Facts Regarding the Life and Death of Shakespeare

There are few facts known with certainty about William Shakespeare’s life and death. The best-documented facts are that Shakespeare was baptised 26 April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, England in the Holy Trinity Church, married Anne Hathaway at age 18, with whom he had three children, was an actor, playwright and theatre entrepreneur in London, owned property in both Stratford and London, and died 23 April 1616 at the age of 52.

William Shakespeare [1] was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, a small country town. He was the son of John Shakespeare, a successful glover and alderman from Snitterfield, and of Mary Arden, a daughter of the gentry. They lived on Henley Street, having married around 1557. The date of his birth is not known, but his baptismal record was dated 26 April 1564. This is the first official record of Shakespeare, as birth certificates were not issued in the time of Queen Elizabeth.

Because baptisms were normally performed within a few days of birth it is highly likely Shakespeare was born in April 1564, although the long-standing tradition that he was born on 23 April has no historical basis (baptisms at this time were not invariably performed exactly three days after birth as is sometimes claimed). Nevertheless, this date provides a convenient symmetry because Shakespeare died on the same day in 1616.

It is also the Feast Day of Saint George, the patron saint of England, which might seem appropriate for England’s greatest playwright. Shakespeare’s parents had eight children: Joan (born 1558, died in infancy), Margaret (1562–1563), William (himself, 1564–1616), Gilbert (1566–1612), Joan (1569–1646), Anne (1571–1579), Richard (1574–1613), and Edmund (1580–1607).[2][3] Shakespeare’s father, prosperous at the time of William’s birth, was prosecuted for participating in the black market in the dealings of wool,[4] and later lost his position as an alderman. Some evidence pointed to possible Roman Catholic sympathies on both sides of the family.[5] Education

Shakespeare probably attended King Edward VI Grammar School in Stratford from the age of seven.[6] Edward VI, the king honoured in the school’s name, had in the mid-16th century diverted money from the dissolution of the monasteries to endow a network of grammar schools to “propagate good literature… throughout the kingdom”, but the school had originally been set up by the Guild of the Holy Cross, a church institution in the town, early in the 15th century.[6][7] It was further endowed by a Catholic chaplain in 1482.

It was free to male children in Stratford and it is presumed that the young Shakespeare attended,[8] although this cannot be confirmed because the school’s records have not survived.[6] While the quality of Elizabethan era grammar schools was uneven, the school probably would have provided an intensive education in Latin grammar and literature—”as good a formal literary training as had any of his contemporaries”[9]—reinforced with frequent use of corporal punishment. As a part of this education, the students would likely have been exposed to Latin plays, in which students performed to better understand the language.

One of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, The Comedy of Errors, bears similarity to Plautus’s Menaechmi, which could well have been performed at the school.[10] There is no evidence that he received a university education. During the period when Shakespeare was likely to have been continuously living in Stratford according to records, playing companies made at least 13 visits to the town, including on two occasions when the players performed in front of town officials including his father, who as bailiff was required to license playing companies before they could perform. [edit]Marriage

On 29 November 1582 at Temple Grafton near Stratford, the 18-year-old Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, who was 26. Two neighbours of Hathaway, Fulk Sandalls and John Richardson, posted bond that there were no impediments to the marriage. The ceremony may have been arranged in some haste; Hathaway gave birth six months later. On 26 May 1583 Shakespeare’s first child, Susanna, was baptised at Stratford. Twin children, a son, Hamnet, and a daughter, Judith, were baptised on 2 February 1585. Hamnet died in 1596, Susanna in 1649 and Judith in 1662.

Shakespeare Before Thomas Lucy, a typical Victorian illustration of the poaching anecdote After his marriage, Shakespeare left few traces in the historical record until he appeared on the London theatrical scene. Indeed, the period from 1585 (when his twin children were born) until 1592 (when Robert Greene called him an “upstart crow”) is known as Shakespeare’s “lost years” because no evidence has survived to show exactly where he was or why he left Stratford for London.[11]

A number of stories are given to account for his life during this time, including that Shakespeare fled Stratford after he got in trouble for poaching deer from local squire Thomas Lucy, or that he wrote a scurrilous ballad about him. Shakespeare’s first biographer Nicholas Rowe recorded both these tales, stating that he wrote the ballad after being prosecuted for poaching by Lucy. John Aubrey says that he worked as a country school teacher, and Rowe that he minded the horses of theatre patrons in London. There is no documentary evidence to support any of these stories and they all were recorded only after Shakespeare’s death.[12]