The work of William Shakespeare has persisted through the centuries to become a monument of universal literature. However, the writer’s own story seems doomed with controversial evidence. So many theses are built on the true identity of the English playwright, on the plays he would have written, or on the life he led. Based on his biographies, we intend to share Shakespeare’s origins through this article.
Birth and Origins of William Shakespeare
On April 23, 1564, William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-sur-Avon in Warwick, England, into a Catholic family. His father, John, was a former rich peasant who became a glover. Mary Arden, his mother, was from the middle class. Little is known of Shakespeare’s youth except that he studied at Stratford School, and his father struggled financially.
In November 1582, William married Anne Hathaway. They had a child in May, followed by twins in February 1585. Then, we lose track of Shakespeare for a long time. His years of training are hardly known to anyone. The traditional assumption is that Shakespeare left Stratford to avoid Sir Thomas Lucy’s reprisals for poaching his land. He would then have gone to London. But this supposition rests all on the anecdote of Falstaff’s hunting offense in Henry IV. No material element or testimony can confirm this.
Shakespeare, Playwright, and Actor of the Globe Theater
In any case, in 1592, the murderous pen of the playwright Robert Greene gave an account of Shakespeare’s presence in London in the theatrical world. During the ten years between his marriage and this famous article, no one knows anything the author was up to. From a precocious husband in Stratford, he became a playwright and actor recognized on the effervescent stage of the Elizabethan theater. But the route he took remained unknown. This is, moreover, a point that feeds critical theses on Shakespeare’s identity.
As Elizabethan theater peaked in London, Shakespeare gained the taste of the authorities. This ensured his success and comfortable financial situation. He settled in the Globe Theater with the company of “Lord Chamberlain’s Men,” of which he was one of the members. The troupe took the name of their protector Lord Chamberlain, then official censor of theatrical performances.
Shakespeare’s work can be distinguished into four periods. From 1590 to 1594, these plays met the authorities’ expectations. They staged historical and political dramas such as Henry VI and Richard III. Shakespeare wrote many comedies in the same period, such as The Taming of the Shrew and poetic works like Venus and Adonis.
The works of the following period, from 1594 to 1600, belong to similar registers. Thus his works, Henry IV and A Midsummer Night’s Dream are examples of the whimsical comedies of the time. But he also wrote one of his most famous tragedies: Romeo and Juliet.
From 1600, his works took on a more serious tone and were marked by pessimism. For example, in Hamlet, the young prince of Denmark, confronted with the need for revenge, struggles to find the strength to accomplish his tragic destiny and maintains an ambiguous relationship with death. Death, excess, not to say madness, are indeed recurring themes in these tragedies. Thus, in the character of Ophelia, Shakespeare links love, madness, and suicide in an inevitable point.
As for the tyrant Macbeth, he reigns in blood and unreason. Even his comedies had pessimism behind the humor. So All’s Well That Ends Well, or Measure for Measure is now classified as “problem parts.” Unfortunately, there is a lack of biographical evidence that allows understanding this change in Shakespeare’s writing.
During the period which runs until 1608, the troop, the acting company to which Shakespeare belonged, was well established at the Globe then at the Blackfriars. They changed their name after the death of Queen Elisabeth in 1603. The troop then took the name of “King’s Men.” After 1608, the tragedies gave way to less dark tragicomedies, which remained serious, such as the Winter Tale or the Tempest.
The Death of William Shakespeare
Shakespeare decided to retire from the theater in 1611 and returned to his native lands. He had some legal disputes over land ownership for over five years. On April 23, 1616, at 52 years old, Shakespeare died, leaving behind an impressive body of work and an explicit epitaph.
Although he enjoyed public and court recognition during his lifetime, the fate of William Shakespeare remains poorly known. That was until his complete works were published in 1623 in the famous First Folio, seven years after his death.