“What’s in a name? Would not a rose by any other name smell as sweet?” William Shakespeare, a name we have all heard at some point, but who is he? William Shakespeare, the man who has influenced our culture through his various literary works. What is the truth behind the brilliant man whom penned the renowned words filling the pages of the ever significant Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, or The Tempest?
William Shakespeare was born William Shakspere. Aside from contemporary and popular belief, it is a common misconception that his last name included the “e” after the “k” and the “a” after the “pe”. Spelling was incredibly disorganized during the Elizabethan time period (Whalen 31). Families could have the same last name, but their family name would vary depending upon how the writer thought it should have been spelled.
It is also speculated that Shakespeare was a fabricated pseudonym, because approximately half of the time Shakespeare was hyphenated and written as Shake-speare (Whalen 32). His last name is just yet another part of the mystery shrouding this extraordinary playwright.
Will Shakspere was the son of John Shakspere and Mary Arden. It is unknown the specific date of his birth, but he was born in the town Stratford-upon-Avon supposedly on the 23rd of April in 1564, St. George’s Day and the date of his death fifty-two years later. St. George’s Day, a commemoration which occurred on April 23rd, was a magnificent day of feast celebrating the patron saint of England. Due to the proximity of his birth date, historians have used that day to mark an approximate day of William’s birth. Disappointingly, there has been no birth certificate ever found. On April 26, 1564, William was baptized in the great church of Holy Trinity in Stratford-upon-Avon. Fortunately, documentation has been found to prove the validity of the date of his baptism.
William’s parents, John Shakspere and Mary Arden, were married in 1557. John was a leather worker, a glove maker, and an alderman of Stratford. Mary was the daughter of a wealthy land owner named Robert Arden of Wilmecote. The young couple would have suffered through an immense amount of resistance to their courtship due to her nobility and his working class status. Mary’s father, in all likelihood, would not have approved of their marriage, but Robert passed away in 1556. After a year of bereavement, out of respect for her father, at the youthful ages of twenty-six and seventeen, John and Mary were married. It is widely accepted that both of William’s parents were uneducated and illiterate.
William Shakespeare had a rather substantial family. He was the third-born child of his parent’s eight children. His parents, John and Mary, had their first child Joan in 1558. Joan passed away at the age, untimely and unfortunate, of two months. Her cause of death was the “Black Death” Bubonic Plague, a plague that was extremely prevalent in the Elizabethan era. Known for its exceptionally high...