Being Shakespeare’s birthday, or is it, (more later) I thought I would write interesting notes about him.
Shakespeare was a “Gentleman” as his father John, who came to Stratford upon Avon from Snitterfield, as an apprentice glover and tanner of leathers, had prospered and been elected to a multitude of civic positions. He initially applied unsuccessfully for a Coat of Arms that would allow him to become a gentleman. William then took him to the College of Arms and secured the family coat of arms (shown above). It cost 30 guineas (£7,000 today) and was granted in October 1596.
It was granted to John Shakespeare due to his grandfather’s service to Henry VII.
Once granted he and his male children had permission to put “gentleman” after their names and display their coat of arms on their door and personal items.
We celebrate his birthday on 23rd April 1564, but is it the right date? I ask the question as he was born under the old Julian calendar, and under the Gregorian calendar that we use today, it would have been May 3rd!
Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway when he was 18, she was 26 and three months pregnant with his child, who was born six months after the wedding!
He left Stratford upon Avon and went to London in the late 1580s to become an actor and writer, performing many of his own plays and those of other playwrights.
He was also a brilliant businessman. You could call him the Andrew Lloyd Webber of his time.
He formed a company with his actors that gave him a share in the company’s profits, while also allowing him to earn a fee for each play he wrote.
He lived a double life. In London, the famous playwright, while in Stratford upon Avon, a well-known and highly respected businessman and property owner.
He performed before both Queen Elizabeth I and James I, who became an enthusiastic patron of his work.
King James I made the actors of Shakespeare’s company ‘Grooms of Chamber’, allowing Shakespeare to change their name from the ‘Lord Chamberlain’s Men’ to the ‘King’s Men’.
Shakespeare died on his birthday and in his will he only left his wife his second best bed and the bedclothes!
In those days Copyright didn’t exist and people traded copied plays. To get around this, actors got their lines only as the play was in progress! Someone backstage would whisper the lines to the actor just before he had to deliver them.
His plays were never published during his lifetime. Two actors John Hemminges and Henry Condell somehow recorded and published 36 of them posthumously under the name ‘The First Folio’.