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William Shakespeare

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Shakespeare's works include 38 plays, 2 narrative poems, 154 sonnets, and a variety of other poems. No original manuscripts of Shakespeare's plays are known to exist today. It is actually thanks to a group of actors from Shakespeare's company that we have about half of the plays at all. They collected them for publication after Shakespeare died, preserving the plays. These writings were brought together in what is known as the First Folio ('Folio' refers to the size of the paper used). It contained 36 of his plays, but none of his poetry. 

The Bard was said to have been born sometime in the days preceding his baptism on April 23, 1564 in Stratford-Upon-Avon to John Shakespeare, a leatherworker and civic leader, and Mary Arden. Due to the death of his two older sisters, William was the eldest surviving Shakespeare sibling and had five younger siblings. Because of the Shakespeares’ social status, it is believed that William went to school from age 7 to age 15. 

William was married to Anne Hathaway when he was 18 and she was 26. At the time of their wedding, Anne was already pregnant with their first child. The couple would go on to have twins, though their son, Hamnet, died when he was just 11 years old. 

It is unclear when Shakespeare moved to London and began his career as a writer and actor, but sometime between the birth of his twins in 1585 and the first mention of him as a playwright in 1592, he began to establish himself as a popular dramatist and poet.

Career Timeline 

  • 1564: William Shakespeare born in Stratford-upon-Avon 
  • 1582: Shakespeare marries Anne Hathaway 
  • 1583: Shakespeare’s first child, Susanna, is born 
  • 1585: Shakespeare’s twins, Judith and Hamnet, are born 
  • 1592: Shakespeare is first alluded to as a playwright, in Greene’s Groates-worth of Wit 
  • 1593: Shakespeare’s first printed poem, Venus and Adonis, appears 
  • 1594: Shakespeare’s first printed play, Titus Andronicus, appears 
  • 1596: Shakespeare’s father, John Shakespeare, is granted a coat of arms which granted him and his descendants certain rights and privileges under the law; Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet, dies 
  • 1597: Shakespeare purchases New Place, his home in Stratford-upon-Avon 
  • 1598: Shakespeare is first mentioned as a sonneteer and author of 12 plays in Palladis Tamia 
  • 1599: Shakespeare’s acting company takes down its old theater and uses the timber to build the Globe 
  • 1600: Extracts from Shakespeare’s plays and poetry appear in Bel-vedere, the first printed literary commonplace book to include plays 
  • 1601: Shakespeare’s father, John Shakespeare, dies 
  • 1603: Shakespeare’s acting company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, becomes the King’s Men at the accession of James I; Hamlet appears in print 
  • 1607: Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna marries John Hall 
  • 1608: Shakespeare’s mother, Mary (Arden) Shakespeare, dies; his granddaughter Elizabeth is born 
  • 1609: Shakespeare’s Sonnets appears in print 
  • 1613: Shakespeare purchases the Blackfriars gatehouse in London; the Globe burns down during a performance of Henry VIII and is rebuilt within a year 
  • 1616: Shakespeare writes his will; his daughter Judith marries Thomas Quiney; Shakespeare dies 
  • 1623: The First Folio is published; Shakespeare’s widow Anne dies 4

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