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William Shakespeare | Biography

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Baptized on April 26, 1564, in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, William Shakespeare began and ended his formal education in grammar school where he would have learned how to read, write, and speak Latin, and where he studied the works of classical historians and poets. He didn't attend university, and at age 18 he found himself at the head of his own family. He married Anne Hathaway, a 26-year-old farmer's daughter, in November, 1582, and their first child was born six months later. Twins followed within two years.

Very little is known about Shakespeare's professional life between the end of grammar school and 1592. Scholars have varying theories regarding how he spent his time, ranging from service in the armed forces to taking care of theater-goers' horses during dramatic productions. By 1592 Shakespeare had settled himself in London while his family remained in Stratford-upon-Avon. He quickly made a name for himself as an actor and writer in the Lord Chamberlain's Men, the best theater troupe in the city.

Many of Shakespeare's early works fall within the genre of romantic comedy.The Comedy of Errors (c. 1589–94), Love's Labour's Lost (c. 1588–97), and The Taming of the Shrew (c. 1590–94) helped him establish a successful formula for romantic comedy, which usually included:

  • a young, witty woman who is at odds with her male suitor;
  • strife and turmoil as the young couple determines their respective places in society and courtship;
  • a marriage that seems to resolve all conflict.

Much Ado About Nothing, which Shakespeare wrote sometime between 1598 and 1599, was heavily influenced by these earlier romantic comedies. Though the Claudio/Hero plot was adapted from several classical stories, scholars believe the Beatrice/Benedick plot was inspired by the dual plotline and tart-tongued lead female character Katherine or Kate in The Taming of the Shrew.

Shakespeare wrote plays and sonnets for 20 years before retiring to his hometown in 1612. He died on April 23, 1616.

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