By Cathy Richey, the Cathy Factor
Shakespeare Quick Facts
- Nationality: British; English
- Birth Date: April 23, 1564
- Death Date: April 23, 1616
William Shakespeare is considered by many to be one of the
finest playwrights in history. The influence of his work extends
to the modern day, and his stories are often reworked into
modern plots. It is not that his plots were particularly unique,
it was the language and characters that are so fascinating. He
has been called the “master” of English Literature, but there is
only sketchy biographical information regarding Shakespeare.
And, there is dispute about the authorship of several of his
plays, and whether some of the plays may have been
Most information about the life of Shakespeare is taken from
church records. For example, that he was born in 1564, and most
date his birthday as April 23. It is certain that Shakespeare
was baptized on April 26. The death of Shakespeare is often
dated as April 23, 1616. He attended a local school, and was
married to Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children.
When Shakespeare was about 20, he left his wife and children
and went to London where he worked as an actor and playwright.
He also wrote a number of sonnets, and several book length poems
around 1592, when the spread of the plague closed down theaters
for a few years.
He is noted for both “Venus and Adonis” and “The Rape of
Lucrece.” Most of his plays were not published, but were rather
written down as tracts so the actors could memorize lines. So
publication of the plays today is based on collected folios, and
critics differ on when each play was published.
Many of the plays of Shakespeare were performed at the Globe
Theater in London, and private plays were given for royalty,
like Queen Elizabeth I and her successor, King James. It is
thought Shakespeare spent 25 years in London before retiring to
his home in Stratford on Avon, where he lived the remaining 5
years of his life.
It would be impossible to describe the plots of every
Shakespeare play, since they are so complex. They do fall into
several categories, which can be described. Like his
contemporaries, Shakespeare wrote histories, comedies, and
tragedies. Comedies ended with marriage, tragedies with death.
The last class, the romances, are neither comedy nor tragedy.
In the tragedies, Shakespeare gives us some of the most
villainous characters ever, Iago the devious plotter of Othello,
the horrible elder daughters of Lear, and the power-mad Lady
Macbeth. His comedies are equally memorable for their wonderful
funny characters, Puck from Midsummer, Kate from Shrew, and
Falstaff from Wives. The romances blend comedy and tragedy
representing a mature frame of mind and a wish to further the
art form of the play.
Regardless of where you start in reading Shakespeare, the
rich language, the complex characters, and exciting plots can
leave you breathless. Today, there are wonderful modern
interpretations or traditional productions of his work, which
will give one Shakespeare as he was meant to be understood, by
watching the performance of his art.