The greatest of all English writers, William Shakespeare, is the most difficult to write about because one can describe him only with superlatives. Or one can take the easy road and say he was the most renowned dramatist and poet that the world has ever known. No other writer’s plays have been performed so many times in so many countries. Nor is it easy to use the adjective Shakespearean, which correctly means «pertaining to Shakespeare» or «concerning or like the works of Shakespeare», because comparisons are heady and useless. Other than the Bible, his works have been translated into more languages than that of any book in the world.
Not very much has been documented about Shakespeare’s life. He was born in Stratford-on-Avon in the year 1564. Shakespeare’s father, John, was a fairly prosperous glove maker and dealer in wools and hides. He was mayor of the town when William was four years old. John and Mary Arden Shakespeare, had eight children, William being the third. He attended the local grammar school, but very little else is known about his childhood. After his marriage to Anne Hathaway, a woman eight years his senior, he went to London and became an actor, meanwhile writing some plays to keep the wolf from the door. His plays were immediately popular, and he became prosperous. He bought a share of the Blackfriars Theater and the Globe Theater. The few fragmentary records extant give no real picture of Shakespeare’s activities in London. He withdrew more and more from acting and devoted much of his time to writing. During his last illness, he was at Stratford-on-Avon and revised his will with his lawyer, Francis Collins, on March 25, 1616. He made many generous provisions for friends, but kept the property together for his descendants, the children of his two daughters. Shakespeare died at age fifty-two.