William Shakespeare

An Overview of the Life of Poet and Dramatist William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was a remarkable English poet and playwright widely regarded as one of the finest poets and dramatists. He is also the most well-known playwright globally, with his works having been translated into over 50 languages. In addition, Shakespeare, often known as “The Bard” or “The Bard of Avon,” was an actor and the founder of the Globe Theatre, a historical theatre that attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.

He probably studied in King Edward VI Grammar School in Stratford, where he learnt languages Latin, little Greek and also read the Roman dramatists. His parents were John Shakespeare and Mary Arden. He married Anne Hathaway, a woman seven or eight years his senior when he was eighteen. Susanna, born in 1583, and Judith, born in 1585 (whose twin brother died as a child), were their two daughters.

William Shakespeare holds a unique position in international literature. Other poets and novelists, such as Homer and Dante, have transcended national boundaries. Still, no living writer’s reputation can compare to Shakespeare’s, whose plays, written for a small repertory theatre in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, are now performed and read more frequently and in more countries than ever before. Shakespeare fulfilled the forecast of his great contemporary, poet and dramatist Ben Jonson, that he “was not of an era, but for all time.”

A Great Man’s Characteristics

William Shakespeare
Credit: Shakespearean Library

He is a writer of extraordinary intellectual quickness, insight, and poetic power. Other writers have these abilities, but Shakespeare’s acute mind was for human beings and their full spectrum of emotions and conflicts, not obscure or distant themes. Other writers have used their sharp minds in this way. Still, William Shakespeare is extraordinarily gifted with words and imagery so that his mental energy finds full and memorable expression in intelligible human circumstances.

As if that wasn’t enough, the art form he channelled his creative impulses was neither distant nor bookish but rather entailed the dramatic stage imitation of human beings, eliciting sympathy and inspiring vicarious participation. Shakespeare’s virtues can withstand translation into languages and civilizations other than Elizabethan England.

He has written tragedies, comedies, and historical works in poetry and prose. And, despite being the most well-known writer globally, nothing is known about his life. Shakespeare is a person of extraordinary genius and mystery, as no known autobiographical writings or journals have survived to the present day, and he has no living descendants.

It has resulted in a plethora of interpretations of his life and works. It turned him into a legend of a commoner from Stratford-upon-Avon who came to fame and created many of the fundamental works that serve as the foundation for the modern English language.

Before the Stage

William Shakespeare’s birth date is unknown, but it is widely assumed that he was born at Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England, in April 1564 and christened in the same month. He was the son of an alderman named John Shakespeare and Mary Arden, a well-known farmer’s daughter of the family’s landlord. He was the eldest of eight children and the family’s eldest surviving son.

Shakespeare attended the King’s New School in Stratford, a free chartered grammar school. He learned the introductory Latin text and grammar there, most of which had been standardized across the country by royal decree. He was also known to participate in the school’s theatre, as was customary. However, Shakespeare’s education as a commoner ceased at the elementary school level.

In the year 1582, an 18-year-old Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, who was 26 years old and already pregnant at their wedding. Six months later, Hathaway gave birth to Susanna, the couple’s first child, with twins Hamnet and Judith, following two years later in 1585. Unfortunately, his son Hamnet passed away due to unclear causes when he was 11 years old.

William Shakespeare vanished from public view after the birth of his twins in 1585. So it was until his works began to resurface on the London stage in 1592. The seven years together are called “Shakespeare’s Lost Years,” They have sparked a slew of unsubstantiated rumours, including one about Shakespeare evading Stratford’s punishment for deer hunting. This narrative, like others, is simply for entertainment purposes and is not regarded as part of the playwright’s canon.

Globe Theatre Career and Creation

Globe Theatre
Credit: Guide London

Around 1592, William Shakespeare first appeared on the London stage, where his plays would be written and performed, though the exact date is unknown. He was, nonetheless, well-known enough to be criticized in newspapers by critics and so was regarded as a well-established dramatist.

Shakespeare’s plays were only produced after 1594 by Lord Chamberlain’s Men, a company owned by a group of players who became London’s leading company. The firm was issued a royal patent after Queen Elizabeth’s death in 1603, renaming it the King’s Men after King James I.

In 1599, Shakespeare and a group of actors who appeared in his play built their theatre on the River Thames, which they christened the Globe Theatre. Following that, a record of Shakespeare’s property purchases and investments revealed that the writer had amassed a considerable fortune. He purchased homes in London and Stratford for himself and his family, spending most of his time in London.

Shakespeare’s renown was cemented by 1598 when his name became the selling point in new works when the first known quartos of his plays were produced. As a result, he became a successful theatre performer and playwright, with his name appearing on the title pages of his works.

William Shakespeare continued to work at the Globe Theatre with his company of men until roughly 1610 when he resigned from the stage. After that, however, he continued to support the Globe Theatre. It includes purchasing apartments near the theatre for playwrights and actors to live in.

Death and Retirement

William Shakespeare retreated from public life in 1610, just as the bubonic plague’s siege on London began to fade. It was a rare behaviour at the time, although he was far from inactive. The playwright continued to visit London regularly, working with other playwrights like John Fletcher and spending time with his son-in-law John Hall, who married his eldest daughter Susanna in 1607.

Until 1613, after the last great works was completed, the playwright was still active as a dramatist and writer. Shakespeare spent the rest of his life at Stratford-upon-Avon, where he had bought the town’s second-largest residence for his family.

On April 23, 1616, William Shakespeare died and was buried after two days at the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. There was a curse put on his tombstone to keep those who would disturb his bones at bay. He was 52 years of age when he died, and his wife, Anna, and their two kids survived him. Unfortunately, Shakespeare’s family has no direct descendants because both daughters had children who did not live to adulthood.

The Works of William Shakespeare

A midsummer night's dream
Credit: Britannica

William Shakespeare was known for both poetry and plays, with each medium serving a different purpose. There were plays related to the current theatrical fashion. In contrast, his poetry served to provide storytelling in erotic or romantic ways, resulting in a canon of work as diverse in language as the issues of human nature that the works portray.

Between 1589 and 1613, Shakespeare wrote the majority of his recognised works. His early plays were mostly comedies and histories, and they are considered to be among the best in these genres. Until 1608, Shakespeare primarily authored tragedies, including Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth, all of which are considered among the best works in the English language. He composed tragicomedies (sometimes known as romances) and collaborated with other playwrights in his later years.


Scholars believe William Shakespeare composed at least 37 plays, most of which are classified as comedies, histories, or tragedies. The “King Henry VI” trilogy is the earliest play directly credited to Shakespeare, with Richard III produced about the same time, between 1589 and 1591. The last play, “The Two Noble Kinsmen,” was a collaboration, perhaps with John Fletcher.

Shakespeare’s plays began with history, including the works mentioned above as well as “Pericles,” “King John,” and the twin volumes of both “Henry IV” and “Henry V,” which were written at later dates. Shakespeare moved into comedies in the late 1580s and early 1590s, defined by comedic moments and pairs of interwoven narratives. Some of the popular are:

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Merchant of Venice
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • As You Like It
  • Twelfth Night

Two tragedies, the remarkable Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar bookend Shakespeare’s comedy era. Romeo and Juliet play was written in early 1590s, while Julius Caesar was written at the end.

William Shakespeare devoted the latter part of his writing career to tragedies and “problem” plays. He wrote works such as Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Coriolanus, and Macbeth during this period, which were considered the playwright’s best. These are the works now being produced on stage and in film.

When looking at a timeline of Shakespeare’s plays, it is evident that as he rose in prominence, he changed the subjects of his plays and subsequently reverted to a more peaceful life. Shakespeare’s progress as a man and a writer is clear, moving from historical issues to a more lighthearted side and finally into plays with narratives that conclude in the sense of forgiveness and calm. In reality, top literature academics have conducted fascinating dissertations on the playwright’s attachment to and opposition to the English language.

Sonnets and Poems

William Shakespeare is credited with two volumes of poetry and more than 150 sonnets. Although Shakespeare was a poet throughout his life, it is thought that he turned to poetry in 1593 and 1594, when the plague forced London theatres to close.

Shakespeare published two volumes of narrative poems during those years, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. Both volumes dealt with the issues of overwhelming lust and the guilt that comes with it, and they were well accepted during his lifetime, partly due to their sensual tone. In addition, Shakespeare penned A Lover’s Complaint in a similar vein, which was included in the first edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets, published in 1609.

Shakespeare’s sonnets were a collection of more than 150 poems published late in his life with no indication of when each piece was written. The sonnets are usually assumed to be part of a private diary that was never intended to be read publicly but was nevertheless published.

The poet’s yearning for a married woman with a dark complexion, known as The Dark Lady, is chronicled in one set of sonnets, while the other recounts a conflicted or confused love for a young man, known as the “fair youth.” While it is unknown or confirmed, many in the literary world feel that Shakespeare’s sonnets correctly depict the poet’s heart, leading the public to speculate about his thoughts on religion, sex, marriage, and life.

Critics have lauded the sonnets for being very personal and contemplating the principles of love, lust, procreation, and death. Along with Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and Walt Whitman, Shakespeare is now considered one of the most prominent English poets in history.

The Shakespearean Connection

William Shakespeare
Credit: Kirates

William Shakespeare’s impact on art, literature, language and other creative arts has long been recognized. He is the most widely read dramatist in the Western Hemisphere, with lines and phrases from his works littering the English language. Shakespeare is also credited for inventing the iambic pentameter, a type of poetry that is still popular today.

He is also one of English literature’s most important figures, having influenced everyone from Herman Melville and Charles Dickens to Agatha Christie and Anthony Burgess. But many of his beliefs on human nature on Hamlet. Moreover, his influence can be seen in painting and opera, particularly in Giuseppe Verdi’s operas and the entire community of Romantic and Pre-Raphaelite painters.

However, Shakespeare was and continues to be the most important figure in the English language. “Breaking the ice” and “heart of gold” are now common phrases, but they are thought to have originated in Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. In addition, over seventy examples from everyday life can be explicitly ascribed to Shakespeare, indicating that much of how people communicate now has a history dating back to the 17th century.

Apart from phrases, it is well known that the dramatist contributed over 1,700 new words to the English language, which was not standardized during the 16th and 17th centuries. William Shakespeare, who changed English into the populist language today, is responsible for terms like lonely, frugal, diminish, and many others.


We don’t know everything about William Shakespeare’s life because he lived almost 400 years ago, and many records from that period are lost or never existed in the first place. Fans of William Shakespeare have imagined and reinvented him according to their interests, even without knowing everything about his life.

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