Most biographical information about William Shakespeare's life and death derives from public instead of private documents: vital records, real estate and tax records, lawsuits, records of payments, and references to Shakespeare and his works in printed and hand-written texts. The bare historical record documents that Shakespeare was baptised 26 April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, England, in theHoly Trinity Church, at age 18 married Anne Hathaway 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. Because of his social status as a commoner, the low esteem in which his profession was held and the general disinterest of the time in the biographies of writers, few personal biographical facts about Shakespeare survive. Nevertheless, literally thousands of biographies have been and continue to be written in the absence of any personal papers, based on the 70 or so hard facts recorded about Shakespeare the man, most of which embellish or interpret the facts. * |
William 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 date of his birth is unknown, but his baptismal record was dated April 26, 1564. This is the first official record of Shakespeare, as birth certificates were not issued at the time of Queen Elizabeth. Because baptisms were normally performed within a few days of birth it is highly likely that Shakespeare was born in April 1564, although the long-standing tradition that he was born on April 23 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 Dayof Saint George, the patron saint of England, which might seem appropriate for England's greatest playwright. He was the son of John Shakespeare, a successful glover and alderman 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 prosecuted for unlicensed dealing in wool and later lost his position as an alderman. Some evidence pointed to possible Roman Catholic sympathies on both sides of the family. Education
Although no attendance records for the period survive, Shakespeare was probably educated at the King's New School in Stratford, a free school chartered in 1553, about a quarter-mile from his home. 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 the classics. 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...