the illustrated shakespeare
the illustrated shakespeare

Despite being one of the most famous Elizabethans outside of the royal court, and due to vague and inconsistent records kept during the Elizabethan era, the facts known about Shakespeare are few and far between. There are just two primary sources for information on the Bard: his works, and various legal and church documents that have survived.

However, it would be a mistake to think that Shakespeare life holds any unusual mystery. Since comparatively, Shakespeare's life is unusually well-documented. More is known about Shakespeare than any other professional dramatist of his time. There are well over 100 references to Shakespeare and his immediate family in local parish, municipal, and commercial archives and we also have at least fifty observations about Shakespeare's plays (and through them, his life) from his contemporaries. The structure of Shakespeare's life is remarkably sound; it is the flesh of his personal experience, his motives, and the like that have no firm basis and it is, of course.

In his personal life, Shakespeare was, in fact, an exceedingly practical individual, undoubtedly a jack of many useful trades, and a shrewd businessman in theatrical, commercial and real estate circles.

The notion that plays ascribed to Shakespeare were actually written by others (Sir Francis Bacon, the poet Phillip Sidney among the candidates) has become even weaker over time. The current strong consensus is that while Shakespeare may have collaborated with another Elizabethan playwright in at least one instance (probably with John Fletcher on The Two Noble Kinsman), and that one or two of his plays were completed by someone else (possibly Fletcher on an original or revised version of Henry VIII), the works ascribed to Shakespeare are his.

William Shakespeare was born to John and Mary Shakespeare, on April 23, 1564 (St. Georges Day), within Avon, and in a house on Henley Street, owned by his father. The register of Holy Trinity parish church, in Stratford records Shakespeare's baptism on 26 April, 1564. Showing the following entry: Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakespeare

Although there is no physical evidence suggesting the exact date of his birth, it was common practice for the time to follow the teachings of the common book of prayer, in which is required that a child be baptized on the nearest Sunday or holy day following the birth, unless the parents had a legitimate excuse.

the illustrated shakespeare
There is great conjecture about Shakespeare's childhood years, especially regarding his education. It is surmised by scholars that Shakespeare, from around the age of six, attended the free grammar school in Stratford, which is still standing a short distance from his fathers house on Henley Street, and is currently in the care of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. John Shakespeare, as a Stratford official, would have been granted a waiver of tuition for his son, and while there are no records extant to prove this claim, Shakespeare's knowledge of Latin and Classical Greek would tend to support this theory.

The Stratford grammar school had been built some two hundred years before Shakespeare was born and in that time the lessons taught there were, dictated primarily by the beliefs of the reigning monarch. In 1553, due to a charter by King Edward VI, the school became known as the King's New School of Stratford-upon-Avon. During the years that Shakespeare attended the school, at least one and possibly uo to three headmasters stepped down because of their devotion to the catholic religion proscribed by Queen Elizabeth. One of these masters was Simon Hunt (b. 1551), who, in 1578, according to tradition, left Stratford to pursue his more spiritual goal of becoming a Jesuit, relocating to the seminary at Rheims. When he died in Rome seven years later he had risen to the position of Grand Penitentiary.

Students spent about nine hours a day in school. They attended classes the year around, except for three holiday periods. William would probably have been exposed to a standard Elizabethan curriculum strong on Greek and Latin literature (including the playwrights Plautus and Seneca, and the amorous poet Ovid), rhetoric (including that of the ancient Roman orator Cicero), and Christian ethics (including a working knowledge of the Holy Bible). These influences are pervasive in Shakespeare's works, and it is also apparent that Shakespeare cultivated a knowledge of English history through chronicles written shortly before and during his adolescence.

Like a good number of England's great poets and dramatists, Shakespeare learned his reading and writing skills from an ABC, or horn-book. Robert Speaight in his book, Shakespeare: The Man and His Achievement, describes this book as a primer framed in wood and covered with a thin plate of transparent horn. It included the alphabet in small letters and in capitals, with combinations of the five vowels with b, c, and d, and the Lord's Prayer in English. The first of these alphabets, which ended with the abbreviation for 'and', began with the mark of the cross. Hence the alphabet was known as 'Christ cross row' -- the cross-row of Richard III, I, i, 55. A short catechism was often included in the ABC book (the 'absey book' of King John, I, i, 196). (10)

The famous quote by Nicholas Rowe in 1709, in which he states that Shakespeare "acquir'd that little Latin he was Master of" and tells us that Shakespeare was prevented by his father's poor fortune from "further proficiency in that Language" should be read with an extremely critical eye. As we all know, Shakespeare was a young man when he began to write magnificent plays that had plots based entirely on Latin stories, such as the Menaechmi of Plautus, and striking imagery that was drawn from the Metamorphoses of Ovid and the Lives of Plutarch.

Shakespeare later wrote a small scene in the play "The Merry Wives of Windsor" in which a student, Master William Page, is called on in class to recite for his mother's benefit.  This is undoubtedly a reflection of Shakespeare himself as a student, as it is known that his school teacher was Welsh, as in the play.  It is a lively scene, and has become known as "The Latin Lesson."

As the records do not exist, we do not know how long William attended the school, but certainly the literary quality of his works suggest a solid education. It is believed that Shakespeare left school in 1579 at the age of 13 - fifteen, possibly as the result of a family financial problem. What is certain is that William Shakespeare never proceeded to university schooling.

the illustrated shakespeare
In spite of the long hours he spent in school, Shakespeare's boyhood was probably not all study. As a market centre, Stratford would have been a bustling town. Stratford also offered Shakespeare other pleasures. The fields and woods surrounding the town provided opportunities to hunt and trap small game. The River Avon, which ran through the town, had fish to catch. Shakespeare's poems and plays show a love of nature and rural life. This display undoubtedly reflects his childhood experiences and his love of the Stratford countryside. 

There are other fragmented, though dubious, details about Shakespeare's life growing up in Stratford. He is supposed to have worked for a butcher, in addition to helping run his father's business. There is also a fable that Shakespeare stole a deer from Sir Thomas Lucy at Charlecote, and to escape the potential prison sentence, he fled from Stratford. Although this is surely a fictitious incident, there exist a few verses of a humorous ballad mocking Lucy that has been connected to Shakespeare. "Edmond Malone records a version of two verses of the Lucy Ballad collected by one of the few great English classical scholars, Joshua Barnes, at Stratford between 1687 and 1690. Barnes stopped overnight at an inn and heard an old woman singing it. He gave her a new gown for the two stanzas which were all she remembered":

Sir Thomas was so covetous
To covet so much deer
When horns enough upon his head
Most plainly did appear
Had not his worship one deer left?
What then? He had a wife
Took pains enough to find him horns
Should last him during life. (Levi, 35)

Drama would have been a significant part of Stratford's social life. Indeed by 1569, Not only did local people put on amateur shows, traveling companies of professional actors were regularly performing in Stratford. Especially, it is considered during the two large annual fairs, which were popular enough to attract visitors from neighbouring counties. It has, by some, been considered that Shakespeare may have joined one of them, possibly arriving in London around 1586/7.

the illustrated shakespeare

Recordings in the Episcopal register at Worcester on the dates of November 27 and 28, 1582, reveal that Shakespeare desired to marry a young girl named Anne. There are, however, two different documents regarding this matter, and their contents have raised a debate over just whom Shakespeare first intended to wed. To consider the occurrences properly, we should look at the documents in question. The first entry in the register is the following record of the issue of a marriage license to one Wm Shakespeare:

Anno Domini 1582...Novembris...27 die eiusdem mensis. Item eodem die supradicto emanavit Licentia inter Wm Shaxpere et Annam Whateley de Temple Grafton.1

The next entry in the episcopal register records the marriage bond granted to one Wm Shakespeare:

Noverint universi per praesentes nos Fulconem Sandells de Stratford in comitatu Warwici agricolam et Johannem Rychardson ibidem agricolam, teneri et firmiter obligari Ricardo Cosin generoso et Roberto Warmstry notario publico in quadraginta libris bonae et legalis monetae Angliae solvend. eisdem Ricardoet Roberto haered. execut. et assignat. suis ad quam quidem solucionem bene et fideliter faciend. obligamus nos et utrumque nostrum per se pro toto et in solid. haered. executor. et administrator. nostros firmiter per praesentes sigillis nostris sigillat. Dat. 28 die Novem. Anno regni dominae nostrae Eliz. Dei gratia Angliae Franc. et Hiberniae Reginae fidei defensor &c.25.2 The condition of this obligation is such that if hereafter there shall not appear any lawful let or impediment by reason of any precontract, consanguinity, affinity or by any other lawful means whatsoever, but that William Shagspere on the one party and Anne Hathwey of Stratford in the diocese of Worcester, maiden, may lawfully solemnize matrimony together, and in the same afterwards remain and continue like man and wife according unto the laws in that behalf provided...

Three possible conclusions can be reached from the above records:

1) The Anne Whateley in the first record and the Anne Hathwey in the second record are the same woman. Some scholars believe that the name Whateley was substituted accidentally for Hathwey into the register by the careless clerk. "The clerk was a nincompoop: he wrote Baker for Barber in his register, and Darby for Bradeley, and Edgock for Elcock, and Anne Whateley for Anne Hathaway. A lot of ingenious ink has been spilt over this error, but it is surely a simple one: the name Whateley occurs in a tithe appeal by a vicar on the same page of the register; the clerk could not follow his own notes, or he was distracted" (Levi, 37). Moreover, some believe that the couple selected Temple Grafton as the place for the wedding for reasons of privacy and that is why it is recorded in the register instead of Stratford.

2) The Wm Shaxpere and the Annam Whateley who wished to marry in Temple Grafton were two different people entirely from the Wm Shagspere and Anne Hathwey who were married in Stratford. This argument relies on the assumption that there was a relative of Shakespeare's living in Temple Grafton, or a man unrelated but sharing Shakespeare's name (which would be extremely unlikely), and that there is no trace of this relative after the issue of his marriage license.

3) The woman Shakespeare loved and the woman Shakespeare finally married were two different Annes. Not many critics support this hypothesis, but those that do use it to portray Shakespeare as a young man torn between the love he felt for Anne Whateley and the obligation he felt toward Anne Hathwey and the child she was carrying, which was surely his. In Shakespeare, Anthony Burgess constructs a vivid scenario to this effect:

It is reasonable to believe that Will wished to marry a girl named Anne Whateley. The name is common enough in the Midlands and is even attached to a four-star hotel in Horse Fair, Banbury. Her father may have been a friend of John Shakespeare's, he may have sold kidskin cheap, there are various reasons why the Shakespeare's and the Whateleys, or their nubile children, might become friendly. Sent on skin-buying errands to Temple Grafton, Will could have fallen for a comely daughter, sweet as May and shy as a fawn. He was eighteen and highly susceptible. Knowing something about girls, he would know that this was the real thing. Something, perhaps, quite different from what he felt about Mistress Hathaway of Shottery. But why, attempting to marry Anne Whateley, had he put himself in the position of having to marry the other Anne? I suggest that, to use the crude but convenient properties of the old women's-magazine morality-stories, he was exercised by love for the one and lust for the other. I find it convenient to imagine that he knew Anne Hathaway carnally, for the first time, in the spring of 1582... (57)

Whichever argument one chooses to accept, On November 27, 1582, Shakespeare, 18, received a marriage license to marry Anne Hathaway, 26, and already several months pregnant.

Anne was the eldest daughter, and one of the seven children of Richard Hathaway, a twice-married farmer in Shottery. Her home, Hewland Farm, now known as Anne Hathaway's Cottage, still stands in the village of Shottery, a village about 1 mile (1.6 kilometres) from Stratford.

When Richard died in 1581, he requested his son, Bartholomew, move into the house, and maintain the property for his mother, Richard's second wife and Anne's stepmother. Anne lived in the cottage with Bartholomew, her step-mother, and her other siblings. After her marriage to Shakespeare, Anne left Hewland Farm to live in John Shakespeare's house on Henley Street, as was the custom of the day. Preparations for the new bride were made, and for reasons unknown, her arrival greatly bothered John Shakespeare's current tenant in the house, William Burbage. A heated fight ensued, and John refused to release Burbage from his lease, so Burbage decided to take the matter to a London court. On July 24, 1582, lawyers representing both sides met and reached an agreement - John would release Burbage from his lease.

The Shakespeare's' first child was Susanna, christened on May 26th, 1583, and twins arrived in January, 1585. They were baptized on February 2 of that year and named after two very close friends of William -- the baker Hamnet Sadler and his wife, Judith. The Sadlers became the godparents of the twins and, in 1598, they, in turn, named their own son William. Not much information is known about the life of Anne and her children after this date, except for the tragic fact that Hamnet Shakespeare died of an unknown cause on August 11, 1596, at the age of eleven. By this time Shakespeare had long since moved to London to realize his dreams on the English stage -- a time in the Bard's life that will be covered in depth later on -- and we do not know if he was present at Hamnet's funeral in Stratford. We can only imagine how deeply the loss of his only son touched the sensitive poet, but his sorrow is undeniably reflected in his later work, and, particularly, in a passage from King John, written between 1595 and 1597:

Young Arthur is my son, and he is lost:
I am not mad: I would to heaven I were!
For then, 'tis like I should forget myself:
O, if I could, what grief should I forget!
Preach some philosophy to make me mad,
And thou shalt be canonized, cardinal;
For being not mad but sensible of grief,
My reasonable part produces reason
How I may be deliver'd of these woes,
And teaches me to kill or hang myself:
If I were mad, I should forget my son,
Or madly think a babe of clouts were he:
I am not mad; too well, too well I feel
The different plague of each calamity....
I tore them from their bonds and cried aloud
'O that these hands could so redeem my son,
As they have given these hairs their liberty!'
But now I envy at their liberty,
And will again commit them to their bonds,
Because my poor child is a prisoner.
And, father cardinal, I have heard you say
That we shall see and know our friends in heaven:
If that be true, I shall see my boy again;
For since the birth of Cain, the first male child,
To him that did but yesterday suspire,
There was not such a gracious creature born.
But now will canker-sorrow eat my bud
And chase the native beauty from his cheek
And he will look as hollow as a ghost,
As dim and meagre as an ague's fit,
And so he'll die; and, rising so again,
When I shall meet him in the court of heaven
I shall not know him: therefore never, never
Must I behold my pretty Arthur more. (III.iv.45-91)

the illustrated shakespeare
There is a period in Shakespeare's life of some seven years (1585 to 1592), covering Shakespeare's daily activities after he left school and before he re-emerged as a professional actor from which we have absolutely no primary source materials about him.

For seven years, William Shakespeare effectively disappears from all records, turning up in London circa 1592 This has sparked as much controversy about Shakespeare's life as any period. There are various traditions and stories about the so-called 'lost years'.

Suggestions that Rowe notes that young Shakespeare was quite fond of poaching, and may have had to flee Stratford after an incident with Sir Thomas Lucy, whose lands he allegedly hunted. Tough considered highly unlikely, alternative suggestions include that he may have worked as an assistant schoolmaster in Lancashire for a time, as a lawyer or glover with his father and brother, Gilbert, are all plausible. So too is the argument that Shakespeare studied intensely to become a master at his literary craft, and honed his acting skills while travelling and visiting playhouses outside of Stratford.

Shakespeare's name appears with his parents' names in a Stratford lawsuit in 1588. But he may not have been living in Stratford at that time. Scholars believe that sometime during the lost years Shakespeare moved to London and served a period of apprenticeship in the city's busy theatrical life

It is estimated that Shakespeare arrived in London around 1588 and began to establish himself as an actor and playwright

But, it is from this period known as the "lost years" that we obtain a vital piece of information about Shakespeare: he married a pregnant orphan named Anne Hathaway.

the illustrated shakespeare

No one knows for certain how Shakespeare first started his career in the theatre, although several London players would visit Stratford regularly, and so, sometime between 1585 and 1592, it is probable that young Shakespeare could have been recruited by the Leicester's or Queen's men.

These companies consisted of a permanent cast of actors who presented a variety of plays week after week. The companies were commercial organizations that depended on admission prices for their income. They staged most of the popular London plays. It is estimated that Shakespeare arrived in London around 1588 and began to establish himself as an actor and playwright.

However, whether it was an acting troupe that 0recruited Shakespeare or whether he was forced on his own to travel to London to begin his career, he was nevertheless established in London by the end of 1592. For it was in that year that a pamphlet appeared with an apparent reference to Shakespeare. This reference suggested he had become both an actor and a playwright.

Between the early 1590s (The Comedy of Errors) and the second decade of the seventeenth century (The Tempest written in 1611), Shakespeare composed the most extraordinary body of works in the history of world drama. His works are often divided into periods, moving roughly from comedies to histories to tragedies and then to his final romances capped by a farewell to the stage in The Tempest.

The question of how and whether the Bard's career should be divided into periods aside, we do know that Shakespeare received a major boost in 1592 (the earliest review of his work that we have), when playwright-critic Robert Greene, wrote a letter attacking theatre owners, actors, and writers who, he believed, had abused the talents of university-educated playwrights, such as himself. Writing

"There is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers heart wrapt in a Players hide supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you; and, being an absolute Johannes Factotum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country."

The line "Tiger's heart wrapped in a Player's hide" pokes fun at a line spoken by the Duke of York in Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part III. The line is "O tiger's heart wrapped in a woman's hide." 

The letter was published in a pamphlet called Greene's Groatsworth of Wit Bought with a Million of Repentance.) As a number of leading Elizabethan literary figures expressed their admiration for his early plays. Though, after Green's death, his editor, Henry Chettle, publicly apologized to Shakespeare in the Preface to his Kind-Heart's Dream:

About three months since died M. Robert Greene, leaving many papers in sundry booksellers' hands, among other his Groatsworth of Wit, in which a letter written to divers play-makers is offensively by one or two of them taken, and because on the dead they cannot be avenged, they wilfully forge in their conceits a living author....With neither of them that take offence was I acquainted, and with one of them I care not if I never be. The other, whom at that time I did not so much spare as since I wish I had, for that, as I have moderated the heat of living writers and might have used my own discretion (especially in such a case, the author being dead), that I did not I am as sorry as if the original fault had been my fault, because myself have seen his demeanour no less civil than he excellent in the quality he professes. Besides, the diver of worship have reported his uprightness of dealing, which argues his honesty, and his facetious grace in writing that approves his art.

Records also tell us that several of Shakespeare's plays were popular by this time, including Henry VI, The Comedy of Errors, and Titus Andronicus. The company that staged most of the early productions of these plays was Pembroke's Men, sponsored by the Earl of Pembroke, Henry Herbert. The troupe was very popular and performed regularly at the court of Queen Elizabeth. Most critics conclude that Shakespeare spent time as both a writer and an actor for Pembroke's Men before 1592.

The turning point in Shakespeare's career came in 1593. The theatres had been closed from 1592 through 1594 due to an outbreak of the plague and, although it is possible that Shakespeare toured the outlying areas of London with acting companies like Pembroke's Men or Lord Strange's Men, it seems more likely that he left the theatre entirely during this time to compose long poems and at least some of his sonnets. Also during this tumulus time that, Shakespeare and his company made plans for the Globe Theatre in the Bankside district, which was across the river from London proper

April 18, 1593, Shakespeare's long poem Venus and Adonis was printed by Richard Field, a Stratford neighbour who had become a London printer. Shakespeare dedicated the poem to 19-year-old Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton. The poet may have believed that the dedication would win him the earl's favour and support. Venus and Adonis quickly became a success. 

The dedication Shakespeare wrote to Southampton at the beginning of the poem is impassioned and telling, "phrased with courtly deference" (Rowse 74):


I KNOW not how I shall offend in dedicating my
unpolished lines to your lordship, nor how the world will
censure me for choosing so strong a prop to support so weak a
burden only, if your honour seem but pleased, I account
myself highly praised, and vow to take advantage of all idle
hours, till I have honoured you with some graver labour. But if
the first heir of my invention prove deformed, I shall be
sorry it had so noble a god-father, and never after ear so
barren a land, for fear it yield me still so bad a harvest.
I leave it to your honourable survey, and your honour to your
heart's content; which I wish may always answer your own wish
and the world's hopeful expectation.

Your honour's in all duty,

Although there is no concrete proof that Shakespeare had a long and close friendship with Southampton, most scholars agree that this was the case, based on Shakespeare's writings, particularly the early sonnets.

Field printed Shakespeare's next long poem, The Rape of Lucrece, in 1594. Shakespeare also dedicated this poem to the Earl of Southampton. The wording of the dedication suggests the possibility that the young nobleman had rewarded the author, probably financially, for his dedication in Venus and Adonis.

Both poems went through many editions during Shakespeare's lifetime. But their success did not lead Shakespeare to give up playwriting. After the public theatres were reopened in 1594, he began again to write plays. Indeed, Shakespeare was one of the few Elizabethan writers who concentrated almost solely on the theatre as a career.

Shakespeare, returning to the theatre in 1594, with, at least six of his plays produced, he became a leading member and a sharer (stock-holder) of the Lord Chamberlain's Men, formally known as Lord Strange's Men. The manuscript accounts of the treasurer of the royal chamber in the public records office tell us the following:

To William Kempe, William Shakespeare, and Richard Burbage, servants to the Lord Chamberlain, upon the council's warrant dated at Whitehall xv die Marcij 1594 for two several comedies or interludes showed by them before her Majesty in Christmas time last past, viz; upon St. Stephan's day and Innocent's day, xiiij li. vj s. viij d. and by way of her Majesty's reward...

The new theatre company, under the patronage of the Lord Chamberlain with Will Kempe, a master comedian, and Richard Burbage, a leading tragic actor of the day, and, for almost twenty years Shakespeare as a regular dramatist, producing on average two plays a year. Burbage played roles such as Richard III, Hamlet, Othello and Lear.

Not only acting and writing for the Lord Chamberlain's Men (later changed again to the King's Men after the ascension of James I in 1603), but was a managing partner in the operation as well. The Lord Chamberlain's Men became a favourite London troupe, patronized by royalty and made popular by the theatre-going public as a leading figure in the Chamberlain's Men Company Shakespeare would garner even greater patronage from the courts of Queen Elizabeth and her successor, King James.

In the late 1590's he wrote many plays. Most of them being comedies, the major ones are: "The Taming of the Shrew", "The Comedy of Errors", "As You Like It", "Much Ado About Nothing", and "The Two Gentlemen of Verona". "Romeo and Juliet" was his only tragedy written during this time. In 1599 a theatre, the Globe was built by Shakespeare's company. Wherein some of Shakespears most prominent tragedies written and first performed including "Hamlet", "Othello", "King Lear", and "Macbeth".

the illustrated shakespeare
From 1594 to 1608, Shakespeare was fully involved in the London theater world. In addition to his duties as a stockholder and actor in the Lord Chamberlain's Men, he wrote an average of almost two plays a year for his company. During much of this period, Shakespeare ranked as London's most popular playwright, based on the number of times his plays were performed and published. But his reputation was largely that of a popular playwright, and not of a writer of unequaled genius. Few people gave him the praise that later generations heaped on him. An exception was the English clergyman and schoolmaster Francis Meres. 

During the years Shakespeare performed with the Chamberlain's Men, before their purchase of the Globe in 1599, they played primarily at the well-established theatres like the Swan, the Curtain, and the Theatre. The troupe would also give regular performances before Elizabeth I and her court, and tour the surrounding areas of London. Some important events in Shakespeare's personal life also take place during this time period. The Shakespeares finally received a coat of arms 1596 (see "Shakespeare's Parents" for more information on the coat-of-arms), and on August 11 of the same year, Shakespeare's son, Hamnet, died at the age of eleven. Shakespeare no doubt returned to Stratford for the burial, although we have no documented proof. In 1597, Shakespeare purchased the second largest house in Stratford: New Place. The house stood at the corner of Chapel Lane and Chapel Street, north of the Guild Chapel and right across from the very school he attended in his youth. He bought it from William Underhill for the low price of 60 pounds, and below is the actual deed (translated from the original Latin) transferring New Place from Underhill to Shakespeare on May 4, 1597:

Between William Shakespeare, complainant, and William Underhill, deforciant [wrongful occupier, supposed by the legal fiction on which the fine method of transfer was based to be keeping the complainant out of his rightful property], concerning one dwelling house, two barns, and two gardens with their appurtenances in Stratford-on-Avon, in regard to which a plea of agreement was broached in the same court: Namely, that the said William Underhill acknowledged the said tenements with their appurtenances to be the right of W. Shakespeare as being those which the same William Shakespeare has by gift of the said W. U., and remitted and waived claim to them from himself and his heirs to the said W.S. and his heirs forever....and agreement the same W.S. has given the foresaid W./U. sixty pounds sterling. (Brooke 21)

Many theorize that Shakespeare renewed his interest in Stratford only after the death of Hamnet and that, for the many years he was away in London, he neglected his family back home. However, it is just as likely that he made frequent yet unrecorded trips to Stratford while he was trying to find success in London. Shakespeare returned to the theatre in 1594, and became a leading member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men, formally known as Lord Strange's Men. The manuscript accounts of the treasurer of the royal chamber in the public records office tells us the following:

To William Kempe, William Shakespeare, and Richard Burbage, servants to the Lord Chamberlain, upon the council's warrent dated at Whitehall xv die Marcij 1594 for two several comedies or interludes showed by them before her Majesty in Christmas time last past, viz; upon St. Stephan's day and Innocent's day, xiiij li. vj s. viij d. and by way of her Majesty's reward...

This is proof that Shakespeare had performed with the Chamberlain's Men before Elizabeth I on several occasions. As payment for their performance the actors each received 10 pounds. During his time with the Chamberlain's Men Shakespeare wrote many plays, including Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, King John, and Love's Labour's Lost. As G.E. Bentley points out in Shakespeare and the Theatre, Shakespeare had by this time become immersed in his roles as actor and writer. He was "more completely and more continuously involved in theatres and acting companies than any other Elizabethan dramatist. [Shakespeare is] "the only one known who not only wrote plays for his company, acted in the plays, and shared the profits, but who was also one of the housekeepers who owned the building. For seventeen years he was one of the owners of the Globe theatre and for eight years he was one of the housekeepers of the company's second theatre, the Blackfriars, as well"

In 1598, Meres wrote Palladis Tamia: Wit's Treasury, a book that has become an important source of information about Shakespeare's career. In this book, Meres said of Shakespeare: "As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for Comedy and Tragedy among the Latins: so Shakespeare among the English is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage." Although Meres' praise did not represent everyone's opinion, it indicates that Shakespeare had become an established writer by at least the late 1590's. And he had not yet written most of his great tragedies, such as Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth. 

By the late 1590's, Shakespeare had not only become an established writer, but he had also become prosperous. n 1596 Shakespeare's father was granted a coat-of-arms, and it is likely that in this matter the dramatist took the initiative with the College of Arms in London.

On his father's death in 1601, he inherited the arms and the right to style himself a gentleman, even though, at the time, actors were generally regarded as rogues and vagabonds. In 1597, he purchased New Place, one of the two largest houses in Stratford. Shakespeare obviously remained a Stratford man at heart in spite of his busy, successful life in London. Records of business dealings and of minor lawsuits reveal that he preferred to invest most of his money in Stratford rather than in London. 

Shakespeare's success in the London theatres made him wealthy and in 1597 he bought New Place, one of the largest houses in Stratford. Although his professional career was spent in London, he maintained close links with his native town. Further property investments in Stratford followed, including the purchase of 107 acres of land in 1602.

In 1598, the author of a book on the arts, Francis Meres, described Shakespeare as the best contemporary dramatist and mentioned twelve of his plays, including A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Richard II and Henry IV, all of which date from the mid- to late-1590s.

Shakespeare's success is apparent when studied against other playwrights of this age. His company was the most successful in London in his day. He had plays published and sold in octavo editions, or "penny-copies" to the more literate of his audiences. It is noted that never before had a playwright enjoyed sufficient acclaim to see his works published and sold as popular literature in the midst of his career. While Shakespeare could not be accounted wealthy, by London standards, his success allowed him to purchase New House and retire in comfort to Stratford in 1611.

the illustrated shakespeare
Drama was a nation-wide activity in Shakespeare's time but only in London were there buildings designed specifically for performing plays. Most public theatres were tall, roughly circular structures, open to the sky, with a cover over part of the stage and a roof running round the edge to protect the galleries. Performances took place in the afternoons, with the actors playing on a raised stage which projected halfway into the theatre. All the women's roles were performed by boys. The audience, which either stood in the yard around the stage or sat in the galleries, represented a wide social mix of people.

The Globe Theatre

In 1599 the acting company with which Shakespeare was involved, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, built a new theatre, the Globe. Situated on the south bank of the Thames, in the suburb of Southwark, it is the theatre most closely associated with Shakespeare's plays, and he was one of the shareholders in the enterprise. Two of his plays, Henry V and Julius Caesar, were almost certainly written during the year in which the Globe opened. In 1613, during a performance of Henry VIII, a fire broke out and destroyed the Globe, but it was rebuilt the following year

In 1599, Shakespeare and six associates became owners of the Globe, a new outdoor theater in the London suburb of Southwark. The Globe was one of the largest theaters in the London area. It may have held as many as 3,000 spectators. 

Also in 1599, a printer named William Jaggard published The Passionate Pilgrim, a book of 20 poems supposedly written by Shakespeare. However, the book contained only two of Shakespeare's sonnets and three poems from his comedy Love's Labour's Lost. The printer used Shakespeare's name on the title page to promote the book's sale, which illustrates the playwright's popularity at that time. 

The King's Men

In 1603, Queen Elizabeth I died and was succeeded by her cousin James VI of Scotland. As king of England, he became James I. James enjoyed and actively supported the theater. He issued a royal license to Shakespeare and his fellow players, which allowed the company to call itself the King's Men. In return for the license, the actors entertained the king at court on a more or less regular basis. 

Some of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies were written in the early 1600s, including Hamlet and, after James I's accession, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth. His late plays, often known as the Romances, date from c. 1608 to 1612 and include Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale and The Tempest

James's support came at a convenient time. An outbreak of plague in 1603 had closed the theaters for long periods, making theatrical life uncertain. In fact, James's entry into London as king had to be postponed until 1604 because of the plague. 

When James finally made his royal entry into London, the King's Men accompanied him. The members of the company were officially known as grooms of the chamber. In spite of this title and the name King's Men, the actors were not actually friends of the king. Their relationship to the royal court was simply that of professional entertainers. 

The King's Men achieved unequaled success and became London's leading theatrical group. In 1608, the company leased the Blackfriars Theatre for 21 years. The theater stood in a heavily populated London district called Blackfriars. The Blackfriars Theatre had artificial lighting, was probably heated, and served as the company's winter playhouse. The King's Men performed at the Globe during the summer. 

From 1599 to 1608 was a period of extraordinary literary activity for Shakespeare. During these years, he wrote several comedies and almost all the tragedies that have made him famous. Shakespeare's masterpieces during this period include the comedies Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night; the history Henry V; and the tragedies Antony and Cleopatra, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, King Lear, Macbeth, and Othello. 

the illustrated shakespeare
In 1609, a London publisher named Thomas Thorpe published a book called Shakespeare's Sonnets. The volume contained more than 150 sonnets that Shakespeare had written over the years. Scholars have long been especially curious about the dedication Thorpe wrote to the book. The dedication reads, in modernized spelling: "To the only begetter of these ensuing sonnets Mr. W. H." Generations of researchers have failed to identify Mr. W. H. Scholars have also analyzed the sonnets to determine to what extent they are autobiographical. But their analyses have proved contradictory and generally unsatisfactory. Many critics suggest that readers simply enjoy the sonnets as some of the finest verse in English literature instead of examining the poems as autobiographical statements.
the illustrated shakespeare
During the period between 1597 and 1611, Shakespeare, apparently, spent most of his time during the theatrical season in London, but was also active in Stratford, particularly as an investor in grain dealings.

In 1597, Shakespeare purchased a Tudor Mansion in Stratford-Upon-Avon known as the New Place. He also had lodgings in London at least until 1604 and probably until 1611, though family events such as his daughter Susanna's marriage in 1607 and his mother's death in 1608 would certainly have called him back to Stratford.

Registering his Sonnets in May 20, 1609, William Shakespeare wrote his will in 1611. It is from around 1611 Shakespeare seems largely to have disengaged himself from the London theatre world and to have spent his time at his Stratford house, New Place, and in 1612, four years before his death; Shakespeare went into semi-retirement at the relatively young age of forty-eight.

During his last eight years of life, Shakespeare wrote only four plays--Cymbeline, Henry VIII, The Tempest, and The Winter's Tale. In the past, some scholars argued that The Tempest, written about 1610, was Shakespeare's last play. They stated that he then retired almost completely to Stratford. However, Henry VIII can be dated about 1613. In addition, Shakespeare purchased a house in the Blackfriars district of London in 1613.

The evidence thus suggests that Shakespeare gradually reduced his activity in London rather than ending it abruptly.  Shakespeare also purchased real estate in the countryside and in London as well, the latter including the aforementioned Blackfriars Gatehouse

In March 1616 revised his will. leaving substantial property and other bequests to his family and friends, including theatre colleagues in the King's Men. Bequeathing his properties to his daughter Susanna (married in 1607 to Dr. John Hall), to his surviving daughter Judith, he left 300, and to his wife Anne left "my second best bed."

Shakespeare died in Stratford, aged fifty-two, on 23 April 1616, his birthday,

Supposedly dying of a chill caught after a night of drinking with fellow playwrights Ben Jonson and Michaal Drayton, Shakespeare was buried at Holy Trinity in Stratford on April 25, 1623, exactly 52 years after his baptism. Within a short time a monument to him was put up, probably by his family, on the wall close to his grave. His monument records the day of death as April 23, the generally accepted date of his birth. 

His widow, Anne, dieing in 1623 and was buried beside him.

Seven years after he died, in 1623, two working companions of Shakespeare from the Lord Chamberlain's Men, John Heminges and Henry Condell, printed the First Folio edition of the Collected Works, that nobody could take his work as theirs. Half the plays contained therein were previously unpublished. The First Folio also contained Shakespeare's sonnets. William Shakespeare's first folio was published including 154 sonnets, 36 plays, and his two long poems.

His two daughters followed different paths. His older daughter, Susanna, married a prominent local doctor, John Hall, in 1607 and there are indications that a close friendship developed between Hall and his renowned father-in-law. Susanna gave Shakespeare his only grandchild, Elizabeth Hall in 1608. Although she inherited the family estate and was married twice (her first husband dying) Elizabeth had no children of her own. Shakespeare's other daughter,

On Feb. 10, 1616, Shakespeare's younger daughter, Judith, married Thomas Quiney, the son of his Stratford neighbour Richard Quiney. Thomas Quiney, was a tavern owner with a dubious reputation, supposedly given to pre-marital and extramarital affairs and the fathering of illegitimate children. They had three legitimate sons, all of whom died young.

William Shakespeare's family lineage came to an end two generations after his death with the death of his grand-daughter Elizabeth in 1670

His epitaph:

Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbeare
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones

the illustrated shakespeare
Vicesimo Quinto die Januarii Martii Anno Regni Domini nostri Jacobi nucn Regis Angliae etc decimo quarto & Scotie xlixo Annoque Domini 1616

Willemi Shackspeare

In the name of god Amen I William Shackspeare of Stratford upon Avon in the countrie of Warr' gent in perfect health and memorie god by praysed doe make and Ordayne this my last will and testament in manner and forme followeing that ys to saye first I Comend my Soule into the hands of god my Creator hoping and assuredlie beleeving through thonelie merittes of Jesus Christe my Saviour to be made partaker of lyfe everlastinge And my bodye to the Earthe whereof yt ys made.

Item I Gyve and bequeath unto my sonne in Law and Daughter Judyth One Hundred and fyftie pounds of lawfull English money to be paied unto her in manner and forme follewing That ys to saye One Hundred Poundes in discharge of her marriage porcion within one yeare after my deceas with consideracion after the Rate of twoe shillinges in the pound for soe long tyme as the same shalbe unpaid unto her after my deceas & the fyftie pounds Residewe therof upon her surrendering of or gyving of such sufficient securitie as the overseers of this my will shall like of to Surrender or graunte All her estate and Right that shall discend or come unto her after my deceas or that she nowe hath of in or to one Copiehold tenemente with theappertenances lyeing & being in Stratford upon Avon aforesaied in the saide countie of warr' being parcell or holden of the mannor of Rowington unto my daughter Susanna Hall and her heires for ever.

Item I gyve and bequeath unto my saied Daughter Judyth One Hundred and ffyftie Poundes more if shee or Anie issue of her bodie Lyvinge att thend of three yeares next ensueing the daie of the date of this my will during which tyme my executors to paie her consideracion from my deceas according to the Rate afore saied. And if she dye within the saied terme without issue of her bodye then my will ys and and I doe gyve and bequeath One Hundred Poundes therof to my Neece Eliabeth Hall and ffiftie Poundes to be sett fourth by my executors during the lief of my Sister Johane Harte and the use and proffitt therof cominge shalbe payed to my saied Sister Jone and after her deceas the saied L li shall Remaine Amongst the childredn of my saied Sister Equallie to be devided Amongst them. But if my saied daughter Judith be lyving att thend of the saeid three yeares or anie issue of her bodye then my will ys and soe I devise and bequeath the saied Hundred and ffyftie poundes to be sett out by my executors and overseers for the best benefit of her and her issue and the stock not to be paied unto her soe long as she shalbe marryed and Covert Baron by my executors and overseers but my will ys that she shall have the consideracion yearelie paied unto her during her lief and after her deceas the saied stock and condieracion to bee paid to her children if she have Anie and if not to her executors or Assignes she lyving the saied terme after my deceas provided that if such husbond as she shall att thend of the saied three yeares by marryed unto or attain after doe sufficiently Assure unto her and thissue of her bodie landes answereable to the portion gyven unto her and to be adjudged soe by my executors and overseers then my will ys that the saied CL li shalbe paied to such husbond as shall make such assurance to his owne use.

Item I gyve and bequeath unto my saied sister Jone XX li and all my wearing Apprell to be paied and delivered within one yeare after my deceas. And I doe will and devise unto her the house with thappurtenances in Stratford where in she dwelleth for her naturall lief under the yearelie Rent of xiid

Item I gyve and bequeath unto her three sonnes William Hart-Hart and Michaell Harte ffyve pounds A peece to be payed within one yeare after my decease to be sett out for her within one yeare after my deceas by my executors with thadvise and direccons of my overseers for her best proffitt untill her marriage and then the same with the increase thereof to be paied unto her.

Item I gyve and bequath unto her the said Elizabeth Hall All my Plate (except my brod silver and gilt bole) that I now have att the date of this my will.

Item I gyve and bequeath unto the Poore of Stratford aforesaied tenn poundes; to Mr Thomas Combe my Sword; to Thomas Russell Esquier ffyve poundes and to ffrauncis collins of the Borough of Warr' in the countie of Warr' gent. thriteene poundes Sixe shillinges and Eight pence to be paied within one yeare after my deceas.

Item I gyve and bequeath to mr richard Hamlett Sadler Tyler thelder XXVIs VIIId to buy him A Ringe; to William Raynoldes gent XXVIs VIIId to buy him a Ringe; to my godson William Walker XXVIs VIIId in gold and to my ffellowes John Hemynges, Richard Burbage and Heny Cundell XXVIs VIIId A peece to buy them Ringes.

Item I Gyve Will Bequeth and Devise unto my Daughter Susanna Hall for better enabling of her to performe this my will and towardes the performans thereof All that Capitall Messuage or tenemente with thappertenaces in Stratford aforesaid called the newe plase wherein I now Dwell and two messuags or tenementes with thappurtenances scituat lyeing and being in Henley Streete within the borough of Stratford aforesaied. And all my barnes, stables, Orchardes, gardens, landes, tenementes and herediaments whatsoever scituat lyeing and being or to be had receyved, perceyved or taken within the townes and Hamletts, villages, ffieldes and groundes of Stratford upon Avon, Oldstratford, Bushopton and Welcombe or in anie of them in the saied countie of warr And alsoe All that Messuage or tenemente with thappurtenances wherein one John Robinson dwelleth, scituat, lyeing and being in the blackfriers in London nere the Wardrobe and all other my landes tenementes and hereditamentes whatsoever. To Have and to hold All and singular the saied premisses with their Appurtenances unto the saied Susanna Hall for and during the terme of her naturall lief and after her deceas to the first sonne of her bodie lawfullie yssueing and to the heiries Males of the bodie of the saied Second Sonne lawfullie yssyeinge and for defalt of such heires Males of the bodie of the saied third sonne lawfullie yssye ing And for defalt of such issue the same soe to be Reamine to the ffourth sonne, ffythe, sixte and seaventh sonnes of her bodie lawfullie issueing one after Another and and to the heires Males of the bodies of the saied ffourth, ffythe, Sixte and Seaventh sonnes lawfullie yssueing in such mamer as yt ys before Lymitted to be and remaine to the first, second and third Sonns of her bodie and to their heires males. And for defalt of such issue the saied premisses to be and Remaine to my sayed Neede Hall and the heires Males of her bodie Lawfully yssueing for default of...such issue to my daughter Judith and the heires of me the saied William Sahckspere for ever.

Item I gyve unto my wief my second best bed with the furniture; Item I gyve and bequeath to my saied daughter Judith my broad silver gilt bole.

All the rest of my goodes Chattels, Leases, plate, jewles and Household stuffe whatsoever after my dettes and Legasies paied and my funerall expences discharged, I gyve devise and bequeath to my Sonne in Lawe John Hall gent and my daughter Susanna his wief whom I ordaine and make executors of this my Last will and testament. And I doe intreat and Appoint the saied Thomas Russell Esquier and ffrauncis Collins gent to be overseers herof And doe Revoke All former wills and publishe this to be my last will and testament. In witnes whereof I have hereunto put my Seale hand the Daie and Yeare first above Written.

Witness to the publishing hereof: Fra: Collyns, Juilyus Shawe, John Robinson, Hamnet Sadler, robert Whattcott.

By me William Shakespeare

Probatum coram Magistro Williamo Byrde legum doctore Commissario etc xxiido die mensis Junii Anno domini 1616 Juramento Jahannis Hall unius executorum etc. Cui etc de bene etc Jurati Reservata potestate etc Sussane Hall alteri executorum etc cum venerit etc petitur.

Inventarium exhibitum.