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The Life and Works Of William Shakespeare

Updated on June 6, 2012

Early Life

William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564 to John Shakespeare and Mary Arden on Henley Street Stratford-Upon Avon. He was the eldest son and third child for his parents. The half-timbered building in which Shakespeare was born and spent his early years consisted of two separate properties. One was the Shakespeare's family home and the other a shop or warehouse.

Not many records exist of Shakespeare's early years, but something is known about the Stratford Grammar School. He presumably attended this school and learned Latin and Greek. It is extremely likely that he saw some plays by traveling actors in Stratford. It is said that he fled Stratford because he was caught trespassing on the park of Sir Thomas Luey of Charlecote to hunt deer.

Henley Street Stratford-Upon Avon:
Henley St, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire CV37, UK

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The birthplace of William Shakespeare.

Stratford Parish church:
Stony Stratford Parish Church, Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes MK11 1FG, UK

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The Parish Church where Shakespeare's daughter Susanna was christened.

Holy Trinity Church, Stratford upon avon:
Holy Trinity Church, Old Town, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire CV37 6BG, UK

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Here lies the remains of William Shakespeare.

Birthplace of William Shakespeare
Birthplace of William Shakespeare | Source


Records show that William Shakespeare got married to Anne Hathaway when he was a little more than eighteen years old and she was twenty-six. They got married on November 28, 1582. On May 26, 1583, their first daughter Susannah was christened at the Parish Church in Stratford. On February 2, 1585, the same register records the christening of their twins Hammet and Judith.


William Shakespeare had become an actor by the end of 1592 and had attracted the jealousy of a University-trained poet, Robert Greene. During the years of 1592 to 1594, he presented himself as a poet. His two narrative poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucree were also published during this time.

In 1594, William Shakespeare was part of an acting company. When they were not traveling, they earned their living by producing plays in a public playhouse. Between 1590 and 1591, he produced 38 plays, both by himself and with someone else. These made up the most valuable collections for the company for the period.

His first editors, his colleagues Hemminge and Condell, divided Shakespeare's plays into histories, comedies, and tragedies, but they did not arrange them in order of composition. Now Shakespeare's career is divided into three periods: the First, Middle and Final periods.

The First Period

The first period lasted up until the company acquired the Globe Theater in 1599. During the First period, Shakespeare mixed history, patriotism, and comedy into his plays- "King Richard II", "King Henry IV", and "King Henry V".

The Middle Period

The middle period ran from 1599 up until the company had acquired the Blackfrairs. This was a time when Shakespeare experimented with Roman materials, which led to "Hamlet", "Othello", "King Lear", and "Macbeth".

The Final Period

In the final period, he created a marvelous series of innocent and persecuted heroines. There were also romantic plays that were also very popular.

Even though Shakespeare was obviously a great artist, he was not writing for readers, but for the stage. He and his company earned mainly from the production of the plays and not publication

Own your own Shakespearean Classic

Shakespeare got ideas for his work not only from life but also from books. In some instances, he re-wrote old plays like "Hamlet", "King John", "The Taming of the Shrew", "King Henry IV", and "King Lear". His plays have been questioned about authorship in his both time and now. Scholars question the idea of Shakespeare being the actual author of the works accredited to him. Some of them say his name was merely used as a pen name. They also question whether the plays were drafted by Shakespeare and finished by someone else, or if he edited someone's works and called them his own.

Shakespeare was a poet as well as a playwright. He wrote narrative poems such as “Venus and "Adonis" and "The Rape of Lucree". He also wrote sonnets and lyrics such as “The Passionate Pilgrim", "The Phoenix and the Turtle", and "The Lover's Complaint". Some of his more famous works are "Romeo and Juliet", "Macbeth", and "Othello".

Shakespeare retired from active service as the leading playwright of The King's Men sometime in 1612 or 1613. A biographer, Nicholas Rowe, said, "The latter part of his life was spent, as all men of good sense will wish theirs to be, in ease, retirement, and conversation of friends."

The Works of William Shakespeare

(click column header to sort results)
Title of Publication or Play  
A Lover's Complaint
A Midsummer Night's Dream
All's Well That Ends Well
Anthony and Cleopatra
As You Like It
Funeral Elegy by W.S.
Henry IV, Part 1
Henry V
Henry VI, Part 1
Henry VI, Part 2
Henry VI, Part 3
Henry VII
Juleus Ceasar
King John
King Lear
Love's Labour Lost
Measure For Measure
Much Ado About Nothing
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Richard II
Richard III
Romeo and Juliet
Taming of the Shrew
The Comedy of Errors
The Merchant of Venice
The Merry Wives of Windsor
The Rape of Lucree
The Sonnets
The Temptest
Timon of Athens
Titus Andronicus
Troilus and Cressida
Twelfth Night
Two Gentlemen of Verona
Venus and Adonis
Winter's Tale
The above table is a list of poetry and productions written by William Shakespeare. Each work was grouped according to genre by Shakespeare's editors.

He drew up his own will in March 1616 and died soon after. He was buried on April 5, 1616. The will is still in existence and each of its three pages bears Shakespeare's signature. He left £300 to his daughter Judith, £20 to his sister Joan, and £5 each to three of her sons. He left £10 to the poor of Stratford and the residuary estate to his daughter Susanna.

The burial place of William Shakespeare
The burial place of William Shakespeare | Source

Written on Shakespeare's gravestone are four lines of a doggerel verse. It translates:

Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear

To dig the dust enclosed here!

Blessed be the man that spares these stones

And cursed be he that moves my bones.


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