William Shakespeare

(1564 - 1616), English Playwriter and Poet

William Shakespeare is perhaps the best-known writer of all time. Born in Stratford-upon-Avon, he is globally renowned for his poetry and, in particular, his plays. He was married to Anne Hathaway and had three children. Shakespeare coined many phrases that have become part of the British idiolect.

Life Facts

  • William Shakespeare was born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon.
  • His exact date of birth is unknown but is generally observed on St. George’s day.
  • Shakespeare married his wife when he was just 18 years old.
  • Shakespeare and his wife Anne had twins.
  • The reason for Shakespeare’s death is unknown, but one theory posits that it might have been an infection as he allegedly had a fever before his death.

Interesting Facts

  • When he wasn’t writing plays, Shakespeare commonly acted in them.
  • The BBC comedy “Upstart Crow” is based on the life of Shakespeare.
  • Shakespeare was able to understand Latin due to his education.
  • There is a long-standing rumor that fellow playwright Christopher Marlowe is responsible for some of Shakespeare’s works.
  • Shakespeare was not the best at spelling and frequently wrote his name incorrectly.

Famous Plays by William Shakespeare

A lot of Shakespeare’s writing will not be contained in this section. Not only was his collection of work so extensive, but a lot of it was poetry. In addition to writing plays, he wrote 154 sonnets.

  • Romeo and Juliet. Perhaps his most influential work. Shakespeare’s tragedy of two star-crossed lovers has inspired: musicals such as West Side Story; Films such as Romeo must Die; Books like The Fault in our Stars by John Green, and even music such as Dire Straits’ Romeo and Juliet. That’s not to mention the high-octane remake of the play by Baz Luhrmann.
  • Macbeth. Or the Scottish play as it is often known. (apparently, it is bad luck to say Macbeth while in the theatre). This is frequently taught in schools because its bloodthirsty nature makes it a really interesting play. It was highly influenced by James I’s interest in the occult.
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This delightful comedy again is hugely inspirational as it explores the idea of love triangles. Once again, readers see a mystical element to the play As Shakespeare uses spirits or fairies as main characters throughout the play.
  • The Merchant of Venice. Considered by many to be ahead of its time, Shakespeare bravely explored the issue of religious hatred. His character Shylock breaks the norms for a stereotypical villain and is portrayed as a partially sympathetic Jewish character. Shakespeare also touched on the idea of racism in his play, Othello.

Early Life

Shakespeare was allegedly born on Henley Street. His father was John Shakespeare, a successful glover, and his mother was Mary Arden, a member of the local gentry. His father was a successful businessman, and this high standing allowed William to access education.

Through analyzing the work that Shakespeare was able to create, it would appear that he probably attended a grammar school. The curriculum for grammar schools was standardized by the monarchy, and as such, Shakespeare had a solid grasp of Latin and was able to translate Latin texts.

Shakespeare is unique in so much as he frequently drew on the knowledge of the countryside in his writing, especially in his earlier poetry despite not living in the country.

Literary Career

Shakespeare began his career collaborating with other playwrights, a common practice at the time. Some of his earliest works were historical dramas. It is thought that Richard III and Henry V were probably written around this time (the early 1590s). Other works around this period include The Comedy of Errors and The Taming of the Shrew.

Following that period, Shakespeare began to add a more romantic edge to his writing. Around this period, during the middle of his career, he wrote the likes of a Midsummer Nights Dream, The Merchant of Venice, and Much Ado About Nothing. The hallmark of these works was the interweaving plots, the slick comedy, and the sentiment.

Following this spate of comedies, Shakespeare’s writing developed, and his characters became increasingly complex. It was at this point (around the late 1590s) that he penned the tragedies Julius Caesar and Romeo and Juliet. Following this, he wrote a trio of what he dubbed “problem plays,” which weren’t quite as popular before producing the masterpiece that is Hamlet. This play includes the famousto be or not to beline. He then produced more tragedies such as King Lear and Othello, both of which revolve around a hero with a fatal flaw. This is common in his work and can be seen in Macbeth as well.

His later plays near the twilight of his career had a change in tone, perhaps representing the mood as England moved from the reign of Elizabeth I to James I, or maybe it was just representative of Shakespeare maturing. Plays written at this time include The Tempest.


Given how long ago Shakespeare lived, facts about him are pieced together by historians. It is known that he was married to Anne Hathaway, and their relationship lasted until his passing.

However, it is often suggested that he may have been bisexual. If his sonnets are considered to be autobiographical in nature, then some appear to be about another man. However, some literary critics have argued that these poems describe deep respect rather than romantic love.

If readers are to look at the poems this way, there are suggestions that Shakespeare was not faithful to his wife.


Shakespeare passed away on the 23rd of April 1616. He was just 52 when he passed and was reportedly in relatively good health.

He was laid to rest at the Church of the Holy Trinity in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon. He was survived by his wife and his two daughters.

Influence from other Writers

Shakespeare was very clearly influenced by Greek theatre. Although he didn’t use the same format for his plays, he did borrow heavily from their ideas.

Literature by William Shakespeare

Explore literature by Shakespeare below, created by the team at Book Analysis.