About William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 1564, and his birth is traditionally celebrated on April 23. The facts of his life, known from surviving documents, are sparse. He was one of eight children born to John Shakespeare, a merchant of some standing in his community. William probably went to the King’s New School in Stratford, but he had no university education. In November 1582, at the age of eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway, eight years his senior, who was pregnant with their first child, Susanna. She was born on May 26, 1583. Twins, a boy, Hamnet ( who would die at age eleven), and a girl, Judith, were born in 1585. By 1592 Shakespeare had gone to London working as an actor and already known as a playwright. A rival dramatist, Robert Greene, referred to him as “an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers.” Shakespeare became a principal shareholder and playwright of the successful acting troupe, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (later under James I, called the King’ s Men). In 1599 the Lord Chamberlain’s Men built and occupied the Globe Theater in Southwark near the Thames River. Here many of Shakespeare’s plays were performed by the most famous actors of his time, including Richard Burbage, Will Kempe, and Robert Armin. In addition to his 37 plays, Shakespeare had a hand in others, including Sir Thomas More and The Two Noble Kinsmen, and he wrote poems, including Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. His 154 sonnets were published, probably without his authorization, in 1609. In 1611 or 1612 he gave up his lodgings in London and devoted more and more time to retirement in Stratford, though he continued writing such plays as The Tempest and Henry VII until about 1613. He died on April 23 1616, and was buried in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford. No collected edition of his plays was published during his life-time, but in 1623 two members of his acting company, John Heminges and Henry Condell, put together the great collection now called the First Folio.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was already known as a playwright and actor before he published, in 1593 and 1594, his two narrative poems Venus and Adonis and Lucrece (usually known by its subtitle The Rape of Lucrece), both dedicated to Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton. These long and accomplished poems suggest a sustained period of verse-writing which must have preceded them, and that period may have included some of Shakespeare's sonnets. The sonnets are first mentioned in 1598 by Francis Meres; it is possible that the extended compositional period of the 154 sonnets both preceded and followed the long narrative poems, though the sonnets as a group were not published until 1609 (together with the long poem called A Lover's Complaint). The 1609 Sonnets lacks an authorial dedication of the sort found in Venus and Lucrece, and t has been conjectured that the volume was published without Shakespeare's authorization.
“Shakespeare has deliberately opened up the two-character form he inherited and, as the dramatist he would become, populated the love-sequence in new and drastically more interesting ways . . . In inventive metaphorical reach alone, Shakespeare excels his predecessors . . . [He] makes the sonnet-voice ampler and more psychologically convincing than ever before.” –from the Introduction by Helen Vendler