April 23: General Interest
1564 : William Shakespeare born
According to tradition, the great English dramatist and poet William
Shakespeare is born in Stratford-on-Avon on April 23, 1564. It is
impossible to be certain the exact day on which he was born, but
church records show that he was baptized on April 26, and three days
was a customary amount of time to wait before baptizing a newborn.
In 1594, having probably composed, among other plays, Richard III, The Comedy of Errors, and The Taming of the Shrew, he became an actor and playwright for the Lord Chamberlain's Men, which became the King's Men after James I's ascension in 1603. The company grew into England's finest, in no small part because of Shakespeare, who was its principal dramatist. It also had the finest actor of the day, Richard Burbage, and the best theater, the Globe, which was located on the Thames' south bank. Shakespeare stayed with the King's Men until his retirement and often acted in small parts.
By 1596, the company had performed the classic Shakespeare plays Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, and A Midsummer Night's Dream. That year, John Shakespeare was granted a coat of arms, a testament to his son's growing wealth and fame. In 1597, William Shakespeare bought a large house in Stratford. In 1599, after producing his great historical series, the first and second part of Henry IV and Henry V, he became a partner in the ownership of the Globe Theatre.
The beginning of the 17th century saw the performance of the first of his great tragedies, Hamlet. The next play, The Merry Wives of Windsor, was written at the request of Queen Elizabeth I, who wanted to see another play that included the popular character Falstaff.
During the next decade, Shakespeare produced such masterpieces as Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, and The Tempest.
Shakespeare's date of death is conclusively known, April 23, 1616. He was 52 years old and had retired to Stratford three years before.
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