Potential portrait likeness of Willam Shakespeare (Toby Simkin's Broadway)

An April 23 (May 3 in today’s calendar) tribute from Toby to the bard — William Shakespeare was born & died on the same day… born on April 23, 1564 and died April 23, 1616 (age 52) in Stratford-upon-Avon.  English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as both the greatest writer in the English language, and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist.  He is often called England’s national poet, and the “Bard of Avon”.  His plays have been translated into every major living language, and are performed more often than those of any other playwright

No one knows really what Shakespeare looked like. No written description of Shakespeare’s physical appearance survives, and no evidence suggests that he ever commissioned a portrait, so the ‘Droeshout engraving’ (used in the First Folio), which writer Ben Jonson approved of as a good likeness.

Shakespeare’s father was probably a common tradesman. He became an alderman and bailiff in Stratford-upon-Avon, and Shakespeare was baptized in the town on April 26, 1564. At age 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, and the couple had a daughter in 1583 and twins in 1585. Sometime later, Shakespeare set off for London to become an actor and by 1592 was well established in London’s theatrical world as both a performer and a playwright. His earliest plays, including The Comedy of Errors and The Taming of the Shrew, were written in the early 1590s. Later in the decade, he wrote tragedies such as Romeo and Juliet (1594-1595) and comedies including The Merchant of Venice (1596-1597). His greatest tragedies were written after 1600, including Hamlet (1600-01), Othello (1604-05), King Lear (1605-06), and Macbeth (1605-1606).

He became a member of the popular theater group the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, who later became the King’s Men. The group built and operated the famous Globe Theater in 1599. Shakespeare ultimately became a major shareholder in the troupe and earned enough money to buy a large house in Stratford in 1597. He retired to Stratford in 1610, where he wrote his last plays, including The Tempest (1611) and The Winter’s Tale (1610-11). Meanwhile, he had written more than 100 sonnets, which were published in 1609. Although pirated versions of Titus Andronicus, Romeo and Juliet and some other plays were published during Shakespeare’s lifetime, no definitive collection of his works was published until after his death. In 1623, two members of Shakespeare’s troupe collected the plays and printed what is now called the First Folio (1623).

Don’t miss the To Be Or Not To Be video.

Chronology

1 The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1589–1591)
2 The Taming of the Shrew (1590–1591)
3 Henry VI, Part 2 (1591)
4 Henry VI, Part 3 (1591)
5 Henry VI, Part 1 (1591–1592)
6 Titus Andronicus (1591–1592)
7 Richard III (1592–1593)
8 Edward III (1592–1593)
9 The Comedy of Errors (1594)
10 Love’s Labour’s Lost (1594–1595)
11 Love’s Labour’s Won (1595–1596)
12 Richard II (1595)
13 Romeo and Juliet (1595)
14 A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595)
15 King John (1596)
16 The Merchant of Venice (1596–1597)
17 Henry IV, Part 1 (1596–1597)
18 The Merry Wives of Windsor (1597)
19 Henry IV, Part 2 (1597–1598)
20 Much Ado About Nothing (1598–1599)
21 Henry V (1599)
22 Julius Caesar (1599)
23 As You Like It (1599–1600)
24 Hamlet (1599–1601)
25 Twelfth Night (1601)
26 Troilus and Cressida (1600–1602)
27 Sir Thomas More (1592–1603–1604)
28 Measure for Measure (1603–1604)
29 Othello (1603–1604)
30 All’s Well That Ends Well (1604–1605)
31 King Lear (1605–1606)
32 Timon of Athens (1605–1606)
33 Macbeth (1606)
34 Antony and Cleopatra (1606)
35 Pericles, Prince of Tyre (1607–1608)
36 Coriolanus (1608)
37 The Winter’s Tale (1609–1611)
38 Cymbeline (1610)
39 The Tempest (1610–1611)
40 Cardenio (1612–1613)
41 Henry VIII (1612–1613)
42 The Two Noble Kinsmen (1613–1614)

All the world’s a stage,
and all the men and women merely players:
they have their exits and their entrances;
and one man in his time plays many parts ...”

As You Like It, Act II, Scene 7, 139–142

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