Many books present facts, reasonable suppositions, traditions, and speculations concerning the life and career of William Shakespeare. Taken as a whole, these materials give a comprehensive picture of England's foremost dramatic poet. Tradition and sober supposition are not necessarily false because they lack proof of their existence. However, readers interested in Shakespeare should distinguish between facts and unfounded beliefs about his life.
From one point of view, modern scholars are fortunate to know as much as they do about a man of middle-class origin who left a small country town and embarked on a professional career in late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century London. From another point of view, today's scholars know surprisingly little about the writer who has influenced the English language and its drama and poetry for more than three hundred years. Sparse and scattered as the facts of his life are, they are sufficient to prove that a man from Stratford by the name of William Shakespeare wrote the major portion of the thirty-seven plays that scholars attribute to him. Here is a brief look at the known facts of Shakespeare's life:
Although no one knows the exact date of Shakespeare's birth, he was baptized on Wednesday, April 26, 1564. His father was John Shakespeare, tanner, glover, dealer in grain, and a town official of Stratford; his mother, Mary, was the daughter of Robert Arden, a prosperous gentleman farmer.
Under a bond dated November 28, 1582, Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway entered into a marriage contract. The baptism of their eldest child, Susanna, took place in May, 1583. One year and nine months later, their twins, Hamnet and Judith (named for the poet's friends, Hamnet and Judith Sadler), were christened.
Early in 1596, Shakespeare, in his father's name, applied to the College of Heralds for a coat of arms. In 1599, Shakespeare applied for the right to combine (quarter) his coat of arms with that of his mother.
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