For many people, English playwright William Shakespeare is inextricably linked to the city of London: it was here, after all, that his work coincided with the rise of theatre culture, spanning the period of time between the late mediaeval era and the modern age. In reality, however, Shakespeare was born in the small town of Stratford-upon-Avon, and always maintained close ties with his birthplace, even at the height of his fame in London. Some people believe that the place in which we are born becomes a fundamental part of who we are, and has an impact on our entire life, and this was certainly true for William Shakespeare: Stratford-upon-Avon played an important role in the playwright’s life story, personality, and incredible works. Certain settings and characters in his plays are almost certainly references to the town where he grew up, and he uses local terms in his work, such as for the many different kinds of flowers he refers to. Shakespeare’s language is also reminiscent of his roots, making it even more vibrant, although the many modernisations of his plays tend to standardise the lively and colourful idioms that distinguish the original versions.
Our family and personal history have a profound impact on our personality and careers, so it is also important to take a closer look at Shakespeare’s background. He was born on the 23rd of April 1564 to John Shakespeare and Mary Arden, a high-standing and well respected couple in the village of Stratford-upon-Avon. John Shakespeare was likely a Catholic, and this affected the family, as the only accepted religion at the time was Protestantism; Catholicism was banned, and anyone caught professing the Catholic faith was fined and could even have their land confiscated. The reign of Queen Elizabeth I, who came to the throne in 1588, also imposed many other restrictions, which affected Shakespeare’s personal life and work: on the one hand, the Elizabethan period is typically remembered as the dawning of a new and exciting cultural movement that marked the end of the mediaeval period; on the other hand, however, the monarchy ruled over the entire country with an iron fist, and the era was defined by violence, short life expectancy, and plagues.
Despite suspicions surrounding their religion, the Shakespeare family flourished and became prominent members of the community in Stratford-upon-Avon, and John Shakespeare was a respected merchant, glove maker, and politician for many decades. The family was wealthy, and it is believed that they had a close and loving relationship with each other, and both of these factors may well have saved William Shakespeare from a premature death, as infant mortality rates were shockingly high at the time. The fact that William was sent to school, where he learnt to read and write, is a testament to the family’s prominence and standing; it is believed that John Shakespeare, on the other hand, was able to read, but not to write.
At just eighteen years old, William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, who was eight years his senior. They had three children, Susanna, Hamnet, and Judith, and remained married until Anne’s death.