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Macbeth | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Author Biography

Learn more about William Shakespeare's life and the personal experiences that inspired his play Macbeth in Course Hero's video study guide.

William Shakespeare | Biography


William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Although his birth date was not recorded, he was baptized on April 26, 1564, meaning he was likely born in the preceding week. His birthday is celebrated on April 23. He married Anne Hathaway in 1582, and they had two daughters and a son, the latter of whom died in childhood.

As the primary writer and a performer with the Lord Chamberlain's Men theater company, Shakespeare was well established in London theater when James I, formerly James VI of Scotland, became king of England in 1603. The Lord Chamberlain's Men had enjoyed success under Elizabeth I's reign, and when James I was crowned, the king formally took the company into his service. The company then changed its name to the King's Men. The actors attended James I's coronation ceremony as honored guests and performed frequently for the court.

In 1605 conspirators tried to assassinate the king in an incident known as the Gunpowder Plot. Shakespeare wrote Macbeth shortly afterward, in about 1606 or 1607, and wove allusions to the attempted regicide into his play. Shakespeare and his family may have known some of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators, and his cautionary tale about treason may have been meant to disavow any connection to such misdeeds. In addition to the Gunpowder Plot, Shakespeare arguably built numerous other references to James I and to contemporary history into Macbeth, his one and only Scottish play.

At some point between 1613 and 1616, Shakespeare returned to Stratford. His theater career and investments had made his family financially comfortable. Shakespeare died in Stratford on April 23, 1616, and was buried in Holy Trinity Church on April 25, 1616.

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