The Greatest Dramatist of All Time

If there is one name that is famous in the English language and literature, it is that of William Shakespeare. He is considered to occupy a position unique in world literature because his plays, written in the late 16th and early 17th centuries for a small repertory theatre, are now performed and read more often and in more countries than ever before. The prophecy of his great contemporary, the poet and dramatist Ben Jonson, that Shakespeare “was not of an age, but for all time,” has been fulfilled.

Early Life

Regarded as the greatest writer in the English language, the world’s pre-eminent dramatist, England’s national poet, and the “Bard of Avon”, Shakespeare was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. He was the son of John Shakespeare, an alderman and a successful glover (glove-maker), and Mary Arden, the daughter of an affluent landowning family.

At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna (six months after their marriage), and twins Hamnet and Judith (two years after their marriage).

Writing Career

Sometime between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part-owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, a company owned by a group of players, including Shakespeare, that soon became the leading playing company in London. Later, it became known as the King’s Men.

Shakespeare produced most of his known works between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were primarily comedies and histories and are regarded as some of the best works produced in these genres. He then wrote mainly tragedies until 1608, among them Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth, all considered to be among the finest works in the English language. In the last phase of his life, he wrote tragicomedies (also known as romances) and collaborated with other playwrights.

Last Years

At age 49 (around 1613), he retired to Stratford, where he died three years later. He died on April 23, 1616, at the age of 52. He died within a month of signing his will, a document in which he begins by describing himself as being in “perfect health”. No contemporary source explains how or why he died.

Shakespeare has been commemorated in many statues and memorials around the world, including funeral monuments in Southwark Cathedral and Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.


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