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.