Life and times

We know more about Shakespeare's life than any other Elizabethan writer or in fact anyone living at that time except royal courtiers.

For centuries scholars have hunted through surviving documents for information about his life. They have unearthed references to him in local parish, court, tax and church records, property documents, inventories, wills, surviving letters from friends and associates, and published comments by other writers of his time. We have a fairly solid outline of his life.

However, what we are left to wonder about are his feelings and his motives.
Was his marriage a happy one?
Why did he write the sonnets?
Why did he go to London?
What personal experiences inspired such plays as King Lear and Hamlet?

We can only speculate about these and so many other questions, using what facts there are and the precious evidence of the plays and poems.

Download our brief story of Shakespeare's life, combining fact with theory. Follow him from his birth through his school years, early marriage, the theatre years in London to his return home to Stratford. This document is designed as a resource for teachers which can be adapted to use with your students.

Shakespeare's Life (PDF 271KB) »

Useful links

Want to learn more about Shakespeare's life and times? Here's our selection of recommended websites:

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
This website offers detailed information about Shakespeare's life, illustrated by some images from their extensive archives:

Folger Shakespeare Library
This facility in the USA holds a wide range of Shakespeare archives and resources, with plenty information about Shakespeare's life available online:

The Willow Cabin
This site was created by an American actor/academic and offers information about Shakespeare's life illustrated with some large images:

This website for visitors and local businesses describes Shakespeare's life with some watercolour images:

BBC Radio 4
Listen to this episode of In Our Time, broadcast in 2001, to hear Melvyn Bragg investigating what we know about the life of Shakespeare:


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Teaching Shakespeare