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William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)

Shakespeare, William

William Shakespeare remains a mysterious figure regarding to his personal history. There are only two primary sources for information: his works, and various legal and church documents that have survived.

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, around April 23, 1564. Church records from Holy Trinity Church indicate that he was baptized there on April 26, 1564. William was born to John Shakespeare, a glover and leather merchant, and Mary Arden, a landed heiress. William was the third of eight children the Shakespeare family. Unfortunately, three of his siblings died in childhood.

On November 28, 1582, at the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway. She was pregnant at the time. She was from Shottery, a village close to from Stratford. Anne was eight years older than Shakespeare. Their first daughter, Susanna, was born on May 26, 1583. Two years later William and Anne had twins, Hamnet and Judith.

Most people think that that Shakespeare arrived in London around 1588 and began to establish himself as an actor and playwright. Shakespeare demonstrated considerable talent. By 1592, however, Shakespeare was already recognized as an actor and playwright. By 1594, he was not only acting and writing for the Lord Chamberlain's Men, but was also a managing partner in the operation as well.

When the plague forced theatre closings in the 1590s, Shakespeare and his company made plans for the Globe Theatre in the Bankside district, which was across the river from London proper. Shakespeare's name first appeared on the title pages of his printed plays in 1598.

Shakespeare's company was the most successful in London in his time. He had plays published and sold to his audiences. Shakespeare retired from his theater work in 1610 and returned to Stratford. While Shakespeare could not be considered wealthy, by London standards, his success allowed him to purchase New House and retire in comfort to Stratford in 1611.

The same year, William Shakespeare wrote his will. He left most of his property to his daughter Susanna. On May 3, 1616, Shakespeare died - he was 52 at the time. He was buried in the chancel of the Church of the Holy Trinity in Stratford. In death, he leaves a final piece of verse as his epitaph:

Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbeare
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.

Famous quotations by William Shakespeare:

  • To me, fair friend, you never can be old For as you were when first your eye I eyed, Such seems your beauty still.

  • The tartness of his face sours ripe grapes.

  • It is a wise father that knows his own child.

  • Friendship is constant in all other things Save in the office and affairs of love.

  • We know what we are, but know not what we may be.

  • Our doubts are traitors And make us lose the good we oft might win By fearing to attempt.

  • Love is a spirit of all compact of fire.

  • Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.

  • Love sought is good, but given unsought, is better.

  • The course of true love never did run smooth.

  • They do not love that do not show their love.

  • Fortune brings in some boats that are not steered.

  • Men are April when they woo, December when they wed. Maids are May when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives.

  • Your lordship, though not clean past your youth, have yet some smack of age in you, some relish of the saltness of time.

  • The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils. The motions of his spirit are dull as night, And his affections dark as Erebus. Let no such man be trusted.

  • That which in mean men we entitle patience Is pale cold cowardice in noble breasts.

  • I will praise any man that will praise me.

  • I do know of these That therefore only are reputed wise For saying nothing.

  • Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course, Chief nourisher in life's feast.

  • Come what come may, Time and the hour run through the roughest day.

  • The whirligig of time brings in his revenges.

  • So wise so young, they say, do never live long.

  • To be wise and love Exceeds man's might: that dwells with the gods above.

  • As he was valiant, I honour him. But as he was ambitious, I slew him.

  • I charge thee, fling away ambition: By that sin fell the angels.

  • Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer's lease hath all too short a date.

  • O! beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock The meat it feeds on.

  • In time we hate that which we often fear.

  • The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.

  • Honour pricks me on. Yea, but how if honour prick me off when I come on? How then? Can honour set to a leg? No. Or an arm? No. Or take away the grief of a wound? No. Honour hath no skill in surgery then? No. What is honour? A word. What is in that word? Honour. What is that honour? Air. A trim reckoning. Who hath it? He that died o' Wednesday.

  • Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing; 'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands; But he that filches from me my good name Robs me of that which not enriches him, And makes me poor indeed.

  • Striving to better, oft we mar what's well.

  • When sorrows come, they come not single spies, But in battalions!

  • If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?

  • Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.

  • Suggested sites for William Shakespeare:

    Encyclopedia article about William Shakespeare
    Texts by Shakespeare
    All's Well that End's Well
    Helena, a maid, cures the King of France, then asks for Lord Bertram's hand in marriage. Bertram agrees, but leaves for Italy to fight in the war and, he hopes, to die. Helena travels to Florence and meets Bertram's mistress, Diana, and tricks Bertram into sleeping with her (he believes he is sleeping with Diana), thus securing their marital bond.
    Antony and Cleopatra
    The epic detailing the love/hate relationship between Antony and Cleopatra, and Antony's struggle with Caesar for the throne.
    As You Like It
    The story of the power struggles between Duke Senior, in exile in Arden, and his brother, Frederick, who has usurped the throne. Also tells the love story of Rosalind, Duke Senior's daughter, and Orlando.
    The Comedy of Errors
    Details the separation and reuniting of husband and wife Egeon and Emelia.
    Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
    Prince Hamlet learns that his father was killed by his Uncle Claudius, the new King, who has married Hamlet's mother, Gertrude. Hamlet conspires to get the King to confess, bringing tragedy to everyone around him.
    History of Troilus and Cressida
    In Troy, Prince Troilus falls madly in love with Cressida, daughter of Calchas, a deserter. She moves to the Greek camp to be with Diomedes. Told around the war that was sparked by the abduction of Helen.
    Julius Caesar
    The later years of Julius Caesar, including his betrayal by Brutus, Mark Antony's famous speech, the Soothsayers warning ("Beward the Ides of March!"), and Caesar's death at the hands of the Senators.
    King Henry IV, Part 1
    Henry's kingdom and throne are threatened. England is divided. Falstaff leads Prince Hal away from his father.
    King Henry IV, Part 2
    Finishes telling the story of the reign of Henry, focusing on his relationship with his son, Hal.
    King Henry V
    The final play in Shakespeare's King Henry series, this story focuses on King Henry V (Prince Hal), who is having problems adjusting to his new life. A threat to his throne finds him leading soldiers in lands held by the French.
    King Henry VI, Part 1
    Continues Shakespeare's story of King Henry, including the War of the Roses. Includes Shakespeare's portrait of Joan of Arc.
    King Henry VI, Part 2
    Continues Shakespeare's story of King Henry, including the War of the Roses.
    King Henry VI, Part 3
    Continues Shakespeare's story of King Henry, including the War of the Roses. Includes Shakespeare's portrait of Margaret of Anjou and features the appearance of Richard, the future King Richard III.
    King Henry VIII
    Story of Henry's turbulent reign, including his separation from his wife, his infatuation with Anne Boleyn, and the rise of Cardinal Woolsey.
    King John
    The story of the life and death of King John.
    King Lear
    Tragic drama of King Lear, his decent into madness, and banishment of Cordelia, a daughter who refuses to play his game.
    King Richard II
    The rise and fall of King Richard II, including the desertion by his followers, and his removal from the throne.
    King Richard III
    "Now is the winter of our discontent." Richard makes enemies of his friends in his attempt to make his kingdom stronger. The War of the Roses ends.
    The Life of Timon of Athens
    A day in the life of Lord Timon, when Timon promises money to Ventidius, but is then told that he, Timon, is broke.
    Love's Labour's Lost
    The story of what happens after Ferdinand, the King of Navarre, declares that his court will be devoted to ascetic study for three years, and that women will be allowed within a mile of the Court.
    Macbeth
    The struggle of the Macbeths and Macduffs to gain power, and the subsequent madness of the Macbeths after they decide to murder in order to get to the throne.
    Measure for Measure
    The Duke of Vienna leaves, and Angelo, a strict man, is put in charge. The Duke then disguises himself as a Friar to watch what happens next.
    The Merchant of Venice
    Antonio, a merchant, and Bassanio, his friend, ask Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, for a loan. Shylock agrees, but asks for a pound of flesh from Antonio if he does not pay in time.
    The Merry Wives of Windsor
    Falstaff, deep in debt, attempts to woo two women, Mistress' Page and Ford, in the hope of getting money from them, but they see through his scheme and decide to teach him a lesson.
    A Midsummer Night's Dream
    A play that takes place in Athens. Theseus is planning his marriage with Hippolyta. Oberon, the King of the Fairies, decides to play a trick on Titania, the Queen, that will make her fall in love with the first thing she sees. A series of mishaps ensures that the trick is played on the wrong person. The play ends with the character of Puck asking the audience to believe that entire thing was only a dream.
    Much Ado about Nothing
    Tells of the relationships between Leonato, his daughter Hero, her cousin Beatrice, Don Pedro, Benedick, and Pedro's bastard brother, Don John.
    Othello, The Moor of Venice
    Othello loves Desdemona, but is tricked into believing she has betrayed him by the ambitious Iago.
    Romeo and Juliet
    Tragic tale of teenaged, star-crossed lovers from families that are at war against one another.
    The Taming of the Shrew
    Katharine, the "Shrew" and eldest daughter of Baptista, becomes a challenge to Petruchio, who is looking for a wife, and eventually falls in love with him."
    Tempest
    Prospero, a sorcerer and the rightful Duke of Milan, lives on an island with his daughter, Miranda. Prospero confronts those who have usurped his throne namely his brother and Alonso.
    Titus Andronicus
    Titus Andronicus sacrifices Tamora's eldest son, and she gets her revenge by having Lavinia, Titus' daughter raped, and by mutilating Titus.
    The Tragedy of Coriolanus
    Caius Marcius, a soldier, takes the city of Corioles and runs for Senate, but his carelessness about the society he rules eventually exiles him.
    Twelfth Night; or What You Will
    After the death of her brother, Olivia goes into seclusion. Viola shipwrecks in Orsino's land and disguises herself as a man, Cesario, and falls in love with him.
    Two Gentlemen of Verona
    The tale of Valentine and Proteus, two best friends, and their search for love.
    The Winter's Tale
    Leontes, jealous that his wife, Hermione, is in love with his friend, Polixenes, throws her in jail. Their son dies, but their baby daughter is taken away in order to save her from Leontes' misdeeds.

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