William Shakespeare is perhaps the most prolific, well-known poet and playwright in history, the Leonardo DaVinci of the theatrical world. If you have heard, “To be or not to be, that is the question,” “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”, “All the world’s a stage” and “What’s in a name?”, then you have quoted William Shakespeare whether you have read him or not.
His plays are the most famous and most produced throughout the world, including Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet and Macbeth. His influence has even reached the world of American musical theatre; West Side Story is based on the story of Romeo and Juliet and set in New York City in the late 1950s.
Shakespeare was born in Stratford Upon Avon in England in 1564. At the age of 18, he married a woman named Anne Hathaway and had three children. He burst onto the English theatrical scene in 1592 with Henry VI, Part I not only as a playwright but also as an actor. He also co-owned a theatre called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men which was renamed to the King’s Men. After a successful career in London comprised of 37 plays and 154 sonnets, he retired at the age of 49 and died 3 years later at the age of 52.
Shakespeare wrote comedies, tragedies, and histories. Recently, the bones of Richard III, the hunchback king and a play of the same name about one of history’s most reviled kings, were unearthed beneath a Leicester, England parking lot, showing that Shakespeare continues to remain relevant to our current dialogue and understanding of the past almost 400 years after his death.