Amber Eustace, Jakob Cohen, Keith Doggett
In April, 1564, William Shakespeare was born . Although historians lack sufficient documentation, it is believed that Shakespeare attended grammar school in his childhood home of Stratford-upon-Avon. First, he attended “petty school” between the ages of four and five, and while there he learned to read and write. He also studied the book of common prayer. At the age of six, Shakespeare progressed to the “lower form” of grammar school, and for three years he studied Latin grammar and texts. Finally, once Shakespeare was 10 he entered the “upper form” where he studied Latin comedies, Greek literature, and wrote orations and declamations regarding the work. These multilingual studies contributed to Shakespeare’s distinct writing style.
Due to lack of documentation, Shakespeare’s life between the years 1586 and 1592 is relatively unknown. Shakespeare migrated to London at some point during these six years. In 1592, at age 18, Shakespeare became renowned as a prominent playwright and actor. However, the Black Plague directly inhibited theater’s development into the 1590s. As a result, Shakespeare began writing poetry, and his first works were published in 1593. His writing was immediately appreciated and “part of the richness of Shakespeare’s work is the influence felt there of the various worlds in which he lived: the world of metropolitan London, the world of small-town and rural England, the world of the theater, and the worlds of craftsmen and shepherds” (xxxi). With the plague’s end, his theatrical career transgressed, and he later created the company of actors known as Lord Chamberlain’s Men, or the King’s Men. It was this company that worked together to build the Globe Theater in London in 1599. Unfortunately, it later burned down in 1613, three years prior to Shakespeare’s death.
Myths and Evidence
Until the late 18th century, Shakespeare’s life was described more through myths than legitimate evidence. Supposedly, Queen Elizabeth loved the character, Falstaff, in 1 and 2 Henry IV so much that she demanded Shakespeare write a third play including the character. So, he wrote The Merry Wives of Windsor. It was believed that his wild and undisciplined life came to an end of a “fever contracted by drinking too hard at ‘a merry meeting’ with the poets Michael Drayton and Ben Johnson” (xxxii). His “wild” life and scant education have led many to accredit his works to other authors such as Queen Elizabeth, Sir Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere (earl of Oxford), and Christopher Marlowe. From London and Stratford records, experts have determined that Shakespeare was an avid reader, a multifaceted theater man, and a wealthy landowner. Although many of the myths of Shakespeare’s life have been proved false, much of Shakespeares life remains in mystery.
In 1582, before he moved to London, William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway at the age of 18. They had three children together, a daughter Susanna in 1583 and two twins, Judith and Hamnet, in 1585. It is unclear how the family supported themselves, all that is known is that by the early 1590s they moved to London. As his acting and writing career took off he began to accumulate wealth through performing shows, writing plays, and investing in property. As he became more prominent his royal he began to develop royal ties, and his father was granted “the coat of arms that he had so long sought” (xxviii). Sometime between 1610 and 1613, Shakespeare moved back to Stratford-upon-Avon, signaling the end of his writing career. During his later years in Stratford, he lived as a wealthy man, owning a large amount of property. According to his epitaph, he passed away on April 23, 1616, ending the era of the greatest playwright to date.
Folger Library. "Shakespeare's Life." Introduction. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. New York: Washington Square/Pocket, 1992. N. pag. Print.