All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.
William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the history of the English language, and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He transformed European theatre by expanding expectations about what could be accomplished through innovation in characterization, plot, language and genre.
Many people believe William Shakespeare is the best British writer of all time. His many works are about life, love, death, revenge, grief, jealousy, murder, magic and mystery. He wrote the blockbuster plays of his day – some of his most famous are Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Hamlet.
We do know that Shakespeare’s life revolved around two locations: Stratford and London. He grew up, had a family, and bought property in Stratford, but he worked in London, the center of English theater. As an actor, a playwright, and a partner in a leading acting company, he became both prosperous and well-known.
Shakespeare used more than 20,000 words in his plays and poems, and likely invented or introduced at least 1,700 words into the English language. He did this by combining words, changing nouns into verbs, adding prefixes or suffixes, and so on. Some words stayed and some didn’t.
We know very little about Shakespeare’s life during two major spans of time, commonly referred to as the “lost years“: 1578-82 and 1585-92. The first period covers the time after Shakespeare left grammar school, until his marriage to Anne Hathaway in November of 1582.
To the dismay of his biographers, Shakespeare disappears from the historical record between 1585, when his twins’ baptism was recorded, and 1592, when the playwright Robert Greene denounced him in a pamphlet as an “upstart crow.” The insult suggests he’d already made a name for himself on the London stage by then.
Today, Shakespeare’s work is studied in schools and universities around the world, and his stories are depicted on TV and in films. In 1997, the modern Globe Theatre was opened in London. A reconstruction of the original, it’s just a few hundred meters from where the original one once stood. People can go to watch plays – just like in Shakespeare’s day!
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