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Return to book index Unit 2 : The English Renaissance (14851660)
William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

With his brilliant poetic language, universal themes, and keen insight into human nature, William Shakespeare is generally regarded as the world's greatest writer and playwright in the English language. His plays are more widely translated than any other works except the Bible. Yet his own life remains something of a mystery, with many of its details lost in the swirl of time.

"I Could a Tale Unfold . . ." Shakespeare was born in the English village of Stratford-upon-Avon, a busy market town on the River Avon northwest of London. Though the precise date of his birth is not known, church records indicate that he was baptized (presumably a few days after his birth) on April 26, 1564. Unlike most other writers of his era, he did not come from a noble family with close ties to the English court. Instead, the Shakespeares were what today we would call middle class, although his father, a glovemaker, was a prominent member of the Stratford community who at one point served as the equivalent of its mayor.

Though no record of Shakespeare's schooling survives, it is assumed that he attended the local grammar school in Stratford, where he would have studied Latin and the classical literature in that tongue. Again unlike most other writers of his day, Shakespeare did not go on to a university; instead, at the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway and with her eventually had three children, first a daughter named Susanna and then the twins, Hamnet (his only son) and Judith. Following their birth, the documentary record of Shakespeare's life is once again blank for several years. When next he can be placed, he is in London, working as an actor and beginning to be noticed as a playwright.

Surfin' with the Bard library/ surfbard/
This portal site will point you to all things Shakespeare on the Web.

Complete Works of Shakespeare Shakespeare/ works.html
Online texts of all of Shakespeare's plays and poems, indexed by genre.

Ever Reader Home Page
This online version of the magazine of the Oxford Shakespeare Society has articles on many aspects of Shakespeare's life, work, and times.