Tell Me More About... Shakespeare

Born in 1564, William Shakespeare is arguably the most famous poet and playwright of all time. His birthday is commonly celebrated on 23 April, although the exact date of his birth is unknown as no birth records are held. He died on 23 April in 1616 at the age of 52. He is buried in the sanctuary of Holy Trinity, Stratford’s parish church.

Shakespeare lived through the Elizabethan and Jacobean ages of British theatre and his plays were performed in front of prolific audiences while he was alive. His plays remain his most enduring legacy today. 

Shakespeare’s renowned catalogue of work includes 38 plays, 154 sonnets, 2 narrative poems and a number of other poems. 

Family Life

William Shakespeare was the eldest of 8 children to Mary Arden and John Shakespeare. His father was a glove-maker but was also an important figure in Stratford due to his civic position. This elevated status in the town meant that John Shakespeare was able to send his children to the local grammar school. 

Shakespeare would have lived with his family in their house on Henley Street until he was 18, when he married Anne Hathaway. Anne was 26 at the time and their marriage was rushed due to her already being pregnant. The couple had 3 children together: Susanna, Hamnet and Judith. Hamnet died aged just 11 years old.

Did you know?

There are no original manuscripts of Shakespeare’s plays around today (as far as we are aware). A group of actors from Shakespeare’s company collected his plays after he died and subsequently had them published, preserving the plays for the rest of society to enjoy. These works were eventually brought together in the First Folio (‘Folio’ is indicative of the size of the paper used). This collection contained 36 of his plays and none of his poems. 

Shakespeare’s plays have stood the test of time. His work has been the inspiration for countless adaptations on both stage and screen, spanning multiple genres, cultures and locations. The redesigning and refashioning of his plays across so many different forms shows how universal his themes and concepts are across humanity.  

Shakespeare’s father was awarded a coat of arms for his services to the town of Stratford. The coat of arms is now displayed on the monument above the Shakespeare grave in Holy Trinity Church. Versions of the coat of arms can also be seen at Shakespeare’s Birthplace and above the entrance to Shakespeare’s New Place

Shakespeare’s 4 grandchildren did not have any children themselves, meaning that there are no direct descendants of Shakespeare today.

Scholars are not entirely sure when Shakespeare went to London, or why. We know that his twins, Hamnet and Judith, were baptised in the city in 1585 and he had established a reputation in the capital by 1592. The intervening years, however, remain a mystery. 

Shakespeare was a founding member of The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. This company of actors would later become The King’s Men under the rule of King James I (from 1603). In his time in the company, Shakespeare wrote many of his most famous plays, including Macbeth, King Lear, The Tempest and The Winter’s Tale.

10 of Shakespeare’s Most Famous Works:

1) Macbeth

2) Hamlet 

3) Romeo and Juliet

4) The Tempest

5) Othello

6) A Midsummer Night’s Dream

7) King Lear

8) The Merchant of Venice

9) Twelfth Night

10) Julius Caesar 

Of course, there are so many famous Shakespeare plays so this is by no means an exhaustive list!

Here are some of our favourite Shakespeare quotes:

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em” (Twelfth Night)

“To be, or not to be: that is the question” (Hamlet)

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep” (The Tempest)

“What’s in a name? A rose by any name would smell as sweet” (Romeo and Juliet)

“To thine own self be true” (Hamlet)

“Nothing will come of nothing” (King Lear)

“‘Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

Interested in learning more about the greatest writers of all time? Take a look at our blog on the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis


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