William Shakespeare, the greatest and most famous of English writers, and probably the greatest playwright who has ever lived, was born on the 23d of April, 1564, in Stratford-on-Avon.
In sprite of his fame we know very little about his life. At the age of six he was sent to school, but had to leave it at the age of 13. His father, John Shakespeare, was a glove-maker, and when he fell into debt, William had to help him in the trade. Just what William did between his fourteenth and eighteenth years isn’t known.
At the age of eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway. Ann was eight years older than her husband and the marriage wasn’t a happy one.
When Shakespeare was twenty-one, he went to London. We don’t know why he left Stratford-on-Avon. There is a story that Shakespeare’s first job in London was holding rich men’s horses at the theatre door. But nobody can be sure that this story is true. Later, Shakespeare became an actor and a member of a very successful acting company. It’s highly probable that “The Comedy of Errors”, “Romeo and Juliet” and some other plays by Shakespeare were performed for the first time on this stage.
Very soon, however, the actors were told that could no longer use the land that their theatre was built on and the company had nowhere else to perform. There is a story that in the dead of night the whole acting troop took down their theatre, timber by timber, brick by brick. They carried it across the river and rebuilt it. The new theatre was called the Globe.
Shakespeare’s Globe was rather different from modern theatres. The plays were performed in the open air and the audience got wet if it rained. There was no scenery, very few props, and the only lighting was the daylight that came from the open roof above.
Women in those days weren’t allowed to act in public and all the parts were played by men. Much of the audience stood to watch the performance and moved around, talking with each other and throwing fruit at the stage if they didn’t like something.
Shakespeare wrote 37 plays: 10 tragedies, 17 comedies, 10 historical plays. He also left 7 books of poems and sonnets.