William Shakespeare Facts for Children
William Shakespeare was a playwright, actor and poet who lived in the late 16th and early 17th century. Shakespeare Day is held every year on the 23rd April, when his life and work is celebrated.
When was Shakespeare born?
The exact birth date of Shakespeare is not known, but it is believed to be 23rd April, 1564. He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon to parents John Shakespeare, a well-to-do leather worker, and Mary Arden, a wealthy heiress. William was the third of eight children. Little is known about his childhood, but it is thought that he received a good education.
Who did Shakespeare marry?
When he was 18 years old, William married Anne Hathaway. She was eight years older than him. They had three children together: a daughter called Susanna, and twins named Hamnet and Judith. After the birth of the twins, there are no further records of Shakespeare’s life or movements for many years - historians call them the ‘lost years’.
Who were the Lord Chamberlain’s Men?
In 1592, records show that Shakespeare was working for an acting company in London called Lord Chamberlain’s Men. The members worked together to create and perform plays. Shakespeare both wrote and acted for the company - some of his early plays include ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.
When was the Globe Theatre built?
Lord Chamberlain’s Men performed their plays in a theatre that was on land owned by a man called Giles Allen. Unfortunately, Allen wanted to clear the land and intended on tearing down the theatre, despite the protests of the acting company. One night, some of the members dismantled the theatre and moved it across the River Thames to a different location! They rebuilt it, and called it the Globe Theatre. It opened in 1599. The new theatre could seat up to 3,000 spectators, had musicians to create special sound effects, and there was even a cannon which fired blanks!
What plays did Shakespeare write?
Altogether, Shakespeare wrote 37 plays. They can be grouped into three main genres: histories, tragedies and comedies. Many people think that Shakepeare wrote some of his best plays in his later years; for example, ‘Othello’, ‘Hamlet’, ‘King Lear’ and ‘Macbeth’. (These four plays are tragedies.) He also wrote many sonnets, which are a type of poem. All 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets were published together in a book in 1609.
When did Shakespeare die?
Due to the success of his plays, Shakespeare became a wealthy man. Some time after 1611, he left London and retired to his house and family home, New Place, in Stratford-upon-Avon. Like his birth date, the exact date of his death is unknown, but it is thought that he died on 23rd April 1616 - his 52nd birthday.
Why is Shakespeare still important today?
Many people consider Shakespeare to be the greatest writer of the English language. His work is studied in schools and universities, and his plays are still performed in theatres across the world - many of them have been made into television programs or films. Shakespeare’s works provide the first recorded use of over 1,700 words in the English language, and he is credited with inventing many of these himself, by combining words, changing nouns into verbs, or adding prefixes or suffixes. Here are just some of the words that he is thought to have introduced or invented:
dwindle, gossip, swagger, rant, fashionable, lonely, freezing, bloodstained, coldhearted, majestic.
10 Fascinating Facts about William Shakespeare:
- Shakespeare’s plays were performed to two monarchs - Queen Elizabeth I and King James I.
- Some historians believe that Shakespeare wrote more than 37 plays, and that up to 20 have been lost.
- Shakespeare’s longest play is ‘Hamlet’ at over 30,000 words. It takes around 4 hours to perform.
- The family home that Shakespeare bought in Stratford-upon-Avon was called New Place - it was the largest house in the town at that time.
- Shakespeare was brought up amidst the fear of several bubonic plague outbreaks. He was said to be terribly afraid of the disease, and even referred to it in a line from one of his most famous plays: ‘A plague on both your houses!’ (Romeo and Juliet, 1597).
- Shakespeare began writing sonnets when an outbreak of the plague meant that all of the theatres were closed.
- In his will, Shakespeare left his house to his daughter, Susanna, and his ‘second-best bed’ to his wife!
- Shakespeare wrote a warning to be put on his grave, daring anyone to move his body from its final resting place. It ended with the words, ‘curst be he that moves my bones’.
- From documents he signed at the time that have survived, we know that Shakespeare spelt his name in a variety of ways: ‘Willm Shaksp,’ ‘William Shakespe,’ ‘Wm Shakspe,’ ‘William Shakspere,’ ‘Willm Shakspere,’ and ‘William Shakspeare’.
- One anagram of the letters in William Shakespeare’s name is ‘I am a weakish speller’!
How much do you now know about William Shakespeare? Download our FREE Shakespeare Quiz, which is based on the information you have just read, to find out!
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