Biography of William Shakespeare

Portrait of William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare is acknowledged by many people to be the world’s greatest playwright.

When and Where was he Born?

23rd April 1564 (Baptised 26th April) Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England.

Family Background:

William Shakespeare was the second son of John Shakespeare a town official and Mary Arden. He also had four sisters and three brothers.


Local Dame School in Stratford (or Petti School, a junior annexe of the Grammar School) King Edward the Sixth Grammar School for Boys, Stratford-upon-Avon Avon.

Sahkespeare's Birthplace
Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon (copyright Anthony Blagg)

Timeline of William Shakespeare:

1564: His father John is elected as an Alderman on 4th July.

1567: Christening of his brother Gilbert on 13th October.

1568: Shakespeare’s father becomes High Bailiff (Mayor) of Stratford on 4th September.

1569: Christening of his sister Joan on 15th April.

1571: His father is made Chief Alderman on 5th September but a warrant is put out for his arrest for non-payment of his debts totalling £30.

1572: Christening of Shakespeare’s sister Anne on 28th September.

1574: Christening of his brother Richard on 11th March.

1575: Family buys a house in Henley Street, Stratford.

1576: His father applies for a Coat-of-Arms.

1577: Shakespeare’s father ceases to attend meetings of Stratford Council.

1579: Burial of Anne Shakespeare.

1580: His father is fined £40 for failure to attend the Queen’s Bench Court to provide security against a Breach of the Peace. Christening of his brother Edmund on 3rd May.

1582: He marries Anne Hathaway on 28th November. (Died 1623)

1583: Christening of his sister Susanna on 26th May.

1585: Christening of his twins, brother and sister Hamnet and Judith on 2nd February.

1592: His father is named as a recusant, i.e. one who, against the law, does not attend church at least once a month on 25th September.

1593: First publication of “Venus and Adonis” on 18th April.

1594: Possible first performance of “Titus Andronicus” on 24th January. “The Comedy of Errors” performed at Gray’s Inn, London on 28th December.

1595: Shakespeare is mentioned amongst players who performed before Queen Elizabeth the First the previous Christmas.

Shakespeare Centre Stratford
Shakespeare Centre, Stratford-upon-Avon 
(copyright Anthony Blagg)

1596: Burial of Hamnet Shakespeare on 11th August. His father is granted his Coat-of-Arms on 20th October.

1597: Garter ceremonies at Windsor include probable first performance of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” on 22nd April. He buys New Place in Stratford on 4th May as well as two cottages and two barns. A Tax Collector at Bishopsgate, London reports non-payment of 5 Shillings tax by Shakespeare on 15th November.

1598: Abraham Sturley writes to Richard Quiney on 24th January about land in Shottery near Stratford and about reducing his land taxes in Stratford. He is listed as a defaulter of taxes at St. Helen’s Parish, Bishopsgate, London on 1st October.

1599: Shakespeare is named with others as a shareholder in land for the Globe Theatre on 21st February. He is again recorded as owing taxes at Bishopsgate on 6th October.

1600: He is recorded as owing 13 shillings and 4 Pence in taxes on 6th October.

1602: Shakespeare buys 107 acres of land in Old Stratford on 1st May. He acquires a quarter of an acre of land and a cottage in Chapel Lane on 28th September.

Shakespeare statue
Statue to Shakespeare near the 
canal at Bridgefoot, Stratford Upon Avon (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1603: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream ” is performed at Hampton Court Palace on 1st January. Shakespeare’s name is amongst others in a patent changing the name of the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men” to the “King’s Men” on 19th May.

1604: Shakespeare receives four and a half yards of cloth for appearing at King James the First’s Coronation on 15th March. “Othello” is performed at Whitehall Palace on 1st November.

1606: Susanna Shakespeare is named as a recusant for not attending an Easter Day Church service on 5th May.

1607: Susanna Shakespeare marries Dr John Hall at Holy Trinity Church Stratford on5th June.

1608: Shakespeare and 6 colleagues lease Blackfriars Theatre London for 21 years on 16th October. His mother is buried at Stratford on 9th  September.

1609: The Sonnets are recorded in the Stationer’s Register in London on 20th May.

1612: Gilbert Shakespeare is buried on 28th January.

1613: Richard Shakespeare is buried on 14th February. William Shakespeare buys Blackfriar’s Gatehouse in London on 10th March. Susanna Shakespeare sues John Lane for the defamation of her character in the Consistory Court on 15th July.

1614: A Document is drawn up on 5th September showing that Shakespeare owns 127 acres in Stratford.

1615: A Law Suit with Matthew Bacon about the Blackfriar’s property is lodged on 26th April.

1616: Shakespeare’s will is drawn up on 25th January. Judith Shakespeare marries Thomas Quiney on 10th February. Judith and Thomas are excommunicated on 12th March. Shakespeare revises his will on 25th March.

New Place Stratford
Site of New Place, Stratford-upon-Avon 
where Shakespeare died (copyright Anthony Blagg)

(1623): Publication of the First Folio of all Shakespeare’s collected plays on 8th November. Death of Anne Hathaway.

When and Where Did he Die?

23rd April 1616. Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. His cause of death was not recorded at the time but fifty years later John Ward, the vicar of Stratford, wrote in his notebook that he, Drayton and Ben Jonson had had a merry meeting and drank too hard and Shakespeare died of a fever.

Age at Death:


Written Works:

Note: Dates are of publication/first performance and do not necessarily mean the year a work was written. (As listed by Martin Gray)

1590: “Apochrypha”. “Edward 3rd”. “Fair Em”. “The Miller’s Daughter”. “Mucedorus”.
1591: “Henry 6th Parts 2-3”.
1592: “Henry 6th Part 1”. “The Comedy of Errors”.
1593: “Richard 3rd”. “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”. “Venus and Adonis”.
1594: “Titus Andronicus”. “The Taming of the Shrew”. “The Rape of Lucrece”.
1595: “Love’s Labours Lost.”. “Romeo and Juliet”. “Richard 2nd”. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.
1596: “King John”. “The Merchant of Venice”.
1597: “Henry 4th Parts 1-2”.
1598: “Much Ado About Nothing”. “Loves Labour’s Won”.
1599: “Henry 5th”. “Julius Caesar”. “As You Like It”.
1600: “The Merry Wives of Windsor”. Twelfth Night”.
1601: “Hamlet”.
1602: “Troilus and Cressida”. “All’s Well That End’s Well”.
1604: “Othello”. “Measure for Measure”.
1605: “King Lear”.
1606: “Macbeth”.
1607: “Timon of Athens”. “Antony and Cleopatra”.
1608: “Coriolanus”. “Pericles”.
1609: “Cymbeline”.
1611: “The Tempest”.
1612: “A Winter’s Tale”.
1613: “Henry 8th”.

Shakespeare statue London
Monument to William Shakespeare in Leicester Square Gardens, London (copyright Anthony Blagg)


28th November 1582 to Anne Hathaway. (Died 1623)

Site of Grave:

Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England.

Shakespeare's Grave
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford Upon Avon with Shakespeare’s Grave situated inside near the altar (copyright Anthony Blagg)

Places of Interest:


Globe Theatre, Southwark.

Globe Theatre
The Globe Theatre, Southwark, reconstructed from an idea by Sam Wannamaker (copyright Anthony Blagg)


Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and Museum, Stratford-upon-Avon.
Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon.
Charlecote House and Park, near Stratford-upon-Avon.
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Bust of Shakespeare
Bust of Shakespeare in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford (copyright Anthony Blagg)
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