Othello | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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William Shakespeare | Biography

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Neither the exact birth or death dates of William Shakespeare are known. However, he was probably born around April 23, 1564, as the third child of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden. This date is based on a record of his baptism, which occurred on April 26, 1564, in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, and the fact that baptisms were customarily done three days from birth. Very little information is known about Shakespeare's childhood or early adulthood, outside of the marriages, baptisms, and burials recorded by Holy Trinity Church. At 18 he married Anne Hathaway, eight years his senior and pregnant with his child. A daughter, Susanna, was born to the couple on May 26, 1583. Twins—Judith and Hamnet—were born a few years after; Hamnet died in childhood.

In approximately 1588, Shakespeare moved to London to pursue a career in the theater. As Shakespeare became known as an actor and playwright, references to him outside of church records can be found. The Lord Chamberlain's Men's records indicate that by 1594 Shakespeare was a sharer in the troupe, as well as an actor and playwright. The fact that some of his plays were printed and sold during his lifetime attests to the fact his work was popular. When The Theatre in Shoreditch was torn down and rebuilt as The Globe on the Bankside in 1599, he and his fellow Chamberlain's Men also became co-owners. It's the first time a playing company owned a piece of their play space.

Shakespeare retired in 1611, and he died a few years later in 1616 at age 52—likely on his birthday, although the official records of Holy Trinity Church only give his burial date, April 25.

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