WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

This is a lesson about the famous English playwright William Shakespeare.

He was born in the Midlands town of Stratford upon Avon on or around 23rd April 1564.

He wrote more than forty plays, many of which are still performed in theatres around the world today.

His most famous plays are probably Romeo and Juliet, Merchant of Venice,  Midsummer Nights Dream, Macbeth and Hamlet.

He attended the local Grammar School where he learnt Latin and Greek.

Theatre performances in Stratford town by travelling actors from pageant wagons would stir William’s desire to one day become a famous playwright.

He was only eleven years old when he experienced the spectacle of the midsummer pageant hosted by Lord Leicester for Queen Elizabeth at nearby Kenilworth Castle in 1575.

Inspired by that great event, ‘A Midsummers Nights Dream’ was probably the first play William ever wrote, alsobeit in a very primitive form.

After being sent to a catholic finishing school in France for four years, he returned to Stratford in 1582 to marry a local village girl, Anne Hathaway.

William was only eighteen and Anne Hathaway twenty six when they married.

Their marriage produced three children, one of whom, Hamnet, died of sickness in 1596.

Puritan magistrate Sir Thomas Lucy was a constant annoyance to the catholic Shakespeare family.  The Shakespeare family life  at their much crowded home in Henley Street was often a troubled one.

William knew that his future lay beyond sleepy Stratford and the family feud with Lucy.

In order to better himself further, William, encouraged by benevolent Stratfordian Hugh Clopton,  went to Italy for three years.

He returned to a very different England in 1588, with catholic Mary Queen of Scots having been executed, Lord Leicester having also died and the Spanish Armada fleet having been defeated.

William settled in London for a few years and fell into a writers circle which included Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kydd and Robert Greene.

The Stratfordian circle of Richard Burbage, Richard Field, Michael Drayton and others would be the backbone of William’s success in writing plays in the period from 1590 to 1612.

He had made enough money from his plays by 1597 to buy the only brick built house in Stratford, New Place, from his good friend and mentor Hugh Clopton.

During this time, he established his own acting group called the Lord Chamberlains Men and his own theatre on the south bank of London’s river Thames called the Globe.

When the Globe Theatre burnt down in 1612, that was the signal for the retirement from public life and London of the man his great friend Ben Jonson had called ‘the Bard’.

It was in the company of this great friend and while supping ale on the banks of the river Avon in Stratford one Spring evening, ironically, on the very eve of his fifty-third birthday,  that William Shakespeare passed away.

William Shakespeare is buried at the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.

Many years later, those who cherished his literary contribution during his lifetime, worked together to produce the first complete publication of his plays, the First Folio, in 1623.

It was a token gesture to his widow Anne who died a short time afterwards.

Literary genius, grain mechant, investor and opportunist, William Shakespeare was without doubt an elizabethan man for all time.

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