What Do We Know about Shakespeare's Life?

Secured facts about Shakespeare's life are meager for today's standards. Consequently, there is a considerable number of scarcly provable theories and stories about Shakespeare. It has to be noted, however, that Shakespeare's vita is well documented for a man of his social standard and considering the times he lived in. Reproductions of almost all relevant contemporary sources about Shakespeare can be found in Samuel Schoenbaum's William Shakespeare: A Compact Documentary Life (2nd ed., 1987).

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 1564. He was the son of John Shakespeare, a successful glover from Snitterfield, and of Mary Arden, a daughter of the gentry. Shakespeare probably attended the grammar school in central Stratford but never studied at a university. At the age of eighteen (1582) he married Anne Hathaway, who was already 26. There seems to have been some haste in arranging the ceremony, since Anne was presumably 3 months pregnant. The two had three children together, two daugherts and a son.

After his marriage, Shakespeare left very few traces in the historical record until he appeared in London's theatrical scene. The late 1580s are known as Shakespeare's "lost years". There are legends surrounding this time of his life but no evidence has survived to show exactly where he was or when and why he left Stratford for London.

Shakespeare reappears in London in the early 1590's, by then a member of the "Lord Strange's Men", later the "Lord Chamberlain's Men" (after the accession of James I. to the throne they  renamed themselves "The King's Men"). Most likely Shakespeare lived in London during his time as an active playwright, separated from his family.

Shakespeare was a very successful playwrigth, actor and part-owner of his playing company. Enterprising as he was, he gained a small fortune that allowed him to buy one of the grandest houses in Stratford only in 1597.
He only seems to have retired to Straford after his last two plays were written in 1613. He died on April 23, 1616, at the age of 52. He was married to Anne Hathaway until his death and was survived by his two daughters, Susanna and Judith.

Some of Shakespeare's plays first appeared in print as a series of quartos. However most of his works remained unpublished until 1623 when the posthumous First Folio was published by two actors who had been in Shakespeare's company: John Heminges and Henry Condell.