(1564 – 1616)
Born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, Shakespeare grew up in one of Stratford’s more prosperous families as one of eight children. From the age of seven to about fifteen, Shakespeare attended the local grammar school where he learned Latin and performed stories from history. In 1582 Shakespeare married a pregnant Anne Hathaway, eight years his elder. The two welcomed their daughter, Susanna, in 1583 and twins Hamnet and Judith in 1585.
Not much is known about Shakespeare’s adolescence or early professional career, but by 1592 Shakespeare’s name appears in numerous theatrical documents and criticism. Performance records indicate several of Shakespeare’s plays were in regular repertoire by this point, with Shakespeare both writing and acting in the rich London theater scene. Shakespeare worked for theaters around London, and in 1599 became a shareholder in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, who played in the Globe Theatre on the south bank of London’s River Thames. In 1608, the company expanded with the acquisition of the Blackfriars candlelit indoor theater across the river.
Splitting his time between London and Stratford, Shakespeare wrote at least 38 plays and a large collection of poetry. His linguistic style both mastered and challenged popular early modern poetic structures, and he pulled from multiple European sources for his stories. Shakespeare likely collaborated with other London playwrights like Thomas Middleton, Thomas Kyd and John Fletcher.
Within his lifetime, his plays became synonymous with success, playing everywhere from London theaters to royal courts, with adaptations soon traveling throughout Europe. His financial success allowed him to purchase both a coat of arms and the second biggest house in Stratford for the Shakespeare family. Sometime around 1611, Shakespeare retired back to Stratford, where he died in April 1616.