2016 marks the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The FAAPI 2016 Conference will provide an opportunity to honour the work and legacy of the most celebrated British playwright.
What year was Shakespeare born?
Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, in 1564. The exact date of his birth is not recorded, but it has been calculated that it is most likely to have been 23 April.
Shakespeare was baptised at Holy Trinity Church on Wednesday 26 April. At that time, the Prayer Book instructed parents to ensure their children were baptised no later than the first Sunday after birth. This means that it’s unlikely that Shakespeare was born any earlier than the previous Sunday; 23 April.
We also know that when he died (on 23 April 1616), Shakespeare was described as being in his fifty-third year (i.e. he was fifty-two). This means that he must have already had his birthday that year – if he was born any later than 23 April then he would still have been fifty-one when he died.
Three days would be a reasonable interval between birth and baptism, so this all adds up to the 23 April being the most likely date of Shakespeare’s birth. This is why people all over the world choose to celebrate his birthday on this date.
When did Shakespeare die, and where was he buried?
Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616, and was buried two days later in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon.
There is a curse inscribed on Shakespeare’s grave which reads: ‘Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare, To digg the dust encloased heare, Blest by the man that spares these stones, And curst be he that moves my bones.’
Who were Shakespeare’s mother, father and siblings?
William Shakespeare’s parents were John and Mary (neé Arden), who married in about 1557.
John Shakespeare, like many men of his time, was involved in a number of different businesses, including the glove-making and wool-dealing trades. He is also described as a whittawer (a man who prepared a particular kind of leather) and a yeoman. He held various civic offices, culminating in a year as High Bailiff (or mayor) in 1567. However, from that point onward there is increasing evidence of financial embarrassment for John Shakespeare. He stopped attending Council meetings, mortgaged property to raise money and, by 1591, was said to have stopped attending church for fear of being arrested by creditors if he left his house.
William was the oldest surviving child of John and Mary Shakespeare, who lost two infant daughters before William was born. William’s younger siblings were Gilbert (born in 1566), Joan (1569), Anne (1571), Richard (1574) and Edmund (1580). Ann died at the age of eight, but the others lived into their adulthoods.
Who was Shakespeare married to?
Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway towards the end of 1582, when he was 18 years old. Anne’s exact date of birth is not known, but it is thought to have been approximately 1555, which means she would have been 27 when they married.
Anne was three months pregnant at the time of the marriage, so to avoid the publicity of banns the couple obtained a licence from the Bishop, which authorised the marriage to take place outside the parish of normal residence. The marriage could have taken place in any church within Worcester diocese where no registers survive today to prove the contrary.
Did Shakespeare have descendants?
William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway had three children. The eldest, Susanna, was baptised on 26 May 1583. They also had twins, Judith and Hamnet, baptised on 2 February 1585.
Susanna married John Hall in 1607, and had one child, Elizabeth, in 1608. Elizabeth was married twice, to Thomas Nash in 1626, and to John Bernard in 1649. However, she had no children by either husband.
Hamnet died at the age of 11 and was buried in Stratford-upon-Avon on 11 August 1596. The cause of death is unknown.
Judith married Thomas Quiney in 1616, and the couple had three sons; Shakespeare Quiney, who died in infancy, and Richard and Thomas, who both died in 1639 within a month of each other. Neither of them married, so there is no possibility of any legitimate descents from Shakespeare’s line.
It is possible, however, to claim a relationship to Shakespeare through his sister, Joan. She married William Hart some time before 1600 and there are many descendants of this marriage alive today, in both the male and female lines.
How much do we know about ‘the lost years’ of Shakespeare’s life?
The term ‘the lost years’ is sometimes used to refer to two periods of Shakespeare’s life. The first is from 1578 when he left school, to 1582 when he married Anne Hathaway. He then spent some time living in Stratford and starting a family, before we lose sight of him again. The second ‘lost’ period is from 1585 when his twin children were baptised, until he surfaces as an established playwright in London 1592. It is not known for sure how he spent these years, although there has been much speculation.
John Aubrey wrote in 1681 that William Shakespeare ‘had been in his younger years a schoolmaster in the country’. John Cottom – who taught at Stratford school – had his family home in Lancashire and some think that this master may have found Shakespeare employment as a tutor for the family of a local landowner Alexander Houghton. Houghton mentioned a ‘William Shakeshafte’ in his will.
One legend suggests that Shakespeare poached deer from the nearby Charlecote Park and ran away to London to avoid punishment. This tale is known to have been circulating at the end of the 17th century, drawing on an oral tradition which must have gone back much further, but there is no contemporary evidence to substantiate the story.
Other suggestions are that he was apprenticed to a butcher, employed as a lawyer’s clerk, or became a soldier or a teacher. It is also possible, and seems quite likely, that he joined one of the companies of players that visited Stratford in the late 1580s.
However, despite much searching, no concrete records have been found of his activities in these years.
Why has Shakespeare’s work stayed popular for so long?
Shakespeare remains a household name to this day for many reasons. His plays portray recognisable people in situations that most of us experience at one time or another – including love, death, mourning, guilt, difficult choices, separation, reunion and reconciliation.
They are written in a way that allows each new performance to take on a life of its own, so that they remain fresh and infinitely adaptable. The plays provide actors with some of the most challenging and rewarding roles ever written. They help us to understand what it is to be human, and to cope with the problems of being so.