are considered of the best in literature. In fact, plays of his such as Macbeth and Hamlet are still performed to this day in theaters. Even if they were written around the late 1500s to the early 1600s, they’re still pieces of work that are timeless and will always be adored by lovers of literature. Even though Shakespeare is referred to as the greatest playwright of all time, many still do not know completely of his life, if he even existed, and what exactly his works were inspired by. It’s a mystery that no one will ever know definitely, and one that some can only speculate ideas on.
To start off, there are not any birth records existing that belong to William Shakespeare. However, there are church records that indicate Shakespeare was baptized at the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 26, 1564. Taking the church records into account, it is believed that he was born on or around April 23, 1564. Even if it may not be a concrete fact, historians acknowledge April 23, 1564, as his official date of birth. With that out of the way, he was born into a pretty large family. He was the third child born from his father John Shakespeare, a leather merchant, and Mary Arden, a local landed heiress. As a child, Shakespeare grew up with two older sisters and three younger brothers. With such a big family, it is inferred that money became a problem for the family of eight since records point out that John’s fortunes began to decline around the late 1570s.
Again, very little records exist from Shakespeare’s childhood, and almost none in regards to his education. From his father holding the official positions as alderman and bailiff, which is quite similar to the position of mayor, tuition would have been free of charge for Shakespeare. It is assumed that he attended King’s New School, which is located in Stratford. Like other children, he would have learned the basics of how to read and write. Yet, these missing records happen to raise the question of if his existence was even real. There’s speculation a different person could have just penned the plays and poems in Shakespeare’s name. Though, without concrete evidence that he isn’t real, many just assume that the records were lost or never recorded.
At the age of eighteen, Shakespeare had married a woman named Anne Hathaway, who was eight years older than him, on November 28, 1582, in Worcester. Their first child would be born as a girl many months later on May 26, 1583, and then two years later their twins were born on February 2, 1585. Unfortunately, out of the twins one of them had died of unknown causes at the young age of eleven years old. After the birth of the twins, the next seven years of Shakespeare’s life have no records that exist. Historians have decided to refer to this period of his life as the “lost years.” There are many speculations on what exactly he was doing during this period of his life. They range from he was in hiding from a landlord to he was working as a horse attendant.
Around the early 1590s, records show that Shakespeare had become a managing partner for an acting company known as Lord Chamberlain’s Men, who later changed their name to King’s Men. The acting company was quite popular, and in this time Shakespeare had some of his works published and sold. He started to earn a living as an actor and playwright and had many of his plays produced. By 1597, he had already published fifthteen out of the thirty-seven plays he would go on to publish. At this time, records show he purchased the second largest house in Stratford due to his upcoming success. With business partners, he even built his own theater called the Globe Theater. There, many of his plays were performed for anyone who wanted to attend.
Of his thirty-seven plays, they can be distinguished into three different genres. Fourteen of them were comedy plays, eleven were historic plays, and twelve were tragedy plays. Out of these genres, his tragedies remain the most popular to this very day. From King Lear to Julius Caesar, almost each single one holds a great amount of popularity. One of the most popular of his tragedies is Macbeth. From the beginning of the play, Macbeth starts out as a loyal thane to the king. However, after learning of a prophecy that he will become the king, that loyalty is replaced with greediness. Encouraged by the prophecy and his bickering wife, he kills the king and steals the throne for himself. After more and more acts of hatred and murder towards others to secure his power, he is eventually overthrown and killed by those who he did wrong to. Some themes of ambition and fate could be drawn from Shakespeare’s tragedy play Macbeth. Even with the description of just one play, it gives a sense of how great Shakespeare’s works are as a whole.
After a life full of success and accomplishments, it is believed that Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616, which is believed to be his 52nd birthday. However, many believe this is a myth since church records show that he was interred at the Trinity Church on April 25, 1616. Regardless of that, it’s most likely he died sometime in April of 1616. In his will, he left a majority of his possessions to Susanna, who was his eldest child. A little amount of items were given to his wife Anne, which is believed to be because they grew apart.
And again because of the confusion in dates and records, many still believe that Shakespeare was not an actual person, or that the plays were just penned in his name. People believe that if he were the actual one to write the plays and poems, he would have needed some sort of higher education. Especially with how the themes were expressed and how he used metaphors, a higher education would make sense. To even build up on the confusion, the church and governments records don’t point to him being a playwright or an actor. Still regardless of what anyone thinks, the identity of Shakespeare will remain a mystery. The only thing people may do now is admire the works that were left behind in his name.
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