William Shakespeare is the most renowned English playwright and poet in history. Details of his life are sketchy due to the fact that little documentation remains besides his writings and a few church documents including his baptismal, marriage and burial records.
Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, on or about April 23, 1564. Records from Holy Trinity Church indicate that he was baptized on April 26. He was the third of eight children born to John Shakespeare, a glover and leather merchant, and local heiress Mary Arden.
On November 28, 1582, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway. Their first child, Susanna, was born on May 26, 1583, and twins Hamnet and Judith were born on February 2, 1585. Hamnet died at age 11, but Shakespeare’s wife and other two children outlived him.
Scholars estimate that Shakespeare arrived in London in about 1588 and began to work as a playwright and actor. By 1594 he was acting and writing for London’s most popular and successful theater company of the day, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, as well as serving as the group’s managing partner. He is credited with writing 38 plays, 154 sonnets, and two narrative poems.
As with his birth, the date of William Shakespeare’s death is a guess -- April 23, 1616. Church records do show that he was buried at Holy Trinity in Stratford on April 25. In 1623, two of Shakespeare’s colleagues published the First Folio, his collected plays, half of which were previously unpublished.
Special thanks to Dora Lee for the graphic.