Early lifeWilliam Shakespeare  was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, a market town of around 1,500 residents about 100 miles (160 km) northwest of London. The town was a centre for the slaughter, marketing, and distribution of sheep, as well as for hide tanning and wool trading. The exact date of his birth is April 23, 1564, which is also the Feast Day of Saint George, the patron saint of England. His baptismal record was dated 26 April 1564.
He was the first son and the first surviving child in the family; two earlier children, Joan and Margaret, had died early. John Shakespeare’s house, believed to be Shakespeare’s birthplace, now belonging to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust He was the son of John Shakespeare, a successful glover originally from Snitterfield, and of Mary Arden, a daughter of the gentry.
They married around 1557 and lived on Henley Street when Shakespeare was born in a house now known as Shakespeare’s Birthplace. They had eight children: Joan (baptised 15 September 1558, died in infancy), Margaret (bap. 2 December 1562 – buried 30 April 1563), William, Gilbert (bap. 13 October 1566 – bur. 2 February 1612), Joan (bap. 15 April 1569 – bur. 4 November 1646), Anne (bap. 28 September 1571 – bur. 4 April 1579), Richard (bap. 11 March 1574 – bur. 4 February 1613) and Edmund (bap. 3 May 1580 – bur.
London, 31 December 1607). Shakespeare’s father, prosperous at the time of William’s birth, was appointed to several municipal offices and served as an alderman in 1565, culminating in a term as bailiff in 1568, the chief magistrate of the town council before falling on hard times for reasons unclear to historians beginning in 1576, when his son William was 12. He was prosecuted for unlicensed dealing in wool and usury, and mortgaged and subsequently lost some lands he had obtained through his wife’s inheritance that would have been inherited by Shakespeare.
After four years of non-attendence at council meetings, he was finally replaced as burgess in 1586. Before being allowed to perform for the general public, touring playing companies were required to present their play before the town council to be licensed. Players first acted in Stratford in 1568, the year that John Shakespeare was bailiff. Before Shakespeare turned 20, the Stratford town council had paid for at least 18 performances by no fewer than 12 playing companies.
EducationMost Shakespeare biographers qualify his attendance at the King’s New School in Stratford with phrases such as “almost certainly” because all attendance records for the time have been lost, but Shakespeare’s works exhibit detailed knowledge of the grammar school curriculum and none of the university life that is evident in university-educated playwrights such as Marlowe.
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. 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, although this cannot be confirmed because the school’s records have not survived.
Grammar schools varied in quality during the Elizabethan era, but the grammar curriculum was standardised by royal decree throughout England, and the school would have provided an intensive education in Latin grammar and literature—”as good a formal literary training as had any of his contemporaries”
As a part of this education, the students were exposed to Latin plays that students performed to better understand the language. One of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, The Comedy of Errors, bears similarity to Plautus’sMenaechmi, which could well have been performed at the school. There is no evidence that he received a university education. Marriage
On 28 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 ensuring that no legal impediments existed to the union. The ceremony may have been arranged in some haste; their first daughter, Susanna, was born on 26 May 1583, six months later. 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.
Lost yearsShakespeare Before Thomas Lucy, a typical Victorian illustration of the poaching anecdote After the birth of the twins, save for being party to a lawsuit to recover part of his mother’s estate which had been mortgaged and lost by default, Shakespeare left no historical traces until he is mentioned as part of the London theatrical scene. Indeed, the seven-year period between 1585 (when his twin children were born) and 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.
Later years and death
Rowe was the first biographer to pass down the tradition that Shakespeare retired to Stratford some years before his death; but retirement from all work was uncommon at that time, and Shakespeare continued to visit London. In 1612 he was called as a witness in a court case concerning the marriage settlement of Mountjoy’s daughter, Mary. In March 1613 he bought agatehouse in the former Blackfriars priory;
In June Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna was slandered by John Lane, a local man who claimed she had caught gonorrhea from a lover. Susanna and her husband Dr John Hall sued for slander. Lane failed to appear and was convicted. From November 1614 Shakespeare was in London for several weeks with his son-in-law Hall. In the last few weeks of Shakespeare’s life, the man who was to marry his younger daughter Judith — a tavern-keeper named Thomas Quiney — was charged in the local church court with “fornication”.
A woman named Margaret Wheeler had given birth to a child and claimed it was Quiney’s; she and the child both died soon after. Quiney was thereafter disgraced, and Shakespeare revised his will to ensure that Judith’s interest in his estate was protected from possible malfeasance on Quiney’s part. He died on 23 April 1616, at the age of 52. He was married to Anne Hathaway until his death and was survived by two daughters, Susanna and Judith. His son Hamnet had died in 1596. His last surviving descendant was his granddaughter Elizabeth Hall, daughter of Susanna and John Hall.
There are no direct descendants of the poet and playwright alive today, but the diarist John Aubrey recalls in his Brief Lives that William Davenant, his godson, was “contented” to be believed Shakespeare’s actual son. Davenant’s mother was the wife of a vintner at the Crown Tavern in Oxford, on the road between London and Stratford, where Shakespeare would stay when travelling between his home and the capital.
Shakespeare is buried in the chancel of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon. He was granted the honour of burial in the chancel not on account of his fame as a playwright but for purchasing a share of the tithe of the church for £440 (a considerable sum of money at the time). A monument on the wall nearest his grave, probably placed by his family, features a bust showing Shakespeare posed in the act of writing. Each year on his claimed birthday, a new quill pen is placed in the writing hand of the bust. He is believed to have written the epitaph on his tombstone. “Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here.Blest be the man that spares these stones,And cursed be he that moves my bones.”