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The facts are very few. Shakespeare was probably born on the 23rd of April, 1564, in Stratford-on Avon. His father was a respectable shopkeeper, and dealt in wool, skins, leather, gloves. His mother, Mary Arden, was a farmer's daughter. William was the eldest of eight children. We know that when Shakespeare was 18, he married Anne Hathaway, a woman eight years older than himself, that in 1583 Susanna, their first child, was born, and that twins Hamnet and Judith followed in 1585. At the age of 22 Shakespeare left Stratford alone, for London. He is reputed to have been all manner of things, from sailor and soldier to lawyer's clerk and householder outside an early London playhouse We know that in 1593 and 1594 he wrote two early poems, "Venus and Adonis"' and "Lucrece".
Later, he became a member of the company known as "Chamberlain's Men" which played at the "Theatre"; and he wrote for the company. He was already reaching the height of his fame when the Globe Theatre was built in 1593. He often acted at court, and retired, about 1611, to Stratford.
The day of his death was the 23rd of April, 1616, fifty-two years exactly after the supposed day of his birth. That is all we know about William Shakespeare.
There has been a good deal of debate about the extent of Shakespeare's learning. It is true that he never went to university or travelled abroad. Some romantics have made him out to be an unlettered man of the people. They declared that an illiterate could never have written such poetry — therefore someone else must have done it instead. Such reactions are unnecessary. Shakespeare learned grammar, logic, and Latin at the grammar school, and he had enough education to develop his literary skill.We do not know whether Shakespeare went to London with the intention of becoming an actor. He may have done so. There would have been plenty of opportunity for him to be attracted to the stage in his youth, quite apart from any natural inclinations towards poetry. Theatre was very popular at that time. Classical plays were acted at schools, with educational purposes in view; travelling companies of professional actors often visited Stratford and performed there. We cannot prove anything for certain, but it is highly possible that William Shakespeare joined one of these
companies when they passed through Stratford.
The London to which young Shakespeare came was a splendid place where painters, musicians, poets shone. Theatre was the most exciting entertainment. If genius could he accounted for. It might perhaps he said that Shakespeare's acquaintance with the art of the actor helped him in an understanding of the art of the playwright. But this explanation is not enough. To it must be added an observing mind, a profound sympathetic understanding of life, an acquaintance with all classes of men and women, and above all an ability to see human nature
Shakespeare wrote 37 plays, among them comedies ("The Taming of the Shrew", "Much Ado About Nothing", "Twelfth Night", "As You Like It", etc.), tragedies ("Hamlet", "King Lear". "Macbeth", "Romeo and Juliet", "Othello" and others), historical plays ("Henry the Sixth", "Richard the Third", "Henry the Fourth", etc), and sonnets.
Shakespeare's genius did not lie in his ability to originate plots (for almost all of his stories were borrowed from chronicle, biography, prose tale, or earlier play), but rather in his capacity for revealing life in its lull richness and movement Shakespeare's plays and sonnets are masterpieces. Shakespeare expressed in them the variety of human nature. All human life is there in his plays, its greatness and its imperfections alike Shakespeare possesses some special merit for every generation, and almost every person in turn. Whether he is writing of history, or love, or tragedy, or comedy, things have meaning and value. It was his genius that gave the world poetry of a deathless beauty.
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