Who was William Shakespeare? “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet”
William Shakespeare, the name in itself is a whole world in itself. The multiplicity of emotions, ability to see beyond, and mastery of “the art”, is what we call William Shakespeare! You can call him the “Bard of Avon“, or simply “the Bard”. You can even regard him as “the greatest writer in the English language” or “world’s greatest dramatist”.
So aside from these words of praise, exactly who is William Shakespeare? Let’s dig a little deeper into his life and works:
Shakespeare’s Life in a Nutshell
Let’s see what it looks like if we reverse the order of Shakespeare’s life events.
William Shakespeare left us on 23 April 1616 at the age of 52. He was buried at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon. Before parting he gifted the world with his 37 plays, 149 sonnets, and 2 long narrative poems.
In his prime, Shakespeare was a prolific writer, a graceful actor, a proud theatre owner, and producer. Before reaching his flowering years, he married Anne Hathaway in 1582. Last but not the least, he first entered the “stage” on 23 April 1564.
Read more facts about Shakespeare (and where the phrase ‘in a nutshell‘ comes from).
William Shakespeare was born on 23 April 1564 on Saint George’s Day and baptized three days later on 26 April. His father John Shakespeare was an alderman and a glove-maker. Her mother Mary Arden was the daughter of a rich landowner family. Shakespeare lived in a townhouse on Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon with his family.
His education began in a local school and there he attained formal education. When he was 18 years old, he married Anne Hathaway, then 26 years old.
Read more about Shakespeare’s family.
The Lost Years
Shakespeare had three children with her wife Anne. They were Susanna, Hamnet, and Judith. The seven-year period after the birth of his last two children is recorded as the “Lost Years” of Shakespeare’s life. Hence, it is hard to tell when he actually started his writing career.
Interested in Shakespeare’s Lost Years, click the link to know more about the mysterious phase of Shakespeare’s life.
London, the Drama Begins
The historical record of the beginning of Shakespeare’s writing career is not available. But works of other dramatists and records of performances tell that his several plays were performed on the London stage from 1592.
Shakespeare went on the become an extremely active writer from the last decade of the 15th century to the first decade of the 16th century. During this period Shakespeare wrote extensively and explored every mode of writing. He left no stones unturned, even though he had a relatively simple educational background (local grammar school and no university).
During his theatrical career in London, he wrote his immortal comedies like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, and The Merchant of Venice. His tragedies such as Hamlet, Macbeth, Henry IV, and Julius Caesar give pleasurable pain to us. Apart from his dramas, he wrote sonnets too. In his poetic world, Shakespeare seems to come alive and talk with his readers.
You can find all Shakespeare Plays here. You can read about all Shakespeare Play Summaries here.
As his popularity began to rise, his wealth reached its peak. He utilized his resources to help build the (now world-famous) Globe Theatre.
Drawing the Curtain
Shakespeare finished his part and headed towards the “exit” on 23 April 1616. He was buried in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford on 25 April. Before leaving this “stage”, he created an example of himself concerning how to act one’s part to the fullest.
He did his part and departed like a gallant soul. He came, saw, and conquered the literary world with his exceptional mind. He is remembered not for his dramas but for that mind, he ruled. It’s fair to say that there was certainly no one at Shakespeare’s funeral asking ‘who was William Shakespeare?‘.
William Shakespeare was an explorer of the dramatic as well as the poetic world. He wrote dramas, sonnets, poems, and narratives. His plays encompass different categories like Comedy, Tragedy, and Tragicomedy. The dramatic world of Shakespeare is interesting enough to incite a sense of awe to its creator. While reading or watching a drama of Shakespeare, one never feels bored. The dramatic tension makes a reader restless and incites him or her to participate in the thought process of the writer.
Learn more about Shakespeare’s play types.
He wrote a total of 154 sonnets and two long narrative poems. His sonnets are sensuous in imagery and spontaneous in poetic diction. How he used commonplace images to pose such greater questions to mankind, is still a mystery to readers. Shakespeare had such a complex but creative mind!
Read all of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, along with an explanation in modern English.
Frequently asked questions about William Shakespeare
Who was William Shakespeare and why is he famous?
William Shakespeare was a dramatist and poet of the Elizabethan Period. He was famous for his immortal dramas and eternal sonnets. He had a flair for innovation. His imagination was marvelous enough to shock a reader at first instance.
What was William Shakespeare’s real name?
Shakespeare’s first name was William. He is also known as the “Bard of Avon”. It refers to his birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon, and “bard” means a minstrel.
What are 5 facts about Shakespeare?
- Shakespeare used 7,000 words just once in his works.
- Shakespeare’s grave now shows him holding a quill.
- Shakespeare’s name was spelled at least 80 ways!
- Shakespeare was John Keats’ creative muse.
- Did you know… here are the top 56 facts about Shakespeare
What were Shakespeare’s last words?
It is hard to tell what Shakespeare actually told before his death. But in his grave, the epitaph tells,
Good Friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.
Did William Shakespeare write the Bible?
A big no. Shakespeare was an artist, not a spiritual leader. He was a true Christian, but he most definitely didn’t write the bible. The task of writing the King James I version of Bible was entrusted to a group of English priests.
What was the first name of William Shakespeare’s mother?
The first name of Shakespeare’s mother is Mary. Before the marriage, her name was Mary Arden and after marrying John Shakespeare she took her husband’s surname to become Mary Shakespeare.
Which is Shakespeare’s longest play?
Hamlet is known to be the longest play of Shakespeare. It is a psychologically complex drama and ends with the tragic death of the titular character, Hamlet.
What was Shakespeare’s favorite color?
Shakespeare was fond of different colors, and he seemed to prefer colors that are abundant in nature – the colors of flowers, fruits, and trees. In his sonnets, he often used colorful images to portray his perception of colors.
Who was William Shakespeare? Have a better idea now, or need some more information? Let us know in the comments section below!
I visited Shakespeare’s house in 2015,I found that this was the highlight of my UK visit at that time. To learn about this man and hi background was truly moving, after the tour there was a play being preformed by actors in the back garden, I asked to join and within seconds was wearing a grey cape and grey hat and was right in the middle of an act. Great fun. Thanks to my friend Ruth who lives in the same town.