William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-on-Avon, probably on April 23, 1564, and died on April 23, 1616. Much of what we think we know about the Bard’s life is inference, educated guesses, and conjecture.
His father, John Shakespeare, was a prosperous businessman and alderman of Stratford. His mother was Mary Arden.
Shakespeare is thought to have attended Stratford Grammar School, but did not go on to study at university.
At the age of 18, in 1582, he married Anne Hathaway, eight years his senior. Their marriage produced two daughters and a son. In 1587, Shakespeare left for London, although Anne remained in Stratford her entire life.
During his lifetime, Shakespeare was a businessman, a landowner, an actor, and a theater owner, but it is as a poet and playwright that he is best known and remembered today. He published five long poems and 154 sonnets, many of which are studied in English classes to this day. He wrote 38 plays, which are still performed on stages around the world, and have been turned into numerous motion pictures. His first plays were The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Comedy of Errors, in 1589. His final three plays were The Two Noble Kinsmen in 1611, Canderio (of which no written copy survives) in 1612, and Henry VIII in 1613. The plays for which Shakespeare is perhaps best known among young adults were written in the middle of his career: Romeo and Juliet (1594), Julius Caesar (1599), Hamlet (1600), and Macbeth (1606). Considering the popularity of the Bard’s works nearly four centuries after his death, the playwright Ben Jonson provided a fitting tribute to Shakespeare when he wrote in 1641 that Shakespeare’s works were “not of an age, but for all time.”