By Paul Bleier
William Shakespeare was a supreme English poet and playwright, universally recognized as the greatest of all the dramatists.
A complete, authoritative account of Shakespeare's life is lacking; much supposition surrounds relatively few facts. His day of birth is traditionally held on April 23, and he was baptized on April 24, 1564. He was the third of eight children, and was the eldest son of John Shakespeare. He was probably educated in a local grammar school. As the eldest son, Shakespeare would of taken over his father's business, but according to one account, he became a butcher because of reverses in his father's financial situation. According to another account, he became a school master. That Shakespeare was allowed considerable leisure time in his youth is suggested by the fact that his plays show more knowledge of hunting and hawking than do those of other dramatists. In 1582, he married Anne Hathaway. He is supposed to have left Stratford after he was caught poaching in a deer park.
Shakespeare apparently arrived in London about 1588 and by 1592 had attained success as a playwright. The publication of Venus and Adonis, The Rape of Lucrece and of his Sonnets established his reputation as a poet in the Renaissance manner. Shakespeare's modern reputation is based mainly on the 38 plays he wrote, modified, or collaborated on.
Shakespeare's professional life in London was marked by a number of financially advantageous arrangements that permitted him to share in the profits of his acting company, the Chamberlain's Men, and its two theaters, the Globe and the Blackfriars. His plays were given special presentation at the courts of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. After about 1608, Shakespeare's dramatic production lessened and he spent more time in Stratford. There he established a family in and imposing house, the New Place, and became a leading local citizen. He died on...