A PICTORIAL BIOGRAPHY OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEAREA Pictorial Biography of WilliamShakespearelifeMany of the pictures on this page aretaken from William Shakespeare by AndrewGurr. The book includes a large number ofreconstructions of scenes fromShakespeares life. The pictures weredirected by Julian Napier and photographedby Dominic Clemence. The photos on thispage of present day Stratford are my own.This first picture shows young WilliamShakespeare with his father, JohnShakespeare, and his mother, Mary Arden. John Shakespeare was a glove-maker, and this picture shows Willam and his brother Gilbert helping their father in their fathers workshop.
Young William would haveattended the King EdwardsGrammer School in Stratford.After leaving school ataround 14 it is likely thatShakespeare went to learn hisfathers trade in his fathersshop. When he was 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathway, who was a few years older than himself. Annes original home was a farmhouse, now known as Anne Hathaways Cottage. Anne had been the eldest of 3 sisters, and their father had died a year before Anne and Willam were married. One of Williams earliest poetic works is a sonnet (number 145) written to Anne.
Anne and William had their first child, Susanna, in 1583. Susanna was followed by twins, Judith amd Hamnet, 2 years later. There was general economic hardship in Warwickshire at that time, which seriously affected Shakespeares fathers business and the Shakespeare family. William needed to find other employment. His early sonnet to Anne shows his interest in writing, but there was no such work locally. Fate brought William into contact with a travelling theatre company, and he joined them, as an actor.Travelling companies ofactors would perform atmarket fairs, or at greatcountry houses. Eachcompany was under thepatronage of some wealthynobleman. The Earl ofLeicester (who lived atnearby Kenilworth Castle)was the patron of one localcompany.The picture below shows theGuild Hall at nearby
Coventry which was alsoused for such performances. The travelling company of actors took Shakespeare to London. Little is known of Shakespeares early years in London. He must have pursued his writing after his days work, in the taverns where he was lodging. By 1592, when he was aged 27, Shakespeare had established himself as both an actor and writer.
This picture shows the Earl ofSouthampton, a very rich younggentleman, to whom Shakespearededicted two of his earliest works,and who was an early patron ofShakespeare.This picture shoes the Burbagefamily. James Burbage (left) hadbeen an actor in the company ofLord Leicesters Men (KenilworthCastle). He established his owncompany in London under thepatronage of the Lord Chamberlain,which became known as theChamberlains Men. This companyincluded Shakespeare as one of itsmanagers and players. JamesBurbages son, Richard Burbage(standing), was the foremost actorof the day, and played all of thegreat roles created by Shakespearefor the company (Hamlet, Othello,etc)
Beside his great philosophicalexplorations, Shakespeares time inLondon was one of intensepersonal emotions, reflected in thecontent of his Sonnets. Some ofthese are attributed to anunidentified figure known as theDark Lady.Until 1596 The Chamberlains Menhad used a theatre in Shoreditch,which needed replacement. In 1598the conpany decided to finance theconstruction of a new theatre, TheGlobe. The money was raised bycontributions from members of thecompany. Shakespeare who madesubstantial profits from his share inthe scheme.The Globe theatre has recentlybeen rebuilt, very near to the site ofthe original, and closely resemblingthe original.This picture shows a performanceof The Merry Wives of Windsorbefore Queen Elizabeth.In 1603 Queen Elizabeth died,without an heir. She had appointedJames VI of Scotland to be ruler ofEngland on her death. TheChamberlains Men soon securedthe favour of the new King, andbecame known as The Kings Men.Shakespeares play Macbeth wascomposed soon afterwards ingratitude to the new King.
Thoroughout his time in London Shakespearelived in lodgings, and sent money back tomaintain his property and investments in Stratford.He always maintained the intention of returning toStratford someday. This picture showsShakespeare travelling back to Stratford, by horse,and staying overnight in Oxford. He may havereturned to Stratford each year during the periodof Lent when the playhouses in London wouldhave been closed.In 1610 Shakespeare returned to Stratfordpermanently to manage his investments andproperties.Shakespeares final play, The Tempest, wasprobably written in comfort in Stratford.In 1613, the Globe was burnt down in the GreatFire of London. The company rebuilt the theatre,but Shakespeare was no longer part of thecompany.
Shakespeares daughter Susannamarried a Stratford doctor JohnHall. This picture showsShakespeare with Susannasdaughter Elizabeth, at New Place inStratford.This family portrait shows (backrow) Shakespeare, Dr John Hall,Judith (Shakepeares otherdaughter), (centre row) AnneHathaway, Susanna, ThomasQuiney (a friend of Judiths), (front)Elizabeth (Susannas daughter).
Shakespeare died in Stratford on 23April 1616, and now lies in HolyTrinity Church Stratford.