William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-on-Avon in 1564. As a boy he attended the local grammar school. Shakespeare's family were fairly poor, so he was forced to leave school at an early age to find work. When he was eighteen William married Anne Hathaway. By the time William was 21 he was the father of three children.
In 1588 Shakespeare disappeared to London. Rumours at the time suggested that he had run away from Stratford after being accused of deer-poaching. If caught, Shakespeare was in danger of being executed.
As a child, Shakespeare had seen plays performed in Stratford by strolling players. This had given him the idea of becoming an actor, and soon after arriving in London he found work at the Swan Theatre.
As well as acting, Shakespeare also began to write plays. His first play, Henry VI, was performed in 1592. In the next eleven years twenty-three of Shakespeare's plays were performed in London. These included Richard III, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, King Lear, Macbeth, and Julius Caesar.
Shakespeare wrote comedies, tragedies and history plays. He usually directed his own plays, and in some cases, even acted in them. His plays were popular with the public. The large audiences that his plays attracted enabled his theatre group to build a larger theatre called the Globe.
Shakespeare's plays were also popular with the royal family. Shakespeare's group performed several of his plays in front of Elizabeth I . It is believed that Elizabeth suggested the subjects of several of the plays that he wrote.
James I also liked Shakespeare's plays. He showed his approval by allowing Shakespeare's theatre company to call themselves the King's Men.
As the writer of the plays performed at the Globe, Shakespeare received a share of the theatre's profits. By 1605 he was rich enough to retire to Stratford where he died in 1616.