Surprisingly little is known about Shakespeare’s childhood or personal life. Here are some facts, and some commonly held beliefs.
Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England (about 100 miles northwest of London, or a 3-4 day trip during his life). Though his true birth date is unknown, it is commonly accepted as April 23, 1564, based on the date of his baptism, April 26th.
Shakespeare had four sisters (only one survived) and four brothers (one was an actor).
He probably attended the King's New School in Stratford-upon-Avon, and would likely have been exposed to theater through traveling troupes.
Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway on November 28, 1582, in the city of Worcester in Canterbury, England. He was 18; she was 26. Anne was pregnant at the time, though this wasn’t very unusual.
The couple had three children: Susanna, and the twins Judith and Hamnet. Hamnet died when he was 11 years old.
Between the birth of the twins and 1592, no records exist concerning Shakespeare’s life. Scholars call this seven year period “The Lost Years.”
By 1592 Shakespeare was an established London actor and playwright, though no one knows when he appeared in London or how he became involved in the profession. During the time he was in London his family stayed in Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare eventually purchased a very large home for them. He also purchased several other properties in the area.
By 1594 Shakespeare was a managing partner of the extremely popular theater group Lord Chamberlain's Men. They renamed themselves the King's Men in 1603 after the crowning of King James I.
In 1599 Shakespeare and friends purchased land south of the Thames River and built The Globe Theatre, an open air theater.
Tradition has it that Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616 - the date used as his birthday. He had just turned 52.
Image of Shakespeare's Coat of Arms (probably - there is some debate)
Photograph of Shakespeare's Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire,
as viewed from the pedestrian Henley Street.
Photo by David Iliff. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0
Taken September 12, 2018
Yes, Shakespeare put a curse on his own grave. He wanted to deter grave robbers, which was reasonable enough. But even the curse didn't stop someone from stealing his head! To find out more, click on tab above titled The Curse on Shakespeare's Grave!
Photo of Shakespeare's Funerary Bust
Taken July 29, 2014
Created by Sicinius and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
The bust was erected in 1621. The inscription reads:
Judicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem
Terra tegit, populus moeret, Olympus habet.
Stay, passenger, why goest thou by so fast?
Read, if thou canst, whom envious death hath placed
Within this monument: Shakespeare, with whom
Quick nature doed; whose name doth deck his tomb
Far more than cost; sith all that he had writ
Leaves living art but page to serve his wit.
Obiit ano doi [anno domini] 1616. Aetatis 53. Die 23 Ap.