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Happy birthday to the Bard

Updated: May 11, 2022

A painting of William Shakespeare with his head resting on his left hand.
William Shakespeare (April 1564 - 1616) was an English poet and playwright.

Throughout the world, Shakespeare is generally regarded as the greatest writer in the English language, as well as being one of the world’s most famous dramatist.

It is believed he was born on or around 23rd April and the date of his birthday is commemorated.

In 2016, The School of English at Notting Hill College UK is celebrating 400 years of a wonderful Shakespeare-filled world, starting with a special BBC TV documentary this Saturday, which marks the beginning of a run of his most well-known plays, newly recreated for a modern audience.

Likewise, theatres around the country and, indeed, the globe, will perform their own versions of Shakespeare’s much-loved works, from the tragedy of 'Hamlet' to the comic fantasy of 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream'.

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in the 16th century. The pure facts of his life, known from limited surviving documents, are sparse.

He was one of eight children born to John Shakespeare, a merchant of some standing in his community. Historians suggest the young William probably went to the King’s New School in Stratford, but he had no university education, something which comes as a surprise to many of his fans! Clearly, his incredible use of imagery, rhymed verse and powerful, philosophical vocabulary were either self-taught, or a gift from God.

In November 1582, at the age of eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway, eight years his senior, who was pregnant with their first child, Susanna. She was born on May 26, 1583. Twins, a boy, Hamnet (who would die at age eleven), and a girl, Judith, were born in 1585.

By 1592 Shakespeare had travelled to London and began working as an actor – in fact, by this point, he was already known as a playwright. A rival dramatist, Robert Greene, referred to him as “an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers.” Professional rivalry is certainly not just a modern concept!

Shakespeare became a principal shareholder and playwright of the successful acting 'troupe', the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (later under James I, called the King’ s Men). In 1599 the Lord Chamberlain’s Men built and occupied the Globe Theatre in Southwark near the Thames River. Here many of Shakespeare’s plays were performed by the most famous actors of his time, including Richard Burbage, Will Kempe and Robert Armin.

In addition to his 37 plays, Shakespeare may have contributed to others, including Sir Thomas More and The Two Noble Kinsmen, and he wrote many spectacular and beautiful poems, including Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. His most famous poetry, the 154 sonnets, were published, probably without his authorization, in 1609.

In 1611 or 1612 he gave up his lodgings in London and devoted more and more time to retirement in Stratford, though he continued writing such plays as The Tempest and Henry VII until about 1613.

He died on April 23, 1616, and was buried in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford. No collected edition of his plays was published during his lifetime, but in 1623 two members of his acting company, John Heminges and Henry Condell, put together the great collection now called the First Folio.

William Shakespeare is often called England’s national poet and the 'Bard of Avon' A bard, we can say, is a mixture of poet, philosopher and truthteller. It is perhaps the key reason as to why he is still, all over the world, regarded as a 'genius'.

His surviving works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems and several other poems.

We at Notting Hill College School of English hope you join us in celebration of a truly remarkable talent, a man who changed the way we think about love, life, religion, society, history, politics... everything, in fact!

Happy birthday to the Bard. Our enthusiasm for all things English language must be apparent by this point... Do you share the same attitude? If you have always dreamed of a career involving the most popular language in the world, perhaps a career teaching English as a foreign language is perfect for you. Visit Notting Hill College online and find out how to become a TEFL teacher in the UK.


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