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The Life of William Shakespeare

Perhaps the most brilliant and well-renown writer of all time, William Shakespeare’s legacy still lives on in the modern world unlike that of any other artist of the Middle Ages. High school students, actors, and English academics alike still study Shakespeare’s multitude of plays and poetry as they both respectively relate to the modern world, and themes of family, power, existentialism, and fate. The sheer prolific abundance of Shakespeare’s work is enough to set him aside as a landmark, but his true power is derived from the fact that his plays are still produced today at a high volume, and his works are read by nearly every western-educated individual. His life and legacy, both shrouded in questions and mystery, still stand today, making him one of the most famous writers of all time.

Shakespeare was born in 1564, in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. Historians still do not known the exact date of Shakespeare’s birth, but he was baptized on the 26th of April, in the year of 1564. Little is known of Shakespeare’s early years and adolescence, but it is widely believed he was educated in Stratford, and that he was the third of eight siblings. At the age of 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, and later had three children. Shakespeare first rose to prominence at a theater company he wrote for, worked for, and co-owned, called Lord Chamberlain’s Men, which became known later as the King’s Men. Shakespeare’s legacy of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, and two long narrative poems can be pin-pointed to a rather short span of years of production. In fact, most of Shakespeare’s work was written between 1589 and 1613. His early works were characterized primarily as comedies. However, most of his most famous works, produced around 1608, are considered tragedies. These include the much famed likes of Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, and King Lear- all regarded as some of the most profound and most famous tragedies ever produced.

Shakespeare retired to Stratford at the age of 49, three years before his death. He lived in relative peace, writing very little, until his death on April 23rd, 1616. While widely regarded as the most successful English author of all time, Shakespeare was not fabulously famous during his lifetime. While he was well-regarded and well-known, his works were not extensively revered until the modernist revolution of the 20th century. However, approximately two hundred years after his death, questions of Shakespeare’s life, death, sexuality, religion, and identity, began to be posited as questions of truth in literary and theatrical societies. Many scholars believe that the authorship of many of Shakespeare’s plays remains questionable, provided alternatives that other authors, included Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere, and Christopher Marlowe were the true penman’s behind the work. Additionally, many scholars who study Shakespeare have pulled from and analyzed accounts of homosexuality in his works (sonnets, specifically), and believe there is a good chance he was not, in fact, straight, and had male lovers. The controversy of his family’s Catholicism, in a time where being Catholic was illegal in England, also sparks modern controversy.

Despite questions of identity and conspiracy, Shakespeare is still known today as the most famous playwright in western society and history. While his historiography may be questionable, and processes several gaps, the life of William Shakespeare is still one for the annals of writer’s history.