William Shakespeare is one of the most widely read authors and possibly the best dramatist ever to live. The actual date of his birth is not known, but traditionally April 23rd 1564 (St George's Day) has been his accepted birthday, as this was three days before his baptism. He died on the same date in 1616, aged fifty-two. The life of William Shakespeare can be divided into three acts. The first twenty years of his life were spent in Stratford-upon-Avon where he grew up, went to school, got married and became a father. The next twenty-five years he spent as an actor and playwright in London; and he spent his last few years back in Stratford-upon-Avon, where he enjoyed his retirement in moderate wealth gained from his successful years in the theatre.William was the eldest son of tradesman John Shakespeare and Mary Arden, and the third of eight children. His father was later elected mayor of Stratford, which was the highest post a man in civic politics could attain. In sixteenth-century England, William was lucky to survive into adulthood; syphilis, scurvy, smallpox, tuberculosis, typhus and dysentery shortened life expectancy at the time to approximately thirty-five years. The Bubonic Plague took the lives of many and was believed to have been the cause of death for three of William's seven siblings. Little is known of William's childhood, other than it is thought that he attended the local grammar school, where he studied Latin and English Literature. In 1582, at the age of eighteen, William married a local farmer's daughter, Anne Hathaway, who was eight years his senior and three months pregnant. During their marriage they had three children: Susanna, born on May 26th 1583 and twins, Hamnet and Judith, born on February 2nd 1585. Hamnet, William's only son, caught Bubonic Plague and died aged just eleven. Five years into his marriage William moved to London and appeared in many small parts at The Globe Theatre, then one of the biggest theatres in England. His first appearance in public as a poet was in 1593 with "Venus and Adonis" and again in the following year with "The Rape of Lucrece". Six years later, in 1599, he became joint proprietor of The Globe Theatre.When Queen Elizabeth died in 1603, she was succeeded by her cousin King James of Scotland. King James supported Shakespeare and his band of actors and gave them license to call themselves "The King's Men" in return for entertaining the court. In just twenty-three years, between 1590 and 1613, William Shakespeare is attributed with writing thirty-eight plays, one-hundred-and-fifty-four sonnets and five poems. No original manuscript exists for any of his plays, so it is hard to accurately date them. However, from their contents and reports of the day it is believed that his first play was A"The Taming of the ShrewA" and that his last complete work was A"Two Noble KinsmenA", written two years before he died. The cause of his death remains unknown. He was buried on April 25th 1616,two days after his death, at the Church of the Holy Trinity (the same Church where he had been baptised fifty-two years earlier). His gravestone bears these words, believed to have been written by William himself:- "Good friend for Jesus sake forbear,To dig the dust enclosed here!Blest be the man that spares these stones, And curst be he that moves my bones" At the time of his death, William had substantial properties, which he bestowed on his family and associates from the theatre. In his will he left his wife, the former Anne Hathaway, his second best bed! William Shakespeare's last direct descendant died in 1670. She was his granddaughter, Elizabeth.
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