William Shakespeare

Posted By claire on April 23, 2010

ShakespeareToday marks the anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death in 1616 and possibly his birth in 1564. We do not know his actual birthday but he was baptised in Stratford-upon-Avon on the 26th April 1564 so the 23rd April is when we celebrate his birth.

William Shakespeare has got to be one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) writers in the English language. Here we are, 400 years after he wrote his plays and sonnets, still enjoying his works. His plays have been performed the world over by some of the greatest actors and actresses, they have been turned into films, they have been translated into many different languages, students study his works and get examined on them, authors like Robin Maxwell have turned his plays into novels, tourists flock to Stratford-upon-Avon to visit Shakespeare’s birthplace, Mary Arden’s house and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) still perform his plays to crowds of people in Shakespeare’s home town… we still can’t get enough of the Bard and his works. What a legacy!

To celebrate the birth of this incredible English playwright and poet I want to do two things: firstly, a William Shakespeare bio, and secondly, I’d like you to share your favourite Shakespeare quotation in the comments below.

William Shakespeare Bio

Birthdate: Late April 1564, around the 23rd April. He was baptised on the 26th April.

Death: 23rd April 1616, at the age of 52.

Parents: John Shakespeare, a glover and alderman from Snitterfield, near Stratford-upon-Avon, and Mary Arden. The couple had eight children and William was the eldest surviving son.

Education: It is thought that Shakespeare was educated at the King’s New School in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire.

Marriage: Married Anne Hathaway on 27th November 1582. He was 18 and she was 26.

Children: Susanna (May 1583 – just 6 months after her parents’ marriage), twins Hamnet and Judith (1585). Hamnet died at the age of 11.

Career: It is not known exactly when Shakespeare moved to London or when he started writing but his plays were being performed in London in 1592. Shakespeare was also an actor and was a member of the company known as the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, who were the only company performing his plays from 1594. The Lord Chamberlain’s Men soon became London’s leading theatre company and in 1599 they built the Globe Theatre in Southwark, London.  The company were awarded a royal patent in 1603 by King James I, which caused them to change their name to the King’s Men.
The Globe Theatre burned down in June 1613 but the company quickly rebuilt it. It was at this time that Shakespeare retired and went back to Stratford-upon-Avon.

Home: During his career, Shakespeare divided his time between his home in Stratford-upon-Avon (“The Great House of New Place”) and London.

Works: William Shakespeare’s works include 38 plays, 154 sonnets and various other poems.

That is a very short bio and you can find out more about William Shakespeare at his wikipedia page and in a very detailed biography at Shakespeare-Literature.com

Favourite Shakespeare Quotations

The Bard has always had a special place in my heart as I grew up just 12 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon and went to see quite a few RSC productions during my school and university careers. I can remember being blown away in 1986 by my very first experience of seeing Shakespeare performed. It was at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the cast included Jonathan Pryce as Macbeth, Sinead Cusack as Lady Macbeth and Joely Richardson as one of the witches (not that I knew who she was back then!) and I can remember sitting in stunned silence. It was an amazing experience and you really have got to see one of Shakespeare’s plays performed once in your life. I can still recite the witches from Act I Scene I!

Here are my favourite Shakespeare quotations:-

The Witches from Macbeth Act 1 Scene 1

A fantastic way to start a play and set the scene for the whole production – love it!

First Witch:

When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

Second Witch:

When the hurlyburly’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won.

Third Witch:

That will be ere the set of sun.

First Witch:

Where the place?

Second Witch:

Upon the heath.

Third Witch:

There to meet with Macbeth.

First Witch:

I come, Graymalkin!

Second Witch:

Paddock calls.

Third Witch:



Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air.

Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy

Another one that I know by heart because I had to learn it for my English Literature A Level, but it’s an amazing piece of writing!

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. To die, to sleep
No more – and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to – ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep
To sleep, perchance to dream…

So what are your favourite quotations and why?


P.S. Happy St George’s Day for all our English visitors!


15 Responses to “William Shakespeare”

  1. Christine Hartweg says:

    King Claudius before sending Hamlet out of the way, to England:

    “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

    It just sounds so wonderful, and I’ve always loved Shakespeare’s wicked uncles!

  2. Impish_Impulse says:

    “Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” – Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, Act I, Scene IV

    Don’t let our doubts and timidity rob us of what we want out of life. Carpe diem, and all that.

  3. Sharon says:

    I have three favoritesfrom his plays and one from his sonnets. “To be or not to be”, being the first. Claire I also learned this by heart for school.
    John of Gaunt from Richard the Second:
    “This royal throne of Kings, this scept’red isle,
    This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
    This other Eden, demiparadise,
    This fortress built by Nature for herself
    Against infection and the heart of war,
    This happy breed of men, this little world,
    This precious stone set in the silver sea,
    Which serves it in the office of a wall,
    Or as a moat defensive to a house,
    Against the envy of less happier lands;
    This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England…”

    It continues, but that’s my favorite part of the speech.
    Next is from Romeo and Juliet…
    :O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
    Her beauty hangs upon the cheek of night
    Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear:
    Beauty too rich for use,for earth too dear!”…
    “Did my heart love til now? forswearit sight!
    For I never saw true beauty till this night.”
    So romantic.
    The sonnet:
    “Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day?
    Thou art more temperate:
    Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
    And summer’s lease hath all too short a date”:….
    “When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
    So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
    So long lives this and this gives life to thee.”

    These are my favorite quotes from the sonnet

  4. Penny says:

    Death lies on her like an untimely frost upon the sweetest flower of all the field.

  5. Sheena says:

    I have always loved these quotes, because to me they are just so true…

    Puck (A Midsummer Night’s Dream): Lord, what fools these mortals be!

    Helena (A Midsummer Night’s Dream): “Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind.”

  6. HannahL says:

    “Doubt thou that the stars are fire, doubt thou that the sun doth move. Doubt truth to be a liar, but never doubt that I love.” -Hamlet’s love letter to Ophelia

  7. lisaannejane says:

    Juliet: What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other would smell as sweet.

  8. Impish_Impulse says:

    Ooh, I like that one, Penny! Where is it from?

  9. Cori says:

    Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 2, Act 3, Scene 1, the king has a soliloquy. It begins, “How many thousand of my poorest subjects / Are at this hour asleep! O sleep, O gentle sleep, . . .” At the end, he declares, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

  10. Rose says:

    Definatley Romeo and Juliet… When Juliet was calling out for Romeo on her balchony.

    “Romeo, Romeo; wherefore out thou Romeo?
    Deney thy father and refuse thy name,
    Or, if thou will it not, be but sworn my love,
    And I’ll no longer be a capulet.”

    I know it off-by heart and I shall always love this play over the others!

    P.S ~ I was surprised to learn that Juliet was set at the age of 13 in the play – and although i know that they married young in those days (Paris,) I always thought at least 15?

  11. Sharon says:

    Penny’s quote is also from Romeo and Juliet. Capulet says it as he looks upon his believed to be dead daughter, Juliet.

  12. Impish_Impulse says:

    Thanks, Sharon!

  13. Baroness Von Reis says:

    A glooming peace this morning that it bring,the sun for sarrow will not show her head, for never was a story of more woe, then this of Juliet and her Romeo.

  14. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
    – Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

  15. Mary says:

    Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage. It is a tale told by an idiot – full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

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