The Life Of Shakespeare Essay, Research Paper
The Life of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare wrote 37 plays in his lifetime. These plays included
comedies, histories, and tragedies. The plays contain vivid characters of all types and
from many walks of life (World Book I). Shakespeare’s works contain kings,
pickpockets, drunkards, generals, hired killers, shepherds, and philosophers.
Shakespeare’s plays have been divided into four different periods of which he wrote plays.
The first period lasted from 1590 to 1594. In this period he wrote Comedy of Errors,
Henry VI, Richard III, The Taming of the Shrew, Titus Andronicus, The Two Gentlemen
of Verona, and King John. The second period lasted from 1595 to 1600 and contained A
Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard II, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Romeo and Juliet, The
Merchant of Venice, Henry IV, As You Like It, Henry V, Julius Caesar, Much Ado About
Nothing, Twelfth Night , and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida,
All’s Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, Timon of
Athens, Pericles, Antony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus were written in the third period,
from 1601 to 1608. The fourth period, 1609 to 1613, had the plays Cymbeline, The
Winter’s Tale, The Tempest, and Henry VIII written. No other writer’s plays have been
produced so many times or so widely in so many countries (World Book I).
Shakespeare was born into a middle class family in the town of
Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564. Shakespeare’s father was John Shakespeare, a local shop
owner who held many positions in the local government. William Shakespeare’s mother
was Mary Arden Shakespeare. She was married to John in 1557. Mary was the daughter
of a local farmer, but had wealthy relatives. William was the third of eight children.
Shakespeare was baptized on April 26, 1564.
At age seven, William began attending the Stratford grammar school with other
boys of his age and social class. The school’s teachers were graduates of Oxford
University. William and his classmates spent nine hours a day in class. The students
attended year round except for three or four short holiday periods. The school had strict
discipline and physically punished students who were bad. William mainly studied Latin
while at grammar school.
In November 1582, at the age of 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway. Anne
was 26 and was the daughter of a farmer who lived a mile from Stratford. William and
Anne had three children. Their first child was baptized on May 26, 1583 and was named
Susanna. On February 2, 1585 Hamnet, a boy, and Judith, a girl, were baptized.
After the children were born Shakespeare went to London. After arriving in
London, Shakespeare joined a repertory theater company. Scholars do not know which
theater company or companies Shakespeare joined before 1594 (World Book 3). These
companies consisted of a permanent cast of actors who presented a variety of plays week
after week (World Book 3). Shakespeare became a sharer, or stockholder, of a company
called the Lord Chamberlan’s Men in 1594. The Lord Chamberlan’s Men was one of the
most popular acting companies in London (World Book 3). Shakespeare was a leading
member of the group for the rest of his career. By the end of 1594 at least six of
Shakespeare’s plays had been produced.From 1592 to 1594 London authorities often
closed the public theaters because of repeated outbreaks of plague. During this time
Shakespeare wrote many poems.
The first theater Shakespeare performed in was the “Theatre.” He discussed the
idea with some friends and drew up a plan, and found financial backing. In the year 1576
there was built the first permanent professional public paly-house of the modern world
(Hodges 50). We do not know for certain what the Theatre looked like (Hodges 51). In
1598 the land lease on the Theatre had expired. They leased a plot of land in an area
known as the Bankside (Wright 75). A few days after Christmas in 1598, the Theatre was
torn down and its lumber was carted across the river to the Bankside (Wright 75). The
lumber was reassembled and the new play-house was named “The Globe.” The Globe
looked the same as the Theatre except its emblem, which appeared on a sign in front of
the main entrance. It showed the Greek god Hercules supporting a world globe on his
shoulders. On the emblem was inscribed a Latin motto, Totus mundus agil histrionem,
which stands for “all the world is a stage.”
In 1603, Queen Elizabeth I died and was succeeded by her cousin James I. James
issued a royal license to Shakespeare and his fellow players, which allowed the company
to call itself the King’s Men. In return for the license, the actors entertained the king at
court on a more or less regular basis (World Book 4). The King’s Men became the best
During the last eight years of his life Shakespeare wrote only four plays,
Cymbeline, Henry VIII, The Tempest , and The Winter’s Tale. Henry VIII was
Shakespeare’s last play and can be dated to about 1613. On February 10, 1616,
Shakespeare’s younger daughter, Judith married Thomas Quincey, the son of his Stratford
neighbor Richard Quincey (World Book 4). Six weeks after the marriage Shakespeare
revised his will. Within a month of revising his will he died at the age of 52. He was buried
in the Stratford parish church. His monument records the day of death as April 23, the
generally accepted date of his birth (World Book 4). Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet, died in
1596 at the age of 11. Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna had one child, Elizabeth, who bore
no children. Judith gave birth to three boys, but they died before she did. Shakespeare’s
last direct descendent, his granddaughter, Elizabeth, died in 1670. As result of these
deaths, today there lives no descendants of the world’s greatest playwright.