On this day in 1582, William Shakespeare, 18, and Anne Hathaway, 26, pay a 40-pound bond for their marriage license in Stratford-upon-Avon. Six months later, Anne gives birth to their daughter, Susanna, and two years later, to twins. Little is known about Shakespeare’s early life. His father was a tradesman who became an alderman and bailiff, and Shakespeare was baptized in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 26, 1564. Sometime after the birth of his own children, Shakespeare set off for London to become an actor and by 1592 was well established in London’s theatrical world as an actor and playwright. His earliest plays, including The Comedy of Errors and The Taming of the Shrew, were written in the early 1590s. Later in the decade, he wrote tragedies like Romeo and Juliet (1594-1595) and comedies including The Merchant of Venice (1596-1597). His greatest tragedies were written after 1600, including Hamlet (1600-01), Othello (1604-05), King Lear (1605-06), and Macbeth (1605-1606). Shakespeare became a member of the popular theater troupe the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, which later became the King’s Men.
The group built and operated the famous Globe Theater in London in 1599. Shakespeare became a major shareholder in the troupe and earned enough money to buy a large house in Stratford in 1597. He retired to Stratford in 1610, where he wrote his last plays, including The Tempest (1611) and The Winter’s Tale (1610-11). Meanwhile, he had written more than 100 sonnets, which were published in 1609. Shakespeare’s plays were not published during his lifetime. After his death, two members of his troupe collected copies of his plays and printed what is now called the First Folio (1623).