William Shakespeare, widely viewed as the English national poet, is considered to be the greatest English language dramatist of all time. Although no birth records exist, it is believed that the Bard was born on 23 April 1564, which also happens to be St George’s Day. This year’s celebrations will mark Shakespeare’s 451st birthday.
To mark the birth of the world’s greatest playwright a unique commemorative event takes place in Stratford-upon-Avon every year. Held on the weekend closest to April 23rd, the Birthday Celebrations have become a tradition that dates back nearly 200 years and always include traditional dancing, pageantry, marathon running, street entertainment and the unfurling of the flags ceremony.
William Shakespeare was a respected man of the dramatic arts who acted and wrote plays during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. His professional reputation as a dramatic genius wasn’t recognised until much later on. By the 20th century movements in scholarship and performance rediscovered and adopted his works and his popularity grew.
Over a writing career spanning more than 20 years, Shakespeare wrote plays that explored human emotion and conflict. He was also a managing partner of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men Company of theatrical players and a shrewd businessman. For more than 400 years the works of William Shakespeare have been performed in hamlets, villages and cities all over the world.
The Bard’s plays are hugely popular and are studied and reinterpreted in performances all over the world. Shakespeare’s characters and plots present the whole range of human emotion, and although their origins date back to
Elizabethan England his work remains timeless.
His first plays were mostly histories: Richard II, Henry VI (parts 1, 2 and 3) and Henry V. Shakespeare also wrote several witty comedies: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It, The Merchant of Venice and Twelfth Night as well as others. In his later period he wrote the tragedies Hamlet, King Lear, Othello and Macbeth. In total 37 plays and 154 sonnets are credited to him.
Shakespeare was an entrepreneur as well as an artist, and scholars believe these investments gave him the time and financial security to write his plays. With his business partners he built the Globe theater on the south bank of the River Thames, in London. He was also the owner of property near Stratford, which earned him a tidy income to fund his writing career.
• Shakespeare had seven siblings.
• He never attended University.
• He lived through the Black Death.
- The Comedy of Errors is Shakespeare’s shortest play at 1770 lines long.
• Shakespeare never published his own plays – they were published by fellow actors.
• William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway on November 28, 1582. He was 18 and she was 26.
• The couple’s first child, daughter Susanna, was born on May 26, 1583.
• Twins Hamnet and Judith were born on February 2, 1585.
• Hamnet died of unknown causes aged 11.
• His house was called New Palace.
• It is believed that William Shakespeare died on his birthday, April 23, 1616.