Biography: William Shakespeare (England, 15641616)


Figure 1.-- .

English poet and playwright William Shakespeare is generally considered to be the greatest writer in the English language and perhaps the most important dramatist. He played a major role in the development of the English language. A vast number of modern words and phrases first appeared in his 38 known plays in addition to 2 long narrative poems, 154 sonnets, and a variety of other poems. He was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon. There are lots of speculations about Shakespeare's childhood in Stratford-upon-Avon, but there are no documentable facts beyond his baptism. We know that his father, John Shakespeare, was a glover and Alderman from Snitterfield and the family lived in comfortable circumstances. His mother was Mary Arden, the daughter of an affluent landowning family. William was the eldest surviving son. We assume that the young William went to the local grammar school--the King Edward VI Grammar School in Stratford. King Edward was known for supporting education. Historians believe that the young William almost certainly was educated there. Given his father's status in the community and his literary accomplishments, he clearly had an education and the local grammar is the only place that he would have gotten his education. William lived close to the school and there were no other schools in that Warwickshire town. Shakesperian scholars speculate as to John's loss of possition as Alderman. Some believe it was because of Catholic sympathies and this would have significantly colored William's prospects. Our first documented knowledge of Shakespeare concerns his marriage to Anne Hathaway and his early career in London in connection with the theatre. He had three children, but these stayed behind with his wife in Stratford while Shakespeare lived a single life in London. Ironically, the great writer made no provision for his daughter's education. HBC has done some work on his plays in our Renaissance drama section.

Parents

We know that his father, John Shakespeare, was a glover and Alderman from Snitterfield and the family lived in comfortable circumstances. His mother was Mary Arden, the daughter of an affluent landowning family. It is believed that the family had Catholic sympsthies. Shakesperian scholars speculate as to John's loss of possition as Alderman. Some believe it was because of Catholic sympathies and this would have significantly colored William's prospects.

Childhood

He was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon. There are lots of speculations about Shakespeare's childhood in Stratford-upon-Avon, but there are no documentable facts beyond his baptism. William was the eldest surviving son.

Education

We assume that the young William went to the local grammar school--the King Edward VI Grammar School in Stratford. King Edward was known for supporting education. Historians believe that the young William almost certainly was educated there. Given his father's status in the community and his literary accomplishments, he clearly had an education and the local grammar is the only place that he would have obtained his education. William lived close to the school and there were no other schools in that Warwickshire town.

Marriage

Our first documented knowledge of Shakespeare concerns his marriage to Anne Hathaway and his early career in London in connection with the theatre. <>br>

Children

He had three children, but these stayed behind with his wife in Stratford while Shakespeare lived a single life in London. Ironically, the great writer made no provision for his daughter's education. Shakespeare's son was called named Hamnet. Most scholars don't think there is any connection with Hamlet, however, because the name of the tragic character appears in Shakespeare's literary sources. It has been speculated, however, that the character of Prince Arthur, who dies from a falling accident in the play, King John, which was written (1595-96) close to the time of Hamnet's death, may have been influenced to some extent by the boy's premature demise. In "King John", the character of Constance, Arthur's mother, grieves extravagantly for her son, and some critics have thought that Shakespeare poured his own grief for Hamnet into the speeches of Constance. This point cannot, of course, be proved. And Shakespeare had such a fertile imagination that he may simply have created the characters of Arthur and Constance out of whole cloth. Both characters are, after all, historical and appear in Shakespeare's source, Peele's "Troublesome Reign of King John" and Holinshed's chronicle, Peele's source, which Shakespeare also consulted independently.

Renaissance Drama

HBC has done some work on his plays in our Renaissance drama section.

Importance

English poet and playwright William Shakespeare is generally considered to be the greatest writer in the English language and perhaps the most important dramatist. He played a major role in the development of the English language. A vast number of modern words and phrases first appeared in his 38 known plays in addition to 2 long narrative poems, 154 sonnets, and a variety of other poems.






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Created: 12:31 AM 6/19/2009
Last updated: 12:31 AM 6/19/2009