William Shakespeare was born in April 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, on England’s Avon River. When he was eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway. The couple had three children—their older daughter Susanna and the twins Judith and Hamnet. Hamnet, Shakespeare’s only son, died in childhood.
The bulk of Shakespeare’s working life was spent, not in Stratford, but in the theater world of London, where he established himself professionally by the early 1590s. He enjoyed success not only as a playwright, but as an actor and shareholder in an acting company. Sometime between 1610 and 1613, Shakespeare is thought to have retired from the stage and returned home to Stratford, where he died in 1616.
Only two images of Shakespeare are considered reliable likenesses: the Martin Droeshout engraving in the 1623 First Folio, and Shakespeare’s memorial bust at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. The Paster Reading Room at the Folger Shakespeare Library includes a replica of that bust.
Stratford Beginnings | Success in London | The Final Years | An Expansive Age | Shakespeare's Story
More information on Shakespeare's life, theater, and works can be found in the Shakespeare Links section.