Romeo and Juliet
- "O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable."
- "To be, or not to be? That is the question—
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And, by opposing, end them?"
Who hasn’t heard of Shakespeare? His 154 sonnets are the bane of generations of English schoolchildren, and his 38 plays have been performed in hamlets, villages, cities, and metropolises for some 400 years. Over the course of his 20-year career as a playwright, Shakespeare wrote tragedies and comedies that capture a range of the human experience – greed, lust, blood, ambition, betrayal, and braggadocio.
No birth records exist for him, but church papers do indicate Will was baptized at the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon (a fact the town has never let civilization forget) in April 1564 AD. Third child of John Shakespeare, a leather merchant, and Mary Arden, a landed heiress. As an official’s son – his father was an alderman and a bailiff – William would have qualified for free tuition, but there’s no record that he ever attended school. However, he must have learned to read and write somehow.
After marriage, fatherhood, and a few other distractions, Shakespeare appeared in London in 1592, earning a living as an actor and writer. Despite, or perhaps because of, criticism from the likes of established playwrights such as Robert Greene, Thomas Nashe, and Christopher Marlowe, by the late 1590s he became a managing partner of the Lord Chamberlain’s (later “King’s”) Men, a theatrical group. Shakespeare’s plays proved popular with the London audiences, and in 1599 the company built its own theater on the south bank of the Thames named The Globe.
Tradition has it that Shakespeare died on his birthday, in 1616, although some scholars discount this nicety. Shakespeare left the bulk of his estate to his eldest daughter Susanna, and the debate on who actually wrote his great works to posterity.