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wrote the famous 154 Sonnets and numerous highly successful often quoted dramatic works. He is generally considered to be the greatest of authors in any language, ancient or modern. England's celebration of their patron Saint George is on 23 April, which is also the day claimed to be the birth date of Shakespeare. Although birth and death dates were not recorded in Shakespeare's time, churches did record baptisms and burials, usually a few days after the actual event, but the earliest record of him was an entry of his baptism in the Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, on April 26, 1564. His father, John Shakespeare (c1530-1601), first appeared in town records in 1552, when he was fined for not removing a dunghill from his door in Henley Street. Later, his father became prominent in town affairs and was elected a chamberlain of the Stratford Corporation in 1561, alderman in 1565, and high bailiff or mayor in 1568. Mary Arden (c1540-1608), his mother, was the daughter of a wealthy landowner. She had eight children in which William was the third and the oldest son. In the mid 1570’s, his father’s fortune declined, but the fortunes lost then would later be repaired by his son William Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s first school was probably Stratford. It was an excellent free grammar school, although no record of the fact that he actually attended exists. On November 27, 1582, church authorities gave him permission to marry Anne Hathaway from the neighboring village of Shottery. At the time, he was eighteen and she was twenty six years old and probably pregnant. On May 26, 1583, their daughter Susanna was baptized in Holy Trinity. Later his wife gave birth to twins, Hamnet and Judith, who were baptized on February 2, 1585. Between the years of the twins Baptism and 1592, no records have been found. This was called the missing period. The actor William Beeston, whose father was a member of Shakespeare’s company, told John Aubrey many years later that Shakespeare had been a school master in the country. POETRY: It is generally agreed that most of the Shakespearean Sonnets were written in the 1590s, some printed at this time as well. Others were written or revised right before being printed. 154 sonnets and "A Lover's Complaint" were published by Thomas Thorpe as Shakespeare Sonnets in 1609. The order, dates, and authorship of the Sonnets have been much debated with no conclusive findings. Many have claimed autobiographical details from them, including sonnet number 145 in reference to Anne. The dedication to "Mr. W.H." is said to possibly represent the initials of the third earl of Pembroke William Herbert, or perhaps being a reversal of Henry Wriothesly's initials. Regardless, there have been some unfortunate projections and interpretations of modern concepts onto centuries old works that, while a grasp of contextual historical information can certainly lend to their depth and meaning, can also be enjoyed as valuable poetical works that have transcended time and been surpassed by no other. Evoking Petrarch's style and lyrically writing of beauty, mortality, and love with its moral anguish and worshipful adoration of a usually unattainable love, the first 126 sonnets are addressed to a young man, sonnets 127-152 to a dark lady. Ever the dramatist Shakespeare created a profound intrigue to scholars and novices alike as to the identities of these people. TRAGEDIES:
Some probably inspired by Shakespeare's study of Lives (trans.1597) by Greek historian and essayist Plutarch and Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles (1587). Some are reworking of previous stories, many based on English or Roman history. The dates given here are when they are said to have been first performed, followed by approximate printing dates in brackets, and listed in chronological order of performance. Titus Andronicus first performed in 1594 (printed in 1594), Romeo and Juliet 1594-95 (1597), Hamlet 1600-01 (1603), Julius Caesar 1600-01 (1623), Othello 1604-05 (1622), Antony and Cleopatra 1606-07 (1623), King Lear 1606 (1608), Coriolanus 1607-08 (1623), derived from Plutarch Timon of Athens 1607-08 (1623), and Macbeth 1611-1612 (1623). HISTORIES: Shakespeare's series of historical dramas, based on the English Kings from John to Henry VIII were a tremendous undertaking to dramatize the lives and rule of kings and the changing political events of his time. No other playwright had attempted such an ambitious body of work. Some were printed on their own or in the First Folio (1623). King Henry VI Part 1 1592 (printed in 1594); King Henry VI Part 2 1592-93 (1594); King Henry VI Part 3 1592-93 (1623); King John 1596-97 (1623); King Henry IV Part 1 1597-98 (1598); King Henry IV Part 2 1597-98 (1600); King Henry V 1598-99 (1600); Richard II 1600-01 (1597); Richard III 1601 (1597); and King Henry VIII 1612-13 (1623) COMEDIES: (again listed in chronological order of performance) Taming of the Shrew first performed 1593-94 (1623), Comedy of Errors 1594 (1623), Two Gentlemen of Verona 1594-95 (1623), Love's Labour's Lost 1594-95 (1598), Midsummer Night's Dream 1595-96 (1600), Merchant of Venice 1596-1597 (1600), Much Ado About Nothing 1598-1599 (1600), As You Like It 1599-00 (1623), Merry Wives of Windsor 1600-01 (1602), Troilus and Cressida 1602 (1609), Twelfth Night 1602 (1623), All's Well That Ends Well 1602-03 (1623), Measure for Measure 1604 (1623), Pericles, Prince of Tyre 1608-09 (1609), Tempest (1611), Cymbeline 1611-12 (1623), Winter's Tale 1611-12 (1623).