Introduction to William Shakespeare

Table of Contents


William Shakespeare, often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon", was an English playwright, poet, and actor. He is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist.

Early Life

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England, in April 1564. He was the third child of John Shakespeare, a successful glover and alderman from Snitterfield, and Mary Arden, the daughter of an affluent landowning farmer.

Shakespeare likely attended the King Edward VI Grammar School in Stratford, where he would have studied Latin grammar and literature. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith.


Shakespeare's works are divided into four main categories: tragedies, comedies, histories, and poetry.

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Considered one of Shakespeare's greatest works, Hamlet is a tragedy that explores themes of revenge, madness, and moral corruption.


Othello is a tragedy revolving around the Moorish general Othello, his wife Desdemona, and his ensign Iago. It explores themes of jealousy, race, and betrayal.

King Lear

King Lear is a tragedy that tells the story of an aging king who decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters, leading to betrayal, madness, and ultimately, reconciliation.


Macbeth is a tragedy about a Scottish general who receives a prophecy from three witches that he will become king. Consumed by ambition and encouraged by his wife, Macbeth murders King Duncan and takes the throne, leading to his own downfall.

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately reconcile their feuding families.



A Midsummer Night's Dream

A romantic comedy that portrays the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of amateur actors who are controlled and manipulated by the fairies who inhabit the forest.

Much Ado About Nothing

A comedy that revolves around the relationships of the characters, Benedick and Beatrice, and Claudio and Hero.

As You Like It

A comedy that follows its heroine Rosalind as she flees persecution in her uncle's court, accompanied by her cousin Celia to find safety and, eventually, love, in the Forest of Arden.

Twelfth Night

A comedy that features mistaken identity, gender confusion, love, and disguise.

The Tempest

The Tempest is a play about a magician, Prospero, who was exiled to a remote island and plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place using illusion and skillful manipulation.


Richard III

Richard III is a historical play that depicts the Machiavellian rise to power and subsequent short reign of Richard III of England.

Henry IV, Part 1 & 2

Henry IV, Part 1 & 2, depict the troubled reign of King Henry IV of England and the civil unrest that accompanied it.

Henry V

Henry V is a history play by William Shakespeare that tells the story of King Henry V of England, focusing on events immediately before and after the Battle of Agincourt (1415) during the Hundred Years' War.

Richard II

Richard II is a history play by William Shakespeare that follows King Richard II's dramatic fall from power and the rise of Henry Bolingbroke.



Shakespeare's sonnets are a collection of 154 poems that deal with themes such as love, beauty, politics, and mortality.

Venus and Adonis

Venus and Adonis is a narrative poem that tells the story of Venus, the goddess of love, and her unrequited love for the beautiful youth Adonis.

The Rape of Lucrece

The Rape of Lucrece is a narrative poem that retells the story of the Roman noblewoman Lucretia's rape by the son of the king of Rome.

The Phoenix and the Turtle

The Phoenix and the Turtle is an allegorical poem that explores the nature of love and the relationship between the Phoenix and the Turtle.


Shakespeare's work has had a profound and lasting impact on literature, theater, and the English language. His plays continue to be performed more often than those of any other playwright and have been translated into every major living language. His work also explored complex themes such as love, power, jealousy, and betrayal, making it relevant to audiences across centuries.

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