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It was in April of 1564, ten years into the reign of Mary, Queen
of Scotts, and four years before the reign of Elizabeth I began,
that William Shakespeare was born into a middle-class family in
the small town of Stratford-upon-Avon, about 100 miles
northwest of London.
His father, John Shakespeare, was a leather goods maker and
dealer. His mother, Mary Arden Shakespeare, was the
daughter of a prominent area farmer.
In November of 1582, at the age of 18, Shakespeare married
Ann Hathaway. They had three children, Susanna and twins
Hamnet and Judith. When the twins were 11, Hamnet, his only
Shakespeare left Stratford to make his fortune in the London
theater, becoming a leading playwright within a few years. In
1612, he partially retired to Stratford.
The reign of Elizabeth I, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne
Boleyn, was the longest of any Renaissance monarch.
Elizabeth's reign was marked by new heights of world affairs,
art, literature and music. Shakespeare himself would contribute
to that reputation.
The plays he wrote 300 years ago are still a vital part of the
theater and an influence on world culture.
William Shakespeare (far left) with location of
Stratford-upon-Avon (below right), Shakespeare's
birthplace in typical half-tembered structure (left), Ann
Hathaway's cottage (above) with thatched roof, and the
bridge across the River Avon (top).