Background Information On Shakespeare English Literature Essay


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It's been said that "Great artists are frequently the product of an un-happy or ill-balanced marriage". (Quennell 17) Shakespeare's life was no exception. Shakespeare was born in 1564 and baptized on April 26, 1564. His mother, Mary Arden, came from a wealthy family and inherited her father's business and estate when he passed away. His father, John Shakespeare was not wealthy and made his living as a glover and tanner of leathers. He was also dodging debts from the church for his attendance, or lack thereof. Their differences inevitably caused tension in the family, but were overshadowed most of the time by the tragic deaths that took place amongst the children in the Shakespeare family.

William was the third child that John and Mary welcomed into the world. Joan was the first child who was born in 1558, but died shortly after her birth. Margaret was their second child born in 1562, but tragically died approximately one year later. William was born followed close behind by his brother Gilbert who is said to be named after his father's friend Gilbert Bradley. The couple had three more children named Joan, Anne, Richard and Edmund. Joan was named after their firstborn, Richard was named after his father's father and Edmund was named after his uncle. William was lucky to have survived the plague that claimed millions of lives including those of his siblings.

William and his brother attended school for a short time. John Shakespeare pulled his boys out of school to help earn money when the family fell upon hard financial times and also fell behind on taxes. Later on, Gilbert, William's younger brother, followed William to England and there they struck up their own careers in London. Joan, William's younger sister, most likely did not go to school because of the time period. She spent her days at home helping her mother with the day to day chores. Anne Shakespeare joined her sister Joan and her mother in those daily activities until she met her tragic end at the age of eight in 1579. Richard Shakespeare is believed to have stayed in Stratford when his two older brothers, William and Gilbert, went to London. The last of John and Mary's children was born when William was sixteen, but enough about his siblings.

It's been said that William left Stratford because he was being pursued by the law. When he moved to London he joined a troop of actors. By 1592 Shakespeare was recognized in the community as both an actor and play write. Sadly, not all recognition was of a positive nature. Shakespeare was mentioned by Robert Greene in his pamphlet "A Groats-worth of Wit". One article reports, "Greene refers to Shakespeare as an "upstart crow" in the London theatre and charges that Shakespeare was an unschooled player and a writer who used material written by his better educated contemporaries." ( Despite theatres closing due to the outbreak of plague, William pursued his acting career and joined a troupe by the name of "Lord Chamberlain's Men".

While Shakespeare was in "Lord Chamberlain's Men" he wrote a few of his first plays including, "The Comedy of Errors", "The Two Men of Verona", "Henry VI" parts one, two and three, and "Richard III". Queen Elizabeth ruled during Shakespeare's life so naturally the play "Richard III" ended in favor of the queen. Shakespeare also wrote three other play within the years of 1592-1595. His plays "Titus Andronicus" and "The Taming of the Shrew were finished by 1594. "Titus Andronicus" is considered Shakespeare's earliest tragedy and deals with the revenge cycle and the devastating toll it can take on a family. "The Taming of the Shrew" is on the lighter side and deals with the submission of a charismatic wife to her husband. The ideas presented in this play trouble the audiences of today. Shakespeare went on to write many more plays.

Amongst all the hustle and bustle of his life as an actor he was married and had a child six months after his marriage. Which is why his marriage to Anne Hathaway is said to have been forced due to her being pregnant with his child. Anne was twenty-six and William was only eighteen. Anne gave birth to their first daughter, Susanna, in 1583. The next time Anne gave birth in 1585 it was to twin named Hamnet and Judith. Hamnet and Judith were named after Shakespeare's good friends Hamnet Sadler and his wife. Sadly, Hamnet died at the young age of eleven. Both Susanna and Judith lived well into their sixties.

Shakespeare died in his Stratford home on April 23, 1616. He was buried on April 25 at the Holy Trinity Church, the same place he had been baptized about 50 years earlier. The cause of Shakespeare's death is unknown but it has been suggested that he might have been sick based on the signatures that appear on his will.


1560, By. "Shakespeare Biography at" Absolute Shakespeare - Plays, Quotes, Summaries, Essays... Web. 16 Nov. 2010. <>.

Customer, By A. " Shakespeare: A Life (9780192825278): Park Honan: Books: Reviews, Prices & More." Online Shopping for Electronics, Apparel, Computers, Books, DVDs & More. Web. 16 Nov. 2010. <>.

"Shakespeare's Brothers and Sisters." Shakespeare Online. Web. 16 Nov. 2010. <>.

"Ten Facts About William Shakespeare the Bard: Shakespeare's Life in 10 Interesting Facts." Online Magazine and Writers' Network. Web. 17 Nov. 2010. <>.

"William Shakespeare Brothers & Sisters." WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. Web. 17 Nov. 2010. <>.

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