The most important thing to remember as you read, study, or watch one of Shakespeare's plays is that they were not written to be read. The plays were meant to be watched and enjoyed as entertainment. Shakespeare never intended for his works to be read and dissected as works of literature. The men and women who attended the first performances of his plays were generally not wealthy and privileged. They stood on the ground to watch the action, often yelling at the actors and sometimes even throwing things at the stage. The plays were acted out in daylight in an open air theatre, which created a much more intimate atmosphere than today's performances. Shakespeare's plays are full of bawdy jokes, gratuitous violence, and romance, just like the movies of today.
William Shakespeare, playwright, poet, actor, husband, and father, was baptized on April 26, 1564 in Stratford. His parents were John, a tanner and glover, and Mary, the daughter of gentleman Robert Arden. John Shakespeare later went on to become a town bailiff.
William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway on November 28, 1582 and their daughter Susanna was born five months later (scandal in the village!). Their twins, Hamnet and Judith, were christened eighteen months later. Hamnet died in 1596 when he was eleven years old.
Shakespeare traveled to London to try his fortunes at acting. His acting company, with its leading man Richard Burbage, was popular and successful enough to eventually become the King's Men. He returned to Stratford in 1609 to the life of a prosperous country gentleman. He died on April 23, 1616. On his tombstone is carved:
Good Friend, for Jesus' sake, forbear
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blest be the man that spares these bones
And curst be he who moves my bones.