William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)


(This portrait is called the "Chandos Portrait" - it is not clearly identified to be William Shakespeare, but is a popular picture of him despite this)

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, the son of a town official and glover. He may have attended a grammar school, but details are relatively uncertain about this. His childhood is relatively shrouded, and most of what is known has been understood through the assumption that he lived a typical life of someone of his class. It is known that by the age of eighteen, in 1582, he married Anne Hathaway. By 1592, he had moved to London, had three children (one of whom was lost in the Black Plague several years later), and began his career as a playwright. The period between the birth of his first two children (twins) in 1585 to 1592 is known as “the lost years” – where he was and why he had left Stratford for London are relatively unknown.

After he moved to London in 1592, he began to work as a playwright and an actor. Starting in a troupe called the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men”, he both wrote and acted in plays. At the beginning of his career, he initially worked with the patronage of nobility, but soon gained the favor of the royalty. A short time after Queen Elizabeth's death, the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men” became popular enough with the new King, James I, so that they were able to rename themselves the “King’s Men”. From this point, there are indications that he became a much more popular poet, to the point that his name began to be printed upon the plays that the "King's Men" acted, so as to increase sales.

Shakespeare retired in 1613, returning to Stratford-upon-Avon, where he ultimately died three years later.

His epitaph reads:

Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosèd here.
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.


This is a picture of a bust overlooking his tomb, in Holy Trinity Church at Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare was baptized. Near this is his family coat of arms, and on both sides of this are two symbols, a spade and a skull, one representing "Labor" and the other "Rest". Historically, there has been much debate as to who “William Shakespeare” really was. As noted before, much of his “history” has been speculated about without any great deal of evidence, especially before he moved to London. Ultimately, however, his status as the foremost playwright and poet of that time is generally accepted to be more important than the details of his life.

Quick (Chronological) Facts

Born in Stratford-upon-Avon
Married Anne Hathaway
Went to London
Joined the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men”, an acting troupe
Acted in the plays that he wrote
Went back to Stratford-upon-Avon
Survived by two daughters, Susanna, and Judith (However, no living descendants of Shakespeare exist today)