Happy birthday Will!

William Shakespeare was born on April 23rd 1654 in Stratford-upon-Avon; despite it being swamped by tourists a lot of the time it is a pretty little town with lots of features and buildings dating from Shakespeare’s time, including his house. He was born into an ordianry but well-thought of family, his father, John, made gloves and traded wool and was a man of some standing in the town.

William was well educated at the local Grammar school – I wonder if he shone then, or if he was a bit of a dreamer, always drifting off into his own world – or whether he was a show-off always ‘performing’ and ‘acting up’? He left school when he was 14, and four years alter married Anne who was already pregnant with their first child. She was seven years older than him, I wonder what his parents thought? Her parents, the Hathaways, were comfortably off too, not wealthy but they owned a farm. Would they have been pleased that Anne was married at last, or would they have been anxious that she was marrying such a young man who had got her pregnant? Six months after they married Anne gave birth to Susanna, and later to twins Hamnet and Judith.

William left Stratford and went to London and become an actor…. and the rest is  well-known… he became actor-manager, he began to write plays  poems, sonnets, he became well-known at court… There is constant debate about how a ‘country boy’ could ave been so knowledgeable and able to write the plays he did. There are some people who think he didn’t write them at all; I believe he did, he had been to school for seven years, he was well-educated, he came from a stable and fairly affluent home so would have mixed with a wide range of people… and also, above all, he was a genius.

His 37 plays were of many different subjects, history, comedy, romance, and tragedy.. and there can be few people in Britain  today who don’t know or have seen at least one play, Romeo and Juliet maybe, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, Othello…

Shakespeare returned to Stratford possibly in poorer health and although he returned to London a few times, he died where he was born at the age of 52 in 1616, on April 23rd, his birthday. You can visit his grave at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.

I gave myself a little test the other day… how many of Shakespeare’s plays could I remember… I think I managed about 32 out of the 37 he wrote… How many can you remember, 14 comedies, 11 historical, 12 tragedies?

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