Facts about William Shakespeare
English poet, novelist, playwright, and actor
He is the most prominent figure in English and world literature and a reformer of theater. His works such as “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Hamlet,” “Othello,” “King Lear,” “Macbeth,” and “The Tempest” have made him considered the unsurpassed playwright of all time. Despite speculation about the mysterious author who hides under the famous name, most authorities today recognize him as the actual author of the plays long attributed to him. Little is known of his private life, with many years of his life shrouded in mystery. He amassed a sizable fortune and was an entrepreneur and artist. It is also presumed he dabbled in usury on a minor scale.
1William Shakespeare was born in 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, England, in the family home on Henley Street.
The exact date of William Shakespeare’s birth is unknown. Parish records show he was baptized on April 26th, 1564, so it is assumed that he was born three days earlier, on April 23rd, 1564.
2Shakespeare’s father, John, was among the respected citizens of Stratford.
Presumably, he was the son of Richard Shakespeare of Snitterfield, who received a land grant for his service to King Henry VII. John was a master of the glovers’ guild, a town councilor since 1564, and High Steward of Stratford since 1568 - the town was then a thriving center of the leather industry.
3Shakespeare’s father was probably an obscure Catholic.
There was a document, found in the 18th century in the attic of one of the Henley Street buildings, in which John Shakespeare pledged he would always remain a Catholic. Researcher Edmund Malone described the document, but since it has disappeared, no one can verify its authenticity.
4Shakespeare’s mother came from the wealthy Arden family, well-known in Warwickshire.
Mary Arden was the youngest of eight siblings. Her father, Robert Arden, was a landowner in Snitterfield. After her father’s death, Mary inherited part of his vast estate.
5Shakespeare’s parents probably got married in 1557. Most likely they were cousins - John’s mother and Mary’s mother were sisters.
In 16th-century England, this type of marriage was not uncommon.
6William had many siblings.
He had three brothers (Gilbert, 1566 - 1611, Richard, 1574 - 1612, and Edmund, 1580 - 1607), and four sisters (Joan, 1558, who died two months after birth, Margaret, 1562 - 1563, Joan, 1569 - 1646 and Anne, 1571 - 1579); he was born as the third child, after Joan and Margaret.
7Young William attended a grammar school in Stratford, a prestigious institution where pupils were taught by Oxford and Cambridge magisters. The young Shakespeare learned Latin, history, ancient literature, rhetoric, basic grammar, and modern languages.
Raised a Catholic, he was very familiar with the Bible. As a city councilman’s son, he did not have to pay the tuition. He had to suspend his education because of his father’s financial troubles related to the illegal wool trade (harassed by creditors and lawsuits; he divested himself of his assets and then resigned from public office). There is no record that William continued his education afterward.
8At 18, Shakespeare married 26-years old Anne Hathaway. Because of the age difference and Anne’s pregnancy, it was suspected that the wedding was a necessity.
They had three children, a daughter Susanna, born in 1583, and twins Hamnet and Judith, born in 1585. Hamnet and Judith were baptized at Holy Trinity Church on February 2nd, 1585. They are believed to owe their names to Hamnet Sadler, a baker who was a witness to Shakespeare’s will, and his wife, Judith. Shakespeare’s son Hamnet died at 11.
9Some researchers believe Shakespeare was not fond of his wife.
He lived and worked in London, while Anne stayed in Stratford. Many researchers also believe that she was the prototype of the antagonist of a play called “Taming of the Shrew.”
10We know very little about the seven years of Shakespeare’s life after 1585. This period is referred to as the “lost years.”
In a persistent and long-repeated legend, it is maintained that he had to flee his hometown in fear of Sir Thomas Lucy - a Member of Parliament and Justice of the Peace - from whom he stole a deer. Biographers believe he then worked as a tutor and secretary and performed in court plays. It allowed him to broaden his horizons, meet new people, and win over wealthy patrons. In addition, it probably introduced him to the secrets of theatrical art. At that time, Stratford City councilors financed amateur theatrical performances on Pentecost. It was probably then that Shakespeare had his first opportunity to perform on stage, and witnessed performances by itinerant theater troupes that visited Stratford. Between December 1586 and December 1587, at least five theater troupes performed in Stratford.