British Library Treasures in full: Shakespeare in quarto
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Print A brief history of William Shakespeare's life

Beyond the records of his baptism in 1564 and his burial in 1616 there is little documentary evidence for William Shakespeare’s life, although there are many unverifiable stories and anecdotes. Even the traditional date for his birth, St George’s Day, 23 April, is uncertain. What evidence there is connects him firmly to Stratford-upon-Avon, where he was born, married, and died. Nothing is known of Shakespeare’s early life before his marriage, at the age of 18, in 1582. For five years, when he was in his 20s, there is nothing to tell us where Shakespeare was or what he was doing. He disappears from Stratford records after 1587, and reappears only in 1592 in London.

We do not know how and when he became an actor, or when he began writing plays either in collaboration with other dramatists or alone. His work as a dramatist is recorded through his published plays, but his career as an actor is virtually undocumented. Shakespeare is mentioned occasionally, in official records, in the records of the lives of his relations and friends, and in the writings of his fellow actors and dramatists, and that is all. His life and career have been more extensively researched than those of any other writer, but the evidence remains elusive.

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Shakespeare's life in Stratford-upon-Avon 1. Stratford-upon-Avon
Shakespeare's life in London 2. London

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