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An Introduction to William Shakespeare

Sue Shearman | Tuesday July 21, 2009

Categories: Shakespeare, Shakespeare - Other Activities and Resources

The Person

[The information below was kindly contributed by Sue Shearman. All rights are reserved and subject to the consent of the author.] © 2006

Q. ‘But we don’t know anything about Shakespeare’.

A. Actually, we know quite a lot, but it’s much more fun to pretend there’s a mystery.

The ‘curse’ on Shakespeare’s grave

It is true that we don’t know exactly when he was born, but there is a record of his baptism on April 26th 1564. This is a mystery as he should have been baptized, by church law, on the first holy day after his birth and April 26th isn’t a holy day. April 23rd was a Sunday in 1564 – possibly. Calendars were notoriously inconsistent and New Year, for instance, was celebrated at different times, though rarely January 1st.

William was neither the only child nor the only actor in the Shakespeare family. He was the first to survive to adulthood though.

The Shakespeare Arden Family Tree

Gilbert born in 1566 was another Shakespeare son to move to and work in London; Joan was born in 1569 and lived to the age of 77. Although Edmund, the youngest child born in 1580, died before he was 30, it was not before he had joined his big brother in London and become a ‘player’. And William HartJoan’s son - became a leading actor with The King’s Men – his uncle’s old company and probably fathered another leading actor, David Hart, although William never married. It is only Joan’s descendants who can claim to be directly descended from the Shakespeares.

When Will was living and working in London, so were two of his brothers, one of whom was an actor; William Hart would have been too young to have actually worked with his uncle as he was born in 1600. By tradition Shakespeare left London in 1612 and there are no records of William Hart having been a boy player. There is also evidence of a cousin, John Hill, and an old school friend who was Shakespeare’s publisher.

18-year-old Will...

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