A brief sketch of Shakespeare’s life

Nothing is definitely known about this great poet and dramatist who came to visit this planet some four hundred years ago. Someone has rightly remarked what he was a man of heart and not of head. He was endowed with supramental powers. His unconscious mind worked more than his conscious & subconscious mind. He was full of wit & wisdom. He wrote thirty seven dramas and some sonnets. He had high emotions, sentiments, feelings and sensibility. His power of imagination and determination was very deep.

Shakespeare’s Life can be described in the following words:

“In view of the fact that William Shakespeare was a man of no social standing who lived nearly four hundred years ago, it is remarkable that so much is definitely known about him. Not only can his existence be proved by documents and records to the satisfaction of any law court, but the outlines of his career are also by no means shadowy. One must not look for romance or mystery or excitement in Shakespeare’s biography, however, for his was the commonplace decent life of a busy man who kept out of trouble.

What we know of his personal affairs may be briefly summarized. Born at Stratford in central England about April 23, 1564, he sprang from honest, hard working middle-class stock. His father, John Shakespeare, was a tanner and glover by trade who owned considerable property and held important civic offices in Stratford, including those of alderman and high-bailiff, or mayor. His mother, Mary Arden, was the daughter of a “gentle man of worship” and of the somewhat higher social standing than her husband. Nothing is known of William’s education, except the tradition that he attended a free school, and such evidences of learning as his plays exhibit. His formal schooling was probably not unusually long in duration because John Shakespeare suffered financial reverses about 1577, and William, like others of his class, married early. While still in his teens, on November 28, 1582, he was contracted to Anne Hathaway, a Shottery girl several years his senior, and soon found himself with the responsibilities of a family. A daughter Susanna was born in the following May, and twins, Hamlet and Judith, in February 1585. Many conjectures have been made as to the happiness or unhappiness of Shakespeare’s married life, but they are entirely unsupported by evidence of any kind. Significant at least is the fact that as soon as he was able, in 1597, he purchased New Place a large house in Stratford, as a residence; improved his social standing by acquiring a cost of arms and the privilege of writing himself “gentleman”! and retired to his native town at the close of his life.

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Precisely when Shakespeare left Stratford for London is not known. There is a familiar romantic tradition that he was driven from his native city because of a poaching escapade on St. Thomas Lucy’s game preserves; another that he was butcher’s apprentice who ran away from his master to join a troupe of actors; and a third that he was for a time a country schoolmaster. All these traditions are late, and none has the support of any corroborative evidence. Whatever the immediate reason, it was probably to provide for his increasing family that Shakespeare turned to London and its theatres, it spired by the same high hopes with which younger men of today look to Hollywood or to Broadway. Like the adventurous young blades of his own plays, he knew that “home-keeping youth have ever homely wits” and resolved “to seek his fortune farther than at home, where small experience grows”. Perhaps it was not the theatre alone which at first lured him from Stratford; London has at all times been a powerful magnet to the provincial Englishman. At any rate, when he is first heard, of, he has already overcome the indifference with which the big city discourages the newcomer and made a name for himself as an actor. By 1592 he had aroused the resentment of Robert Greene a university man, who called him an “upstart crow” and warned his fellow dramatists against the whole race of actors, our especially against this “absolute Johannes factotum” who in his own conceit was the only Shake scene in the country. Perhaps Shakespeare had already tried his hand at refurbishing old plays. An epidemic of plague closed the theatres soon after, and the first definite news from Shakespeare shows him writing narrative poetry and seeking a patron. In 1593 Venus and Adonis appeared and was followed the next year by The Rape of Lucrece, both dedicated to the young Earl of Southampton.

Records in Stratford, London and elsewhere add a number of facts to fill in this outline of a busy/life. His only son died in 1596, his father in 1601, and his mother in 1608. His daughters married. He made further investments, some of them substantial in both Stratford and London; and as his reputation as a man of means increased, he was even touched for loans by his fellow townsmen. His business affairs involved him in various petty lawsuits in Stratford, which are interesting only as they indicate his continued connection with his home city. In London he was called is a witness in a dowry suit against one Christopher Mountjoy, Hugu-not merchant, with whom, as the testimony showed Shakespeare had seen lodging about 1604. He was the recipient of small bequests from a fellow actor and a Stratford friend. All of these details have title significance to those who wish to know the plays, but they make Shakespeare the man very real to us.



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