Biography of William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

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William Shakespeare
In the mid-sixteenth century, William Shakespeare's father, John Shakespeare, moved to the idyllic town of Stratford-upon-Avon. There, he became a successful landowner, moneylender, glove-maker, and dealer of wool and agricultural goods. In 1557, he married Mary Arden. John Shakespeare lived during a time when the middle class was expanding in both size and wealth, allowing its members more freedoms and luxuries as well as a louder voice in local government. He took advantage of the change in times and in 1557 became a member of the Stratford Council. This event marked the beginning of his illustrious political career. By 1561, he was elected one of the town's fourteen burgesses and subsequently served successively as constable, one of two chamberlains, and alderman. In these positions, he administered borough property and revenues. In 1567, he became bailiff—the highest elected office in Stratford and the equivalent of a modern-day mayor. Town records indicate that William Shakespeare was John and Mary's third child. His birth is unregistered, but legend pins it on April 23, 1564, possibly because it is known that April 23 is the day on which he died 52 years later. In any event, his baptism was registered with the town on April 26, 1564. Little is known about his childhood, although it is generally assumed that he attended the local grammar school, the King's New School. The school was staffed by Oxford-educated faculty who taught the students mathematics, natural sciences, logic, Christian ethics, and classical language and literature. Shakespeare did not attend university, which was not at all unusual for the time. University education was reserved for wealthy sons of the elite, mostly those who wanted to become clergymen. The numerous classical and literary references in Shakespeare’s plays are a testament, however, to the excellent education he received in grammar school (and to his ability as an autodidact). His early plays in...