Wikicommons / Public Domain
  • Faith: Christian - Catholic
  • Career: Actor
  • Birthday:  April 26, 1564

William Shakespeare was a poet, playwright, and actor and is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He’s often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon,” or simply “the Bard.” His surviving works, including collaborations, consist of some 39 plays, 154 sonnets, three long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and performed more often than those of any other playwright. He remains arguably the most influential writer in the English language, and his works continue to be reinterpreted and studied.

Shakespeare was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. When he was 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna and twins Hamnet and Judith. Sometime between 1585 and 1592, Shakespeare started a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part-owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later known as the King’s Men after the ascension of King James VI of Scotland to the English throne. Around 1613, when he was 49 years old, Shakespeare appears to have retired to Stratford, where he died three years later.

Few records of Shakespeare’s private life survive, which has stimulated considerable speculation about matters like his sexuality, physical appearance, religious beliefs, and even certain fringe theories as to whether others wrote the works attributed to him. Shakespeare produced most of his known works between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were primarily comedies and histories and are regarded as some of his best works produced in these genres. He then wrote mainly tragedies until 1608, among them “Hamlet,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Othello,” “King Lear,” and “Macbeth,” all considered to be among the finest works in the English language. In the final phase of his life, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances and collaborated with other playwrights.

Many of Shakespeare’s plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime. However, in 1623, John Heminges and Henry Condell, two fellow actors and friends of Shakespeare’s, published a more definitive text known as the First Folio, a posthumous collected edition of Shakespeare’s dramatic works that includes 36 of his plays. Its preface was a visionary poem by Ben Jonson, a former rival of Shakespeare that hailed him with the now famous epithet: “not of an age, but for all time.”

What religion was William Shakespeare?

Shakespeare conformed to the official state religion, but his private views on religion have been the subject of debate. His will uses a Protestant formula, and he was a confirmed member of the Church of England, where he was married, his children were baptized, and he’s buried. Some scholars believe that members of Shakespeare’s family were Catholics at a time when practicing Catholicism in England was against the law.

His mother, Mary Arden, came from a pious Catholic family. The most substantial evidence might be a Catholic statement of faith signed by his father, John, found in 1757 in the rafters of his former home on Henly Street. However, the document is now lost, and scholars differ in its authenticity. Scholars find evidence both for and against Shakespeare’s Protestantism, Catholicism, or lack of belief in his plays, but the truth may be impossible to prove.

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