Town records indicate that William Shakespeare was John and Mary's third child.His birth is unregistered, but legend pins the date as April 23, 1564, possibly because it is known that he died on the same date 52 years later.
University education was reserved for wealthy sons of the elite, and even then, mostly just those who wanted to become clergymen.
The numerous classical and literary references in Shakespeare’s plays are a testament, however, to the excellent education he received in grammar school, and speaks to his ability as an autodidact.
He seems to have been especially influenced by the new movement in Humanism, exemplified best by the works of the French essayist Michel de Montaigne.
Many of Shakespeare’s plays exhibit an appreciation for the Aristotelean concept that virtuous action is a kind of golden mean between two extremes; for example, heroism lies between cowardice and foolhardiness. Because the Elizabethan stage was usually a bare platform with little scenery and few props, Shakespeare often uses language to paint the scene for his audience.
Among Shakespeare’s most notable contributions to literature was his innovative use of language. Direct references spoken by the characters make it clear to the audience, in the theater or at home with their texts, where a scene is taking place: “This castle hath a pleasant seat,” King Duncan says upon arriving at Macbeth’s home, notifying the audience that the scene has shifted; the young exiles in are told that “This is the forest of Arden,” so that the audience, too, will know where the action is now occurring.
Like many of his contemporaries, he wrote much of his work in blank verse, the unrhymed iambic pentameter lines first used in English by Chaucer almost two hundred years earlier. Many of the speeches he created for his characters have been taken out of context and recited as philosophical or patriotic dicta: Jacques’s discourse on the seven ages of man in (pr. More than any other dramatist, Shakespeare makes extensive use of metaphor to drive home a point. 1598), the state of England is compared to a garden, which is in disarray because of the civil strife brought on by the king’s profligacy and his usurper’s inability to unite the rebels after Richard is deposed.
William Shakespeare is arguably the most famous writer of the English language, known for both his plays and sonnets.
Though much about his life remains open to debate due to incomplete evidence, the following biography consolidates the most widely-accepted facts of Shakespeare's life and career.
In an age when society believed people were governed by “humors” and the dominant characteristics one exhibited were a consequence of these physical states, Shakespeare was somewhat unusual.
His great contemporary, Ben Jonson, prided himself on his ability to capture the essence of types in his dramas.