William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English poet and playwright now widely regarded as the greatest writer of the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. His surviving works include at least 38 plays, two long narrative poems, 154 sonnets, and a variety of other poems. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon" (or simply "The Bard"). He is the world's most performed playwright, and his works have been translated into every major living language.
Shakespeare was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon, and at the age of 18 married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Sometime between 1585 and 1592 Shakespeare moved to London, where he found success as an actor, writer, and part-owner of the playing company the Lord Chamberlain's Men (later known as the King's Men). Shakespeare appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613, and died there three years later. Few records survive concerning Shakespeare's private life, and considerable speculation has been poured into this void, including questions about his sexuality, religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were actually written by others.
Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1590 and 1612. He is one of the few playwrights of the time considered to have excelled in both tragedy and comedy, and many of his dramas, including Macbeth, Hamlet and King Lear, are ranked among the greatest plays of Western literature. Shakespeare greatly influenced subsequent theatre and literature through his innovative use of plot, language, and genre. He ultimately influenced the English language itself, and many of his quotations and neologisms are in everyday use. Among literary and dramatic critics, Shakespeare is probably best known for creating realistic characters, capable of expressing the full range of human experience, in an era when dramatic characters were either flat or merely archetypes. Even villains such as Macbeth and Shylock could elicit understanding — if not sympathy — because they were portrayed as recognizably flawed human beings.
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