Born: 23 April 1564
William Shakespeare is generally considered the greatest writer of all time. He was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon in Warwickshire, to
Mary and John Shakespeare, and was one of eight children. His father was a glover and the family lived above his shop. The building, known as Shakespeare's Birthplace,
still stands today and is visited by thousands of people every year. John Shakespeare prospered in his trade and became a prominent local
man, holding such posts as Bailiff of Stratford and Chief Alderman. Very little is known about William's childhood, but it is usually
assumed that he attended the local grammar school.
When he was 18, he fell in love with a local woman named Anne Hathaway, and the two married when Anne discovered that she was pregnant. The child was a girl, Susanna, and she was baptised in the May of 1583. Less than two years later, Anne gave birth to twins, Hamnet and Judith. Not long afterwards, William left Stratford-Upon-Avon, and his young family, for London, where his career as an actor and playwright began.
Shakespeare's plays, along with his collection of sonnets, contain unparalleled poetic beauty and wisdom, and his knowledge is breathtakingly diverse. Without a doubt Shakespeare was a genius, and is considered, along with the likes of Albert Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as having possessed one of the greatest minds of all time.
Since they were written 400 years ago, Shakespeare's plays and sonnets have had a profound impact on Western Civilisation. Hundreds of words invented by Shakespeare have passed into common usage, such as amazement, bloody, eventful, and many of his phrases have become proverbs. Some include:
All that glitters is not gold
Be all and end all
Green eyed monster
The course of true love never did run smooth
The milk of human kindness
It's Greek to me
Too much of a good thing
Shakespeare's plays have been translated into many languages, and are still performed all over the world today. Almost everyone in the Western World has read one of Shakespeare's plays, even if only at school, and almost everyone can name one of his works. Arguably, Shakespeare's most famous and popular play is the romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Other popular plays include Hamlet, Macbeth,A Midsummer Night's Dream, Othello, and The Merchant of Venice.
Some of Shakespeare's plays were published individually in his lifetime, but most were printed for the first time in the First Folio of 1623. This was a collection of 36 plays, divided into Comedies, Histories and Tragedies, in one printed volume. Next to the Bible, it is the most influential and important literary publication in Western History. The sonnets were published for the first time in 1609. It is thought by some that Shakespeare wrote, or at least contributed to, other plays, such as Pericles and Edward III. However, as they were not published in the First Folio, this is a matter of some debate.
Aswell as the plays and sonnets, Shakespeare wrote two narrative poems called Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, and is credited with writing other minor works such as A Lover's Complaint and The Phoenix and the Turtle.