Shakespeare's exact birth date is unknown. However, we do know that William was born in Stratford-upon-Avon Warwickshire, England. We also know that he was christened on April 26, 1564. His father, John, was a hardworking merchant who made and sold leather gloves. William's mother, Mary Arden, came from a prosperous farming family. At the time of his birth the black plague was invading the countryside far and wide, and it looked like nothing was going to stop it. Before long, more than 1/10th of the town of Stratford was dead. Shortly afterward, two of Williams's sisters fell ill and died. At this time, his mother Mary did everything she could to protect her son from the dreaded plague. Then finally, about the time of Williams's 4th birthday, the disease was gone. Soon afterward, his father was elected mayor (1568), and the Shakespeare family became a member of the ruling elite. John Shakespeare would also serve as a city alderman. At the time, William's boyhood home was very large and he lived a very comfortable lifestyle.
Because John was an alderman, William was allowed to attend the King's New School tuition free. He started attending the King's New School at the age of six or seven. School days were long and tough. The day began by 7 am., and let out at 5 pm. The students attended 6 days a week, and the only breaks were for breakfast and lunch. Much of their focus was on Latin and the classics. William studied everything from Aesop's Fables to the works of Cicero. He especially was affected by the Roman poet Ovid. On Sundays the students were required to go to church. With the little free time that Shakespeare had he went hunting with his father. William also spent at least some of his time learning falconry.
At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, who was eight years older. They would three children before he was 21. In order to provide for his large family William chose to earn his living in the theater. Not only did William act, but he wrote scripts. While he toured his family lived with his parents. However, he returned whenever he could. Unfortunately, he was almost always working a great distance from where his family lived. Eventually, he found success, and as a result he and his wife purchased the second largest home in Stratford-upon-Avon.
William Shakespeare creative imagination left us with 38 plays, 134 sonnets, two long poems, and an assortment of shorter ones. His body of work is considered to be one of the greatest achievements in the history of the literary world. Very little of what he wrote in his own hand has survived, leaving textual scholars the impression that most of it is not in its original form.
Largely, Shakespeare's works are found in the genres of comedy, history, and tragedy. During the 1590's he wrote mostly comedy and history. During this time he completed “The Taming of the Shrew,” and a “Midsummer Night's Dream,” as well as “The Comedy of Errors.” He wrote 10 history plays, which mostly examine the power and the authority of the English monarchy. He also experimented with tragedy. The theme of “Romeo and Juliet” still excites modern audiences. Shakespeare maintained a common theme during most of his tragedies. He depicts a world full of evil in a world that is inhabited by the supernatural. The best known of Shakespeare's poems are his “Sonnets.” They were published in 1609, to great acclaim.