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Facts About Shakespeare
The Bard of Avon

We know very little about William Shakespeare. What we know we have gained from his written works or the church records. We know from church records that he was born on or about April 23, 1564 to John and Mary Shakepseare. He died on April 23, 1616 and was buried at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwichshire. Over his grave a memorial plaque hangs bearing this message:

'Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones
And cursed be he that moves my bones.'

Later his plays were collected by John Heming and Henry Condell as a memorial to the famous playwrite. This collection of plays is now known as the First Folio.

Shakespeare probably attended Stratford's excellent grammar school although ther are no records to prove this. On November 23, 1582 he was married to Anne Hathaway. She was eight years older than he was. They had a child, Sussanna, baptized on May 25, 1583 and then had twins, Hamnet and Judith, baptized on Feb. 2, 1585.

That was the last record of Shakespeare until 1592 when fellow author, Robert Greene, referred to him, telling them that Shakespeare was merely an actor and couldn't really write. Fortunately, Greene was wrong in what he said about Shakespeare. Shakespeare proved himself to be a very good writer and was probably a decent actor too. We know that he was associated with a group of other actors called the Chamberlain's Men and that he was one of few actors that held a share in the company. He was also part of the consortium built and owned the Globe Theatre. He wrote plays for this consortium at the rate of about two a year.

He wrote 36 plays, 154 sonnet, and 2 narrative poems. His plays and the dates when they are assumed to be written are:

1588-93.........The Comedy of Errors
1588-94.........Love's Labor's Lost
1590-91.........2 Henry VI
1591-92.........3 Henry VI
1592-94.........1 Henry VI
1593-94.........Richard III
1593-95.........Titus Andronicus
1594-96.........The Taming of the Shrew
1595..............Richard II
1594-96.....A Midsummer Night's Dream
1596-97.........King John
1596-97.........The Merchant of Venice
1597..............1 Henry IV
1597-98.........2 Henry IV
1598-1600.....Much Ado About Nothing
1598-99.........Henry V
1599..............Julius Caesar
1599-1600.....As You Like It
1599-1600.....Twelfth Night
1600-01.........Hamlet
1597-1601.....The Merrry Wives of Windsor
1601-02.........Troilus and Cressida
1602-04.........All's Well That Ends Well
1603-04.........Othello
1604..............Measure for Measure
1605-06.........King Lear
1605-06.........Macbeth
1606-07.........Antony and Cleopatra
1605-08.........Timon of Athens
1607-09.........Coriolanus
1608-09.........Pericles
1609-10.........Cymbeline
1610-11.........The Winter's Tale
1611..............The Tempest
1612-13.........Henry VIII

*This information is from the prefatory remarks p. xii and xiii of Macbeth.

Macbeth also wrote four poems around the turn of the century when it is thought that the theatres were closed to the Plague.







About William Shakespear




William Shakespear
Macbeth was written by, of course, William Shakespeare. Shakespeare was born in 1564 in Stratford-on-Avon, a prosperous market town in Warwickshire, England. This date is estimated because the first official documentation of his life is his christening paper from April 26, 1564. Since most Christian parents would have christened their son soon after birth, then 1564 is generally accepted as his birthdate. He attended Stratford Grammar School for about seven years, where he learned Latin, the Bible, and English Compostion. When he was eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway, and they had three children. By 1592, he had moved to London and was beginning to write the plays that are still performed today. By the time of his death in April 23, 1616, he had written three dozen extraordinary plays and over 150 poems.

Macbeth was written around 1605 during Shakespeare's so-called "Tragic Period." It is a tragedy about a wealthy Scottish noble, Macbeth, who kills his king to gain the throne. During Shakespeare's time, this was the worst possible thing that a man could do, and Macbeth was doomed to die a tragic death from the beginning. Macbeth and his wife begin to do strange things, partly because of what they have done and also because they never get a whole night's sleep. Macbeth thinks he has to kill two of his former friends because he believes that they threaten his new throne. His efforts, of course, fail, and he is eventually killed.

Superstition and magic (particularly witches) are a focal point in Macbeth. Shakespeare wrote mystical predictions and strange witches into his play because it captivated his audience, much as strange phenomena still fascinate us today. During the first part of the play, Macbeth and his friend Banquo meet three witches who make the prediction that Macbeth will become King of Scotland. They also predict that Banquo will be the father of kings. This is what starts Macbeth's whole downfall. He first kills the king to fulfill his prophecy, and then kills Banquo to try to stop the second. Later, the witches tell Macbeth that he will remain king until a forest walks and even then he will not die at the hand of a man born of woman. Each of these prophecies have some degree of truth in them, but they also are full of the deceit that the "evil side" has. If Macbeth had just ignored these witches from the start...but that, of course, is not what Shakespeare intended. The play is a tragedy, intended to teach us a lesson about the human condition. If you want to find out what it means to you, read the play.






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Margaret Stewart-Zimmerman
May 22, 1998 - 2010