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Shakespeare, William (1564 – 1616 )

Born in 1564, in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England (historians believe Shakespeare was born on April 23, the same day he died in 1616). The son of John Shakespeare, a glover, and Mary Arden, of farming stock. Much uncertainty surrounds Shakespeare's early life. He was the eldest of three sons, and there were four daughters. He was educated at the local grammar school, and married Anne Hathaway, from a local farming family, in 1582. She bore him a daughter, Susanna, in 1583, and twins, Hamnet and Judith, in 1585.

Shakespeare moved to London, possibly in 1591, and became an actor. From 1592 to 1594, when the theatres were closed for the plague, he wrote his poems "Venus and Adonis" and "The Rape of Lucrece." His sonnets, known by 1598, though not published until 1609, fall into two groups: 1 to 126 are addressed to a fair young man, and 127 to 154 to a "dark lady" who holds both the young man and the poet in thrall. Who these people are has provided an exercise in detection for numerous critics. The first evidence of his association with the stage is in 1594, when he was acting with the Lord Chamberlain's company of players, later "the King's Men'. When the company built the Globe Theatre south of the Thames in 1597, he became a partner, living modestly at a house in Silver Street until c.1606, then moving near the Globe. He returned to Stratford c.1610, living as a country gentleman at his house, New Place. His will was made in March 1616, a few months before he died, and he was buried at Stratford.

The modern era of Shakespeare scholarship has been marked by an enormous amount of investigation into the authorship, text, and chronology of the plays, including detailed studies of the age in which he lived, and of the Elizabethan stage. Authorship is still a controversial subject for certain plays, such as Titus Andronicus, Two Noble Kinsmen, and Henry VI, part I. This has involved detailed studies of the various editions of the plays, in particular the different quarto editions, and the first collected works, The First Folio of 1623. It is conventional to group the plays into early, middle, and late periods, and to distinguish comedies, tragedies, and histories, recognizing other groups that do not fall neatly into these categories.