William Shakespeare is a playwright and English poet, born in 1564 in Stratford-on-Avon (Warwick), and died in 1616. Son of a trader of Stratford-on-Avon (Warwick), John Shakespeare, and Mary Arden whose father was a wealthy farmer in this city’s neighborhood, William was born there on April 22 or 23, 1564. He followed, with his three brothers, the courses of the free school of grammar. He learned Latin, but at the age of thirteen he was apprenticed by his father, whose affairs were declining. At eighteen, he married a young woman who was eight years older, Anne Hathaway, who was probably his mistress and who gave him a daughter after six months, and three years after two twins, Hamnet and Judith. Shakespeare, who won nothing, crushed by these family responsibilities, flew out of Stratford in 1585. A poaching adventure, which involved him in legal proceedings, also forced him to move away. He reached London on foot and engaged in a troop of actors, where he soon gained a great reputation. He played on the stages of the old Rideau Theater, the Rose Theater, the Globe, and took the direction of a company (the servants of the Earl of Derby or the servants of the Lord Chamberlain), which he himself supplied. while reworking, according to the use of time, those of the dramatic authors whom theatrical directors bought to represent them.
His first work seems to have been dated to 1591. It is a comedy, Love’s lost labor, where a deep knowledge of the mores of the society of time and an abundance of allusions to contemporary events pierces. Shakespeare’s nascent celebrity is already marked by the honeyed attacks of his competitors, including Robert Greene, who followed the performance of Henry VI (1592). And it is between 1591 and 1611, between his twenty-seventh and his forty-seventh year, that he realized all his dramatic work, to which must be added various poems, which excited the enthusiasm of the contemporaries, and his famous Sonnets . Little by little his reputation had spread, he had protectors at court. Elizabeth I wanted to see him, and he played in front of her, in Whitehall, with the most famous actors of the time, the Christmas day 1597. It is appreciated by the best critics, Ben Jonson, Francis Meres and – even more characteristic sign of his popularity and influence – his works are outrageously plundered by bold pirates of letters, who went so far as to sign his name, for better selling, worthless productions like The Passionate Pilgrim (1599).
By 1596, William Shakespeare had returned to Stratford, which he had left eleven years earlier. He found the affairs of his family in poor condition, and endeavored to restore them. He paid the debts of his father, bought in 1597 the most beautiful house in the city, to which he annexed an orchard in 1602. There are letters from his compatriots who prove that he lent them money. He was therefore already rich enough in 1599, and his fortune only increased after that date. In 1602, he bought land in Stratford, rounded off his properties again in 1610, and was very strict in the recovery of his smallest debts. It is curious to note that these concerns of a businessman coincide exactly with the appearance from his masterpieces As you please, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear. In 1601, there was cold between him and Ben Jonson, no doubt for one of those futile reasons which seem insupportable to the sensitive skin of men of letters, and Jonson complained that he would have been called ” plague “in a room where Shakespeare had put his hand. In 1603, the death of Queen Elizabeth, who had always protected him, did not harm his fortune, for he found in Jacques I an even more benevolent patron. He gives then his best pieces. After the storm (1609), his vein is exhausted, he composes only fragments, which are resumed, completed, completed, developed by younger authors, John Fletcher and Massinger. In 1611, Shakespeare feels the need to rest altogether; he abandons his shares in the direction of the Globe and Blackfriars theaters, he spends most of his time in Stratford where he married his daughter Susanne to physician John Hall; he is actively involved in small local affairs, assignments of communal property and always loans and receipts of money. Already ill, he married his youngest daughter Judith in 1616 and soon after (April 23, old style., Or May 3, new style), he died, after having, said the legend, made some excess of drink. He was buried in Stratford Church where, around 1623, a monument was erected by Gerard Johnson’s chisel.
That’s about all we know about Shakespeare’s life. Two of his contemporaries, Chettle and Jonson, have left him a few affectionate words. Tradition has it that he was a happy companion: but contrary to the habits of the poets of the time, he loved more to laugh and to joke than to drink. We can therefore imagine him, in his private life, as an excellent father and a well-ordained bourgeois: we have seen in Victor Hugo this alliance of genius with the agreement of small household interests which seems, we do not know why , rather singular. Shakespeare’s family is now extinct. His wife died in 1623 at sixty-seven. His daughter Judith, Lady Quiney, died in 1662; she had three children to whom she survived. The other Susannah daughter, Lady Hall, who died in 1649, had a daughter Elisabeth, who died childless herself, in 1670, after marrying Thomas Nash first, and secondly, John Barnard. The poet’s house in Stratford, known as New Place, which he had left to Susanne, was rebuilt in 1702 and disappeared in 1759. On the site was built a special museum in 1846.
As for the spelling of the name of Shakespeare, which has been the subject of so much controversy, it is enough to note that in the communal registers of Stratford, where it appears many times, it is written of sixteen different ways. He himself signed: sometimes Shakspere, sometimes Shakspeare, sometimes Shakespeare. Until recently, only two authentic portraits of Shakespeare were considered: Gerard Johnson’s bust, which surmounts Stratford’s funerary monument, and a Droeshout engraving on the in-fol edition. works, from 1623. But in March 2009, we present a new portrait that could be the only one preserved that was painted during his lifetime (below). Since then, the poet has been raised: a monument to Westminster (1741), a work of William Kent and Peter Schumakers; a monument in New York (1882), work of Ward; another in Paris (1888), work of Paul Fournier.