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Five Facts about William Shakespeare – A Short Biography

1. Shakespeare’s birthday and cause of death are both unknown.

Historians know that Shakespeare was baptized on April 26, 1564 because this information was recorded in the parish register of the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-on-Avon. At the time of his birth, the exact dates of births and deaths generally weren’t recorded. His birthday is celebrated in modern times on April 23, which was also the day that he died in 1616 at age 52.

No one knows for sure why Shakespeare died. He had signed his will just weeks before his death and declared himself to be “in perfect health.” His death was generally described as sudden by other writers of the time. He is buried near the altar of the same church where he was baptized.

2. Shakespeare got married when he was just 18 years old.

In 1582, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, who was eight years his senior at age 26. They had three children together: Susanna, Judith, and Hamnet. Hamnet died during a plague outbreak when he was only 11 years old, but Susanna and Judith lived to 66 and 77 respectively.

3. Shakespeare belonged to the same acting company for most of his career.

It’s thought that Shakespeare left his family to begin working as an actor sometime around 1585. After 1594, historians know that his plays were only performed by the acting company which was called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men during the reign on Queen Elizabeth I, then renamed as the King’s Men when King James I ascended to the throne. The company was owned by its players and came to be recognized as the most famous company in London.

4. It’s not clear if Shakespeare wanted his plays to be published or not.

The First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays was published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death, and contained 36 plays, 18 of which were appearing in print for the first time. Some of his works had been previously published as cheap quartos, books made from paper folded to make four-page booklets.

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Comparison of the “To be, or not to be” soliloquy (Wikipedia)

The editors of the First Folio, John Heminges and Henry Condell, were actors who had worked with Shakespeare as part of the King’s Men company of players. Heminges and Condell referred to the quartos as “stol’n and surreptitious copies,” adding to the belief that Shakespeare himself hadn’t approved the quartos’ publications.

5. Shakespeare did pursue publication of his poetry during his lifetime.

Shakespeare’s first published work was a long poem called Venus and Adonis. The theaters were closed during 1593 and 1594 because of a plague outbreak, and during this time, Shakespeare published Venus and Adonis as well as another narrative poem, The Rape of Lucrece.  In 1609, he published the first edition of his Sonnets, which also included a long poem called A Lover’s Complaint. The Sonnets consists of a series of 154 poems, the first 126 of which are addressed to a young man, with the remaining 28 addressed to a woman.

Five Facts about William Shakespeare

A scene from the original production of Verdi’s Falstaff (1893) as depicted by artist Ettore Tito. (Wikipedia)

If you rather watch than read click below to watch a short biography about William Shakespeare:

To listen to all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, click below:

Categories:   Biographies, William Shakespeare

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