The Bard - William Shakespeare
Of all the famous English writers, probably the best known is William Shakespeare.
He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564 on April the 23rd. His father was an important man in town so Shakespeare had a good upbringing. Shakespeare probably went to school (although no records survive to prove this) but not university. He got married when he was 18 to Anne Hathaway and the couple had 3 children.
Shakespeare wrote 38 plays and 154 sonnets (a sonnet is a kind of poem). He began working in his home town of Stratford but by 1592 was writing in London. He became rich enough to buy a house in the capital and one in Stratford.
He wrote sad stories called tragedies, like Romeo and Juliet, funny stories or comedies, romantic stories and stories about historical figures such as Julius Caesar.
Shakespeare died on his birthday in 1616, almost 400 years ago. But why is his work still popular today?
His work looked at common human themes, such as betrayal, murder, lust, power, ambition and love. These themes are as much a part of human nature today as they were all those years ago and are the themes we see in modern soap operas and Hollywood films. Even though his theatre, The Globe, burned down in 1613 it was rebuilt in London in 1997 and you can still see his plays performed there today.
Shakespeare's influence on the English language can still be felt today. We talk about "fair play", meaning honest behaviour but this phrase was first used by Shakespeare. He coined the phrase "you can have too much of a good thing". And it was Shakespeare who came up with the expression to disappear "into thin air" which we still use today when we lose something.
Shakespeare’s work has been translated into every major language in the world. And perhaps we'll still be as fascinated by his work 400 years from now as we've been for almost the last 400.