William Shakespeare was born APRIL 23, 1564.
His 37 plays impacted world literature.
He married Ann Hathaway, had three children, moved to London, and became shareholding
director of Globe Theater, writing such classics as Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, and A Midsummer
In 1591, Shakespeare introduced his play, King Henry the Sixth, in which he wrote in Part II, act II,
scene i, line 34:
"Blessed are the peacemakers on earth."
In line 66, he wrote:
"Now, God be praised, that to the believing souls
Gives light in darkness, comfort in despair!"
In scene iii, line 55, he exclaimed:
"God defend the right!"
In Part III, act V, scene v, line 7, he penned:
"So part we sadly in this troublous world
To meet with joy in sweet Jerusalem."
William Shakespeare wrote in King Richard the Third, 1592-93, act I,
"O, I have passed a miserable night,
So full of ugly sights, of ghastly dreams,
That, as I am a Christian faithful man,
I would not spend another such a night,
Though 'twere to but a world of happy days."
William Shakespeare wrote in Richard the Third, act I, scene 4:
"Before I be convict by course of law,
To threaten me with death is most unlawful.
I charge you, as you hope for any goodness,
By Christ's dear blood shed for our grievous sins
That you depart and lay no hands on me."
In King Richard the Second, 1595-96, act IV, scene i, line 97, Shakespeare
"Many a time hath banished Norfolk fought
For Jesus Christ in glorious Christian field,
Streaming the ensign of the Christian Cross,
And there at Venice, gave
His body to that pleasant country's earth,
And his pure soul unto his captain Christ,
Under whose colors he had fought so long."
In King Richard the Second, 1595-96, act IV, scene i, line 170,
"So Judas did to Christ: but He, in twelve,
Found truth in all but one; I, in twelve thousand, none.
God save the king! Will no man say, amen?"
In King Richard the Second, 1595-96, act IV, scene i, line 239,
"Some of you with Pilate wash your hands,
Showing an outward pity."
In the play, The Merchant of Venice, act I, scene ii, line 59, Shakespeare
"God made him, and therefore let him pass for a man."
In The Merchant of Venice, act I, scene iii, line 99, Shakespeare wrote:
"Mark you this, Bassanio:
The devil can cite Scripture for his own purpose.
An evil soul, producing holy witness,
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart."
In The Merchant of Venice, act IV, scene i, line 184, Shakespeare wrote:
"The quality of mercy is not strained,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blessed;
It blessed him that gives and him that takes:
Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings,
But mercy is above this sceptered sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself,
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore...
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy,
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy."
In his play, King Henry the Fourth, Part I, act i, scene 1, line 18, published in
1598, Shakespeare wrote:
As far as to the sepulchre of Christ,
Whose soldier now, under whose blessed cross
We are impressed and engaged to fight....
To chase these pagans in those holy fields.
Over whose acres walk'd those blessed feet,
Which fourteen hundred years ago were nail'd
For our advantage on the bitter cross."
In King Henry the Fifth, 1598-1600, act III, scene vi, line 181, William Shakespeare wrote:
"We are in God's hand."
In King Henry the Fifth, 1598-1600, act IV, scene i, line 309, Shakespeare wrote:
"O God of battles! steel my soldiers' hearts;
Possess them not with fear; take from them now
The sense of reckoning, if the opposed numbers
Pluck their hearts from them."
In Hamlet, 1600-01, act I, scene I, Shakespeare wrote:
"Some say-that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated
The bird of dawning singeth all night long."
In Hamlet, 1600-01, act III, scene i, line 150, Shakespeare wrote:
"I have heard of your paintings too, well enough;
God has given you one face, and you make yourselves another."
In Hamlet, 1600-01, act III, iv, line 149, Shakespeare wrote:
"Confess yourself to heaven;
Repent what's past; avoid what is to come."
In Hamlet, 1600-01, act V, scene i, line 84, Shakespeare wrote:
"A politician...one that would circumvent God."
William Shakespeare wrote in Othello, 1604-05, act I, scene i, line 108:
"You are one of those that will not serve God if the devil bid you."
In Othello, 1604-05, act II, scene iii, line 106, Shakespeare wrote:
"Well, God's above all; and there be souls must be saved,
and there be souls must not be saved."
In Othello, 1604-05, act II, scene iii, line 293, Shakespeare wrote:
"O God! that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains; that we should, with joy, pleasance, revel, and applause,
transform ourselves into beasts."
William Shakespeare wrote in King Henry the Eighth, 1613, act III, scene ii, line 456:
"Had I but served my God with half the zeal
I served my king, he would not in mine age
Have left me naked to mine enemies."
William Shakespeare remarked:
"God's goodness hath been great to thee;
Let never day nor night unhallowed pass,
But still remember what the Lord hath done."
Four years before the Pilgrims landed in America at Plymouth Rock, Shakespeare died
on this same day, APRIL 23, in 1616. He was 52 years old.
In his Will, Shakespeare wrote:
"In the name of God, Amen! I, William Shakespeare, of Stratford-upon-Avon, in the
county of Warr., gent., in perfect health and memory, God be praised, do make and
ordain this my last will and testament in manner and form following, that is to say,
First, I commend my soul into the hands of God, my Creator, hoping and assuredly believing, through the only merits of Jesus Christ, my Saviour, to be made partaker of life everlasting, and my body to the earth whereof it is made."
Carved on his tomb in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-on-Avon, England, is:
"Good Friend For Jesus Sake Forbeare, To Digg The Dust Enclosed Heare. Blese Be Ye Man Spares Thes Stones, And Curst Be He Moves My Bones."
William Shakespeare was baptized on April 26, 1564, in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. From roughly 1594 onward he was an important member of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men company of theatrical players. Written records give little
indication of the way in which Shakespeare’s professional life molded his artistry. All that can be
deduced is that over the course of 20 years, Shakespeare wrote plays that capture the complete
range of human emotion and conflict.
Known throughout the world, the works of William Shakespeare have been performed in countless
hamlets, villages, cities and metropolises for more than 400 years. And yet, the personal history of
William Shakespeare is somewhat a mystery. There are two primary sources that provide historians
with a basic outline of his life. One source is his work--the plays, poems and sonnets--and the other is
official documentation such as church and court records. However, these only provide brief sketches
of specific events in his life and provide little on the person who experienced those events.
Though no birth records exist, church records indicate that a William Shakespeare was baptized at
Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 26, 1564. From this, it is believed he was born on
or near April 23, 1564, and this is the date scholars acknowledge as William Shakespeare's birthday.
Located 103 miles west of London, during Shakespeare's time Stratford-upon-Avon was a market
town bisected with a country road and the River Avon. William was the third child of John Shakespeare,
a leather merchant, and Mary Arden, a local landed heiress. William had two older sisters, Joan and Judith, and three younger brothers, Gilbert, Richard and Edmund. Before William's birth, his father became a successful merchant and held official positions as alderman and bailiff, an office resembling a mayor. However, records indicate John's fortunes declined sometime in the late 1570s.
Scant records exist of William's childhood, and virtually none regarding his education. Scholars have surmised that he most likely attended the King's New School, in Stratford, which taught reading, writing and the classics. Being a public official's child, William would have undoubtedly qualified for free tuition. But this uncertainty regarding his education has led some to raise questions about the authorship of his work and even about whether or not William Shakespeare ever existed.
William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway on November 28, 1582, in Worcester, in Canterbury Province. Hathaway was from Shottery, a small village a mile west of Stratford. William was 18 and Anne was 26, and, as it turns out, pregnant. Their first child, a daughter they named Susanna, was born on May 26, 1583. Two years later, on February 2, 1585, twins Hamnet and Judith were born,. Hamnet later died of unknown causes at age 11.
After the birth of the twins, there are seven years of William Shakespeare's life where no records exist. Scholars call this period the "lost years," and there is wide speculation on what he was doing during this period. One theory is that he might have gone into hiding for poaching game from the local landlord, Sir Thomas Lucy. Another possibility is that he might have been working as an assistant schoolmaster in Lancashire. It is generally believed he arrived in London in the mid- to late 1580s and may have found work as a horse attendant at some of London's finer theaters, a scenario updated centuries later by the countless aspiring actors and playwrights in Hollywood and Broadway.
By 1592, there is evidence William Shakespeare earned a living as an actor and a playwright in
London and possibly had several plays produced. In the September 20, 1592 edition of the
Stationers' Register (a guild publication), there is an article by London playwright Robert Greene
that takes a few jabs at William Shakespeare:
"...there [William Shakespeare] is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tiger's
heart wrapped in a Player's hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the
best of you: and being an absolute Johannes factotum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene
in a country."
Scholars differ on the interpretation of this criticism, but most agree that it was Greene's way of
saying Shakespeare was reaching above his rank, trying to match better known and educated
playwrights like Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Nashe or Greene himself.
By the early 1590s, documents show William Shakespeare was a managing partner in the Lord
Chamberlain's Men, an acting company in London. After the crowning of King James I, in 1603, the
company changed its name to the King's Men. From all accounts, the King's Men company was very
popular, and records show that Shakespeare had works published and sold as popular literature.
The theater culture in 16th-century England was not highly admired by people of high rank. However,
many of the nobility were good patrons of the performing arts and friends of the actors. Early in his
career, Shakespeare was able to attract the attention of Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton,
to whom he dedicated his first published poems "Venus and Adonis" (1593) and "The Rape of
By 1597, William Shakespeare had published 15 of the 37 plays attributed to him. Civil records show that at this time he purchased the second largest house in Stratford, called New House, for his family. It was a four-day ride by horse from Stratford to London, so it is believed that Shakespeare spent most of his time in the city writing and acting and came home once a year during the 40-day Lenten period, when the theaters were closed.
By 1599, William Shakespeare and his business partners built their own theater on the south bank of the Thames River, which they called the Globe. In 1605, Shakespeare purchased leases of real estate near Stratford for 440 pounds, which doubled in value and earned him 60 pounds a year. This made him an entrepreneur as well as an artist, and scholars believe these investments gave him the time to write his plays uninterrupted.