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Early life in Stratford

How many sonnets did Shakespeare write? 

How did shakespeare die , why is shakespeare still important today .

William Butler Yeats, c. 1915.

William Shakespeare

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William Shakespeare

Recent News

What was shakespeare's family like .

Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway , eight years his senior, when he was 18. They had three children: Susanna and twins Judith and Hamnet. Hamnet died at the age of 11.

How many plays did Shakespeare write? 

There is some dispute about how many plays Shakespeare wrote. The general consensus is 37. 

Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets . The most famous include Sonnet 18, with opening lines "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?", and Sonnet 130, which begins "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun."

The cause of Shakespeare's death is unknown. However, the vicar of the local church wrote in his journal some fifty years later that "Shakespeare, Drayton , and Ben Jonson had a merry meeting, and it seems drank too hard; for Shakespeare died of a fever there contracted." The account cannot be verified but has led some scholars to speculate that Shakespeare may have died of typhus.

Shakespeare remains vital because his plays present people and situations that we recognize today. His characters have an emotional reality that transcends time, and his plays depict familiar experiences, ranging from family squabbles to falling in love to war. The fact that his plays are performed and adapted around the world underscores the universal appeal of his storytelling.

Read a brief summary of this topic

title page of Shakespeare's First Folio

William Shakespeare , Shakespeare also spelled Shakspere , byname Bard of Avon or Swan of Avon , (baptized April 26, 1564, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England—died April 23, 1616, Stratford-upon-Avon), English poet , dramatist , and actor often called the English national poet and considered by many to be the greatest dramatist of all time.

Shakespeare occupies a position unique in world literature . Other poets, such as Homer and Dante , and novelists, such as Leo Tolstoy and Charles Dickens , have transcended national barriers, but no writer’s living reputation can compare to that of Shakespeare, whose plays, written in the late 16th and early 17th centuries for a small repertory theatre , are now performed and read more often and in more countries than ever before. The prophecy of his great contemporary, the poet and dramatist Ben Jonson , that Shakespeare “was not of an age, but for all time,” has been fulfilled.

Explore five questions about Shakespeare's life

It may be audacious even to attempt a definition of his greatness, but it is not so difficult to describe the gifts that enabled him to create imaginative visions of pathos and mirth that, whether read or witnessed in the theatre, fill the mind and linger there. He is a writer of great intellectual rapidity, perceptiveness, and poetic power. Other writers have had these qualities, but with Shakespeare the keenness of mind was applied not to abstruse or remote subjects but to human beings and their complete range of emotions and conflicts. Other writers have applied their keenness of mind in this way, but Shakespeare is astonishingly clever with words and images, so that his mental energy, when applied to intelligible human situations, finds full and memorable expression, convincing and imaginatively stimulating. As if this were not enough, the art form into which his creative energies went was not remote and bookish but involved the vivid stage impersonation of human beings, commanding sympathy and inviting vicarious participation. Thus, Shakespeare’s merits can survive translation into other languages and into cultures remote from that of Elizabethan England .

Shakespeare the man

Learn about William Shakespeare's early boyhood and path to London to become a playwright and actor

Although the amount of factual knowledge available about Shakespeare is surprisingly large for one of his station in life, many find it a little disappointing, for it is mostly gleaned from documents of an official character. Dates of baptisms , marriages , deaths , and burials ; wills , conveyances , legal processes, and payments by the court—these are the dusty details. There are, however, many contemporary allusions to him as a writer, and these add a reasonable amount of flesh and blood to the biographical skeleton.

William Shakespeare and Lord Chamberlain's Men performing "Love's Labour's Lost" for Queen Elizabeth I, from the Works of William Shakespeare; etching, dated c. mid-19th century.

The parish register of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon , Warwickshire , shows that he was baptized there on April 26, 1564; his birthday is traditionally celebrated on April 23. His father, John Shakespeare, was a burgess of the borough , who in 1565 was chosen an alderman and in 1568 bailiff (the position corresponding to mayor , before the grant of a further charter to Stratford in 1664). He was engaged in various kinds of trade and appears to have suffered some fluctuations in prosperity . His wife, Mary Arden, of Wilmcote, Warwickshire, came from an ancient family and was the heiress to some land. (Given the somewhat rigid social distinctions of the 16th century, this marriage must have been a step up the social scale for John Shakespeare.)

Stratford enjoyed a grammar school of good quality, and the education there was free, the schoolmaster’s salary being paid by the borough. No lists of the pupils who were at the school in the 16th century have survived, but it would be absurd to suppose the bailiff of the town did not send his son there. The boy’s education would consist mostly of Latin studies—learning to read, write, and speak the language fairly well and studying some of the Classical historians, moralists, and poets. Shakespeare did not go on to the university, and indeed it is unlikely that the scholarly round of logic, rhetoric , and other studies then followed there would have interested him.

Instead, at age 18 he married. Where and exactly when are not known, but the episcopal registry at Worcester preserves a bond dated November 28, 1582, and executed by two yeomen of Stratford, named Sandells and Richardson, as a security to the bishop for the issue of a license for the marriage of William Shakespeare and “ Anne Hathaway of Stratford,” upon the consent of her friends and upon once asking of the banns. (Anne died in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare. There is good evidence to associate her with a family of Hathaways who inhabited a beautiful farmhouse, now much visited, 2 miles [3.2 km] from Stratford.) The next date of interest is found in the records of the Stratford church, where a daughter, named Susanna, born to William Shakespeare, was baptized on May 26, 1583. On February 2, 1585, twins were baptized, Hamnet and Judith. (Hamnet, Shakespeare’s only son, died 11 years later.)

How Shakespeare spent the next eight years or so, until his name begins to appear in London theatre records, is not known. There are stories—given currency long after his death—of stealing deer and getting into trouble with a local magnate, Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, near Stratford; of earning his living as a schoolmaster in the country; of going to London and gaining entry to the world of theatre by minding the horses of theatregoers. It has also been conjectured that Shakespeare spent some time as a member of a great household and that he was a soldier, perhaps in the Low Countries . In lieu of external evidence, such extrapolations about Shakespeare’s life have often been made from the internal “evidence” of his writings. But this method is unsatisfactory: one cannot conclude, for example, from his allusions to the law that Shakespeare was a lawyer, for he was clearly a writer who without difficulty could get whatever knowledge he needed for the composition of his plays.

What Types of Plays Did Shakespeare Write?

Shakespearean tragedies, comedies, histories, and problem plays.

DEA / G. DAGLI ORTI / Getty Images

The English Medieval playwright William Shakespeare wrote 38 (or so) plays during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I (ruled 1558–1603) and her successor, James I (ruled 1603–1625). The plays are important works still today, insightfully exploring the human condition in prose, poetry, and song. His understanding of human nature led him to blend elements of human behavior—great goodness and great evil—in the same play and sometimes even in the same character.

Shakespeare heavily influenced literature, theater, poetry, and even the English language. Many English words used in today's lexicon are attributed to Shakespeare's pen. For example, "swagger," "bedroom," "lackluster," and "puppy dog" were all coined by the Bard of Avon.

Shakespeare's Innovation

Shakespeare is known for using literary devices such as genre, plot, and characterization in revolutionary ways to expand on their dramatic potential. He used soliloquies—long speeches by characters spoken to the audience—not only to push along the plot of a play but also to display a character's secret life, such as in "Hamlet" and "Othello."

He also blended genres, which was not traditionally done at the time. For instance, "Romeo and Juliet" is both a romance and a tragedy, and "Much Ado About Nothing" can be called a tragi-comedy.

Shakespearean critics have broken the plays into four categories: tragedies, comedies, histories, and "problem plays." This list contains some of the plays that fall into each category. However, you will find that different lists place some plays into different categories. For example, "The Merchant of Venice" has important elements of both tragedy and comedy, and it is up to the individual reader to decide which outweighs the other.

Shakespearean tragedies are plays with somber themes and dark endings. Tragic conventions used by Shakespeare feature the death and destruction of well-meaning people brought down by either their own fatal flaws or the political machinations of others. Flawed heroes, the fall of a noble person, and the triumph of external pressures such as fate, spirits, or other characters over the hero are featured.

Shakespearean comedies are, on the whole, more light-hearted pieces. The point of these plays may not necessarily be to make the audience laugh, but to think. Comedies feature the clever use of language to create wordplay, metaphors, and smart insults. Love, mistaken identities, and convoluted plots with twisted outcomes are also integral aspects of a Shakespearean comedy.

Despite their category's name, Shakespearean histories are not historically accurate. While the histories are set in Medieval England and explored class systems of that time, Shakespeare was not trying to depict the past authentically. He used historical events as a base but developed his own plot based on prejudices and social commentaries of his time.

Shakespeare's histories are only about English monarchs. Four of his plays: "Richard II, the two plays of "Henry IV," and "Henry V" are called the Henriad, a tetralogy that contains events during the 100 Years War (1377–1453). Meanwhile, "Richard III" and three plays of "Henry VI" explore events during the War of the Roses (1422–1485).

Problem Plays

Shakespeare's so-called "problem plays" are plays that do not fit into any of these three categories. Although most of his tragedies contain comic elements, and most of his comedies have bits of tragedy, the problem plays shift rapidly between truly dark events and comic material.

what other type of writing did shakespeare do

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What Kind of Novels Did Shakespeare Write?

By Daniel Pollack-Pelzner

A portrait believed to be the only one painted of Shakespeare during his lifetime.

In October, the publisher Hogarth rolled out the first in its ambitious new line of Shakespeare plays retold by contemporary novelists. The pairings are promising: Margaret Atwood, a master of ecological dystopias, will reimagine “The Tempest,” for instance, while Gillian Flynn, who knows her way around marriage and murder, will take on “Hamlet.” The début novel in the series is more of a curveball: the versatile Jeanette Winterson’s cover version of Shakespeare’s late puzzler, “The Winter’s Tale.”

According to the Times , Winterson’s publisher was surprised that she passed up “Hamlet,” “Othello,” “King Lear,” and “Macbeth,” and chose instead what the reporter calls “one of Shakespeare’s most baffling, jarring and uneven plays.” The play is a mashup of disparate modes, reflecting the Jacobean taste for tragicomedy. The first three acts spin a vicious web of obsession and betrayal: King Leontes of Sicilia, certain that his wife, Hermione, is sleeping with his best friend, King Polixenes of Bohemia, tears his own world apart—he tries to have Polixenes poisoned, rejects his newborn daughter as a bastard, and puts Hermione on trial for treason, creating such anguish that their son dies; when his wife hears that news, she drops dead as well. Then the figure of Time appears onstage to announce a sixteen-year leap forward. When the story resumes, the banished daughter, Perdita, who has come of age in Bohemia, attracts the affections of Florizel, the disguised son of Polixenes. Can the children’s love heal their parents’ strife? It’s pastoral romance grafted onto royal tragedy, “As You Like It” giving “Othello” a shot at redemption.

What baffles many critics, beyond the juxtaposed genres, is the cause of Leontes’s jealousy. Unlike in “Othello,” there is no Iago to prompt his mistrust. Shakespeare’s play is itself a cover version, adapting an Elizabethan prose romance, by Robert Greene; in the original, Greene gives the king’s worries a slow build: “These and such like doubtful thoughts a long time smothering in his stomach began at last to kindle in his mind a secret mistrust, which, increased by suspicion, grew at last to be a flaming jealousy that so tormented him as he could take no rest.” But Shakespeare sacrifices credibility for dramatic urgency: when Leontes sees Hermione and Polixenes conversing in their first scene, he simply flares up: “Too hot, too hot!”

The play elides causal accounts—it ends with an invitation to provide explanations, but only offstage, where, Leontes says, “we may leisurely / Each one demand an answer to his part / Performed in this wide gap of time.” These missing answers give Jeanette Winterson an opening, and a title for her novel: “The Gap of Time.” As she explains , “This is a play where every motive is hidden somewhere, but just out of reach, dropped in the gaps. Shakespeare doesn’t give us anybody’s backstory.” By filling in those gaps, Winterson turns the play into a deeply psychoanalytic fable, squeezing Leontes next to Oedipus on the therapist’s couch. (“ ‘The Winter’s Tale’ is ‘Othello’ post-Freud,” she writes.) But she also suggests a way to approach the characters that goes beyond the tradition of psychological realism. By moving her own tale toward fantasy, she shifts our understanding of Shakespeare, too, pulling him out of the shadow of the realist novel.

Just as Shakespeare pillaged the novella traditions of France and Italy for his comic plots, novelists have long turned to Shakespeare for inspiration. It’s hard to find the hero of a bildungsroman—from Tom Jones and Pamela through Wilhelm Meister, Pip, Maggie Tulliver, Huck Finn, and Stephen Dedalus—who doesn’t bump into Hamlet (in allusion, performance, or archetype) along the path to maturity. Even Emma Bovary hears “That is the question” quoted, in English, during her romantic agony.

Beyond echoes and appropriations, the first sustained attempt to turn Shakespeare’s plays into long narrative prose—putting aside the short children’s versions in Charles and Mary Lamb’s 1807 “Tales from Shakespeare”—was “The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines,” by Mary Cowden Clarke, a set of novellas published serially, from 1850 to 1852. Although Shakespeare seldom presented childhood as anything more than a brief recollection, Clarke imagined the lives of Shakespeare’s female characters before the plays began. The author of a concordance of Shakespeare's works, Clarke freed Juliet, Ophelia, and Desdemona from the confines of the scripts, providing them with something we seem increasingly to prize: a backstory. Clarke’s girlhood of Lady Macbeth, “The Thane’s Daughter,” reads like a Victorian forerunner to “The Bad Seed,” with a neglected child mangling insects before she grows up to counsel murder—the prequel as case history.

Novelizing Shakespeare thus meant psychologizing his works. One Victorian appraisal of George Eliot claimed that she “might have accomplished the writing out of a Shakespearian drama into a novel,” because she shared Shakespeare’s commitment to “psychological analysis,” to “tracing, stage by stage, the growth in the human mind of evil or of good.” The critic continued by citing what he described as a nineteenth-century commonplace: “if Shakespeare had lived in the Victorian age, he would have written novels.” This assumption shaped Shakespeare criticism as well. If you were assigned any Shakespeare critic in high school, it was probably A. C. Bradley, the Oxford professor of poetry, whose lectures on Shakespearean tragedy were published in 1904 and have remained continuously in print. Bradley analyzed tragedy “from the psychological point of view,” suggesting that readers of “Hamlet” “would understand it better if they read an account of melancholia in a work on mental diseases.” (Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams” had appeared four years earlier.)

In the nineteenth century, “Richard II” was reprinted more often than “King Lear,” and “Coriolanus” went through as many editions as “Othello.” But Bradley considered “Hamlet,” “Othello,” “King Lear,” and “Macbeth” “the four principal tragedies of Shakespeare”—in large part because they proved most receptive to his psychological focus. His ranking has persisted to the present: those were the four plays that Winterson’s publisher expected her to pick first. As in Clarke’s “Girlhood” narratives, Bradley tried to find out what Shakespeare’s characters were like before the plays began—how Hamlet behaved before his father’s death, how Cordelia was affected by growing up with Goneril and Regan as sisters. He wanted to read Shakespeare’s plays as though they were realist novels.

Winterson’s “The Gap of Time” may seem at first to reflect this approach to Shakespeare, as it provides personal histories and motivations that Shakespeare did not bother to explain. King Leontes of Sicilia becomes a present-day Londoner named Leo, the head of the Sicilia hedge fund. He dresses in Hugo Boss, drives a Porsche, and uses a Webcam to spy on his wife, MiMi. After he leverages too many assets, he plops onto the sofa of his analyst, Dr. Wartz, to talk about his mother. And, when he starts to suspect that MiMi might be sleeping with his best friend, Xeno, his mind zips back to their boarding-school days together. Building on Polixenes’s brief mention of his boyhood frolics with Leontes as “twinned lambs that did frisk i’ the sun,” Winterson spins out a blissful, dangerous recollection of Xeno and Leo’s adolescence: nights at the shooting range, daredevil cycling, David Bowie, and sex—with each other. It’s the Gay Boyhood of Shakespeare’s Heroes, the prequel Clarke never wrote. When Leo’s assistant asks, “Are you jealous of him or of her?,” Leo shoots back, “Spare me the TV psychoanalysis.” Repression is basically a confession.

But Winterson finds the principles of psychoanalysis at play in fantasy as well as realism. The fullest articulation of Freudian theory in the novel comes from one of its most outlandish characters: Autolycus, the loquacious peddler-cum-pickpocket in Shakespeare’s version, reimagined as a used-car shyster at Autos Like Us (“A wheeler-dealer. A dealer in wheels”). In the Louisiana idyll of New Bohemia, he hawks a DeLorean to take a customer back to the future, and dizzies him with an account of the Oedipus complex: “Biggest theory in psychoanalysis and the western world.” Winterson’s precursor here seems less A. C. Bradley’s psychological reading of “Hamlet”—let alone George Eliot’s patient Shakespearean tracing of the growth of a mind—than Salman Rushdie’s pyrotechnic story “Yorick,” which rewrites “Hamlet” as the offspring of Freud and the digressive narrator of “Tristram Shandy.” In Rushdie’s spoof, a vellum manuscript reveals that the young prince, agitated at the sight of his parents in bed, had enlisted the jester Yorick to poison his father: the primal scene engenders the Oedipus complex, with “velluminous” puns along the way.

Rushdie, as he writes in his memoir “Joseph Anton,” wanted to reroute the current of the British novel away from psychological realism—the Cambridge critic F. R. Leavis’s austere “Great Tradition” of Austen, Eliot, and James—and let it flow instead through Sterne, Dickens, and Joyce, experimental stylists who, as Rushdie puts it, “understood the unreality of ‘reality.’ ” He grouped in writers outside Britain such as Günter Grass, Gabriel García Márquez, and G. V. Desani to form a “rival ‘Great Tradition’ ” that pushed the boundaries of what language could represent in the novel. The story “Yorick,” in Rushdie’s collection “East, West,” fuelled his project: Shakespeare could spur a clever, savage “Cock-and-Bull” lark just as well as he could inspire sober interiority of the Eliot variety—and a writer from Muslim Bombay could play that Shakespeherian rag as shrewdly as any Cambridge don.

You could see Winterson, at times a fabulist and a dazzling stylist, enter this rival tradition, too. (A bit in “The Gap of Time” about HollyPollyMolly, triplet foundlings from Guangzhou who sing “Hillbilly Soul Banjo” in a girl group called the Separations, nearly plays like the Rushdie parody.) The main section of her novel opens in the manner of a modern fairy tale: “There was a man lived in an airport.” And its conclusion offers a rather utopian vision of millennial London harmony: where Shakespeare’s Leontes pairs off his adviser Paulina with another courtier, Winterson’s Pauline, an educated German-Jewish émigrée, gets together with Shep, a black Pentecostal piano player from New Bohemia, while Shep’s Indian son heads off with Leo’s transgender receptionist.

As these couplings indicate, Winterson is playing with Shakespeare’s genders as well as his genres. (Virginia Woolf’s androgynous games with “As You Like It” in her mock biography, “Orlando,” also published by Hogarth, could be another touchstone.) Within the novel, “The Gap of Time” refers to a computer game that Xeno designs to move beyond the typical macho gaming fare of “cars, fights, theft, risk, girls and reward.” In Xeno’s game, the goal is to outwit androgynous angels by finding a lost baby girl before time runs out. It’s not quite Grand Theft Auto V, but it is the plot of “The Winter’s Tale,” which redeems time by recovering the lost daughter, Perdita. Winterson, an adopted child herself, writes in the epilogue that the play has been a “private text” for her experience as a foundling, especially in its final movement toward forgiveness. “The female principle saves the play from the usual consequences of male rage,” she notes. Fusing pastoral romance with royal tragedy isn’t a clumsy move on Shakespeare’s part: it’s a strategy for recuperation. In “Othello,” Desdemona can’t be saved, but, in “The Winter’s Tale,” Perdita’s return brings her mother, Hermione, back to life. Swerving away from Greene’s romance, the end of “The Winter’s Tale” is one of the most magical and incredible scenes in Shakespeare. “It is required / you do awake your faith,” Paulina tells Leontes, cuing music that turns a stone statue of Hermione back to moving flesh. Can art compensate for loss? the play asks. Perhaps, if faith can replace suspicion and if a king will believe the women around him.

Winterson downplays the resurrection scene in “The Gap of Time.” MiMi returns from exile in Paris and, “standing like a statue in the light,” croons a song called “Perdita” for her daughter, while Xeno puts his arm around Leo. But Winterson’s real magic comes less from her plot than from her lyrical swoops: “They watched the plane rise from the runway like an impossible bird.” “I lift out the baby and she’s light as a star.” Even the Oedipus complex, Autolycus admits, is ultimately “a metaphor.” Adopted into a strict evangelical community, Winterson presents a fallen world—angels literally crash to earth, at least in Xeno’s computer game—where a poetic marriage of realism and fantasy offers the best hope for redemption. Looking through the lens of the nineteenth-century psychological novel, A. C. Bradley had trouble seeing past “Hamlet,” “Othello,” “King Lear,” and “Macbeth.” Bringing a set of bifocals—psychological and poetic, realistic and fabulous—Winterson suggests that the gaps in “The Winter’s Tale” deserve our attention, too.

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what other type of writing did shakespeare do

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William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare is one of the most famous English playwright, poets, and actors. He is viewed as the supreme writer in English literature and the greatest dramatist of the world. He is also called as the national poet of England and the “Bard of Avon.” He has written 154 sonnets, few other verses, two long narrative poems, and 39 plays. Shakespeare’s plays are translated into almost every major language of the world and are performed on stage to date.

A Short Biography of William Shakespeare

London theater, william shakespeare’s writing style.

Wherein you dress’d yourself? Hath it slept since?

The punctuation that Shakespeare used at the end of the lines in his early works strengthened the rhyme. This form of blank verse was used by him, along with other contemporary dramatists and playwrights, in dialogues between the characters to uplift the poetry. He used rhyme couplet to end his scenes in the play, therefore created suspense. A well-known example of this form occurs in the play Macbeth when Macbeth leaves the stage to kill Duncan.

Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell

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Similarities to Contemporary Playwrights

Though Shakespeare has a traditional style that was commonly used in his time, his general style is also compared to his contemporary writers. Shakespeare plays have lots of resemblances to the pays of Christopher Marlowe. It seems that Marlowe’s Queen’s Men have a strong influence on Shakespeare in writing his historical plays. His writing style is also compared to the other playwrights like John Fletcher and Francis Beaumont.

Differences from Contemporary Playwrights

Works of william shakespeare.


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    what other type of writing did shakespeare do

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  1. Shakespeare's writing style

    Shakespeare's standard poetic form was blank verse, composed in iambic pentameter with clever use of puns and imagery. In practice, this meant that his verse was usually unrhymed and consisted of ten syllables to a line, spoken with a stress on every second syllable. The blank verse of his early plays is quite different from that of his later ones.

  2. William Shakespeare

    William Shakespeare, Shakespeare also spelled Shakspere, byname Bard of Avon or Swan of Avon, (baptized April 26, 1564, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England—died April 23, 1616, Stratford-upon-Avon), English poet, dramatist, and actor often called the English national poet and considered by many to be the greatest dramatist of all time.

  3. What Types of Plays Did Shakespeare Write?

    Shakespeare heavily influenced literature, theater, poetry, and even the English language. Many English words used in today's lexicon are attributed to Shakespeare's pen. For example, "swagger," "bedroom," "lackluster," and "puppy dog" were all coined by the Bard of Avon. Shakespeare's Innovation

  4. What Did Shakespeare Write Besides Plays?

    William Shakespeare is known most for his playwriting, but he also wrote 154 sonnets as well as a number of other poems. Born in 1564, Shakespeare is considered by many the greatest dramatist of all time. Little is known about Shakespeare’s upbringing or why he became a playwright and a poet.

  5. What Kind of Novels Did Shakespeare Write?

    But Bradley considered “Hamlet,” “Othello,” “King Lear,” and “Macbeth” “the four principal tragedies of Shakespeare”—in large part because they proved most receptive to his ...

  6. William Shakespeare's Writing Style and Short Biography

    William Shakespeare is one of the most famous English playwright, poets, and actors. He is viewed as the supreme writer in English literature and the greatest dramatist of the world. He is also called as the national poet of England and the “Bard of Avon.” He has written 154 sonnets, few other verses, two long narrative poems, and 39 plays.