A story by Jonathan Henshaw - E-mail


My name is Shakespeare. No, I don't shake spears at people, but I did have an ancestor who wrote some of the greatest plays ever, including Romeo & Juliet and Hamlet. I descended from his sister, Joan,(the second one) who married William Hart. I also have cousins in Australia, England, and the USA. So, I will start my biography of him with this, and I hope you like it.

Shakespeare, whose first name (which I already told you) was William, was born, and grew up in a place called Stratford-upon-Avon in England. We celebrate Shakespeare's birthday every year on April 23rd (at least I do), but we really don't know if that was his exact birth date. It was in the year 1564, when Queen Elizabeth I had been Queen for six years. He was the third child and oldest son of John and Mary Arden Shakespeare. He had two older sisters, Joan and Margaret, but he never got to see them, because they died before he was born. He had other siblings though, and he could always call them 'little'. They were: Edmund, Gilbert, Richard, Anne, and a second Joan. William lived longer than all of his siblings except Joan, who died after him.

Will's dad was a glove maker in Stratford for years. He was also mayor at one time. John was poor when he died, though he was not terribly poor throughout his life. He didn't leave all that much to Will, and nothing much is known of Mary, John's wife, just that her family was richer than John's. This means that he had to make his way through the world when his dad died.

Stratford-upon-Avon is where Will grew up. It was in Warwickshire, the 'heart of England'. When he was around, it was a place with tons of trees and it was well farmed land. But most impressive was its grammar school. Shakespeare went there, but no one knows for how long or when. His work was mostly Latin. The school was probably good, because all of the four schoolmasters went to Oxford University. Nothing exact is known about his times as a child, but from his plays, he must have learned a lot of things very early in his life, about trade, hunting, fishing, etc., etc.

When Shakespeare was eighteen, he got married, to Anne Hathaway. She was from Shottery, a village not far from Stratford. He had three children, a girl named Susanna, and two years later twins: a boy and girl named Hamnet and Judith.

What happened in Shakespeare's life between 1583 and 1592, nobody knows. Some people believe that he moved to London and became a page(a person who serves a knight). But, by 1592, he was in London, and known as the greatest playwright anyone had ever seen. At this time, Shakespeare was 28. Robert Greme also accused him of 'borrowing' the plays from others. In-between 1592 and 1594 though, the plague kept a lot of people away from the theater, and in that time, Shakespeare wrote his first two narrative poems and a few sonnets. Until 1598, Shakespeare's plays were only played in a place north of London, called Shoredich. There were only two playhouses there, the Theater and the Curtain. Both of them were owned by James Burbage. His son, Richard was Shakespeare's best friend and greatest actor at that time.

Somewhere in-between 1596 and 1599, Shakespeare moved to a place called Bankside. There two more theaters were built, the Rose and the Swan. They were made by Philip Henslowe. He was James Burbage's top competitor. Then the Burbages moved there too, and made the Globe Theater, where Shakespeare worked for the rest of his life, and it brought him tons of the green stuff.

During 1597, Shakespeare bought the largest place in town, called the New Place. During the next few years, he bought a lot of land in Stratford and London. Two years before (1595), Shakespeare applied for a coat of arms. His dad probably suggested it. After that, he could put the word 'gentleman' after his name. This was important to him, because playwrights were put into a category with ruffians and murderers at the time.

In 1603, Queen Elizabeth I died, and King James I got the throne. He made Shakespeare's theatrical company the royal theatrical company. They were named the King's Company. It was the most successful group of its time.

In 1608 the company started working at the Blackfriars Theater. It was smaller than the Globe, but they liked it. From then on, they alternately worked at the Globe and Blackfriars. Shakespeare's plays were also played at the court of the king's castle. During 1603 Shakespeare acted a little, but probably not much. He did Adam in As You Like It and the ghost in Hamlet. In 1607, he had a physical breakdown, and his eldest daughter got married to a doctor named John Hall.

In 1607, at the age of 43, Shakespeare had his first grandchild, Elizabeth. And, Edmund, (his oldest brother) died.

There has been a large effort to prove that Will didn't write his plays, or that someone else did, and he published them in his name. They think he couldn't have learned about hawking, the royal language, etc., etc.. The first person they suspected did write them, was Sir Francis Bacon. All of the books about this, could, in fact, fill a whole library. (Lucky for us no library has them all, or that's all they would have). And lots of other famous Elizabethan people came afterwards. The most recent one is Christopher Marlowe. Some people think that 'Shakespeare' is just a name for a group of poets, and not one person. But Shakespeare plays are Shakespeare plays, and none of the other people wrote any plays that were like them. So my solution is that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare.

A lot of people are interested in William's personal life, and in 1609 154, (that's one hundred and fifty four, yes, one hundred and fifty four) Sonnets (a kind of poem that has 14 lines in it) were published, and Mister William Shakespeare here, did not want them to be. Many people think that these unlock his personal life, but no one knows. The only thing better than the sonnets is the play Hamlet, and they are remarkable poems, and some think that they tell a story, and that the story is true. But the story is only hinted at, instead of being straight out told, like it was a secret or something. They talk about a rival poet who takes away his girlfriend. This is the Secret of the Sonnets. It is called this, because no one can prove if it is true or not

Though his exact birth is not known, his exact death is. It is April 23 (when we celebrate his birthday), 1616. I could never tell you every single thing about Shakespeare, unless, that is, you'd like to stick around for a billion years, which I'm sure you don't. This is because there has been more written about him than any other person in the whole world. He also virtually created the English language, because he invented so many words and expressions.

And in the words of the great William Shakespeare, "All's well that ends well."