William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

miniature knitting
© F H Powell 2015

If you are asked to think of things that are quintessentially English, among the red pillar-boxes, Houses of Parliament etcetera, on the list might well be William Shakespeare.

Though his birth date is unknown, but traditionally taken to be 23rd April (St George’s Day), his baptism was recorded as 26 April 1564. His date of death was recorded as 23 April 1616, which makes this year the 400th anniversary of his death.

He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire and at the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway. His early work was with a troop of actors or “playing company” called The Lord Chamberlain’s Men that was formed in London in 1594, though it is believed that Shakespeare was working in London as a playwright and actor prior to this date. The Lord Chamberlain’s Men performed originally at Shoreditch and held the exclusive rights to Shakespeare’s plays. In 1598 the owners moved the theatre to Southwark and built the Globe Theatre, which closed in 1642 and the company went on tour. A reconstructed Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre now stands on the site. Shakespeare was much more at home writing than acting and played only secondary roles in his own plays. His time in London came to an end in 1613, possibly as the Globe Theatre was burned down, and he moved back to Stratford. His time in London had made him a wealthy man and he could afford to buy property in Stratford including New Place a large house that became his final resting place.

He died aged 52 one month after writing his will, in which he described himself as being in “perfect health”.