William Shakespeare is a famous English writer. He is famous all over the world for writing plays for the theatre. Another name for him is the “Bard of Avon”. (Words with * are explained at the end)
Shakespeare was born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon and many historians believe it was probably on Saint George’s Day, 23rd April. He was the third child in a family of eight children. His father was a leather merchant* and had an important position in the local council*. William went to the local grammar* school where he learned Latin and history.
When he was 18 years old, William married Anne Hathaway who was age 26. A daughter, Susanna, was born six months after the wedding. Two years William and Susanna had twins, a son named Hamnet and a daughter named Judith. Sadly Hamnet died aged 11.
Shakespeare in London
We do not know much about William during 1585 to 1592; scholars call that time Shakespeare’s “lost years”. It was in 1592 when Shakespeare became a part of the world of theatre. He joined an acting company called Lord Chamberlain’s Men. The company was owned by a group of players (actors) including Shakespeare. No one knows when Shakespeare began writing plays, but in 1594 only one The Lord Chamerlain’s Men were performing his plays. The group soon became the leading* acting company in London. His early plays include “The Taming of the Shrew”, “Richard III”, “The Comedy of Errors” and “Romeo and Juliet”.
During this period the company performed north of the River Thames at a site in Shoreditch called “The Theatre”. The company owned “The Theatre” but not the land. In 1597 the land owner told the company he wanted the Theatre torn down* so he could use the land for something else. He locked the property and would not allow the actors in. The actors tried to buy the land owner would not sell. Consequently, one night some of the actors dismantled* the Theatre and took it across the river Thames to Southwark on the south bank where they rebuilt* it and called it “The Globe Theatre”. The Globe opened in the autumn of 1599. One of the earliest plays performed by the company was “Julius Caesar”. Whilst at the Globe the actors also performed some of Shakespeare’s most famous plays including “Hamlet”, “King Lear”, “Othello” and “Macbeth”.
Shakespeare lived between two places, London and Stratford. By 1597 he had made a lot of money from his plays. He was therefore able to buy a large house in Stratford as well as a house in London.
Shakespeare died on 23rd April 1616, his 52nd birthday. No one knows what caused his death. He was buried in the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. In 1623 the local people built a funeral monument. He also has a monument at Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey in London. Furthermore when he died he left a gift for his wife in his will; his second-best bed!
Do you recognise any expressions from Shakespeare’s time?
Merchant – Someone who buys and sells products, often internationally
Council – a group of people who make decisions about a particular area. They are voted for by the people living in that area
Grammar school – a type of school for teenager children
To tear down – to destroy a building because it is not needed any more
Dismantled – to take something apart into smaller pieces
Rebuilt – (opposite of dismantled) to build something again after it has been dismantled
Globe Theatre Depositphotos_12255925_s-2015