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William Shakespeare was the poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the language and the world’s dramatist. He is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon”.
William Shakespeare was the son of John Shakespeare, an alderman and a successful glover originally from Snitterfield, and Mary Arden, the daughter of an affluent landowning farmer. He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon and baptized there on 26 April 1564. His actual birth date remains unknown, but is traditionally observed on 23 April, St George’s Day. Although no attendance records for the period survive, most biographers agree that Shakespeare was probably educated at the King’s New School in Stratford, a free school chartered in 1553, about a quarter-mile from his home. Grammar schools varied in quality during the Elizabethan era, but the curriculum was dictated by law throughout England, and the school would have provided an intensive education in Latin grammar and the classics.
At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway (she was 26) with whom he had three children: Susanna, and twins Hamlet and Judith. Between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later known as the King’s Men. He appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613 at age 49, where he died three years later.
After the birth of the twins, Shakespeare left few historical traces until he is mentioned as part of the London theatre scene in 1592, and scholars refer to the years between 1585 and 1592 as Shakespeare’s “lost years”. Biographers attempting to account for this period have reported many apocryphal stories.
Another 18th-century story has Shakespeare starting his theatrical career minding the horses of theatre patrons in London.
Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616.
Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were mainly comedies and histories, genres he raised to the peak of sophistication and artistry by the end of the 16th century. He drew ideas for his tragedies and comedies from the history of England and ancient Rome. He often used Italian scenes, characters, and tales in his plays. He wrote 37 plays which may be divided into: comedies, such as As You Like It, Midsummer Night’s Dream; tragedies, such as Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, King Lear, Romeo and Juliet; historical plays, such as Richard II, Henry IV, Richard III, Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, etc.
Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime. In 1623, two of his former theatrical colleagues published the First Folio, a collected edition of his dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognized as Shakespeare’s.
His surviving works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red, than her lips are red:
If snow is white, why then her breasts are dun;
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