William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare is the greatest and most famous writer in the English language. He is often called 'the father of modern English', because he made up many words and phrases that have been used ever since—words like 'lonely' and phrases like 'catch cold' and 'fair play'. He was born in England in 1564 and died in 1616.

Shakespeare wrote many plays and poems. He is often called The Bard—an old word for a poet. Most of his poems are sonnets, and each of his plays is partly written in poetry. He wrote about 38 plays and 154 sonnets.

Shakespeare's writings are considered not only the greatest in the English language, but among the finest in all of world literature. His plays have been translated into many languages, and are still performed today all around the world. What makes his writing stand out, apart from his stories, is the rich language he uses and the understanding he shows for people and their lives.

Not a lot is known about Shakespeare's life. His boyhood was spent in Stratford, a town in northern England, and his working life was spent in London—firstly, it would seem, as an actor, and then as a playwright.

Did you know?

Shakespeare was still alive when the King James Bible was being written. This version of the Bible was published in 1611. Shakespeare turned 46 in 1610, while the King James Bible was being written, and it is said that the writers honoured Shakespeare by adding a reference to him in their translation. In Psalm 46, if you count 46 words in you come to the word 'shake'. If you count 46 words from the end (leaving out the word 'Selah' at the end) you come to the word 'spear'.

Works by William Shakespeare

Currently available from Books for Learning is Shakespeare's famous story The Tempest, adapted by Charles and Mary Lamb.

These are the plays by Shakespeare:

  • All's Well That Ends Well
  • Antony and Cleopatra
  • As You Like It
  • Comedy of Errors, The
  • Coriolanus
  • Cymbeline
  • Hamlet
  • Henry IV, part 1
  • Henry IV, part 2
  • Henry V
  • Henry VI, part 1
  • Henry VI, part 2
  • Henry VI, part 3
  • Henry VIII
  • Julius Caesar
  • King John
  • King Lear
  • Love's Labour's Lost
  • Macbeth
  • Measure for Measure
  • Merchant of Venice, The
  • Merry Wives of Windsor, The
  • Midsummer Night's Dream, A
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • Othello
  • Pericles, Prince of Tyre
  • Richard II
  • Richard III
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Taming of the Shrew
  • Tempest, The
  • Timon of Athens
  • Titus Andronicus
  • Troilus and Cressida
  • Two Gentlemen of Verona, The
  • Two Noble Kinsmen, The
  • Twelfth Night, or What You Will
  • Winter's Tale, The

These are the poems by Shakespeare:

  • Lover's Complaint, A
  • Passionate Pilgrim, The
  • Phoenix and the Turtle, The
  • Rape of Lucrece, The
  • Sonnets
  • Venus and Adonis