William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language. He was born and raised in Stratford upon Avon. At the age of 16, he married Anne Hathaway, who bore him three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, later known as the King's Men. He appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare's private life survive, and there has been considerable speculation about such matters as his religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others. However, whether he is single man or many, he is a legend among storytellers.
Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613. He is author to an impressive 38 plays, 154 sonnets, and two long narrative poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. His early plays were primarily comedies and histories, genres he raised to the peak of sophistication by the end of the sixteenth century.
Whereas most writers are only known for a particular style or genre, Shakespeare is a master of many. His literary genius covers all aspects of human nature such as love, jealousy, greed, revenge, lust, and family. Most prominently, numerous characters in Shakespeare's plays have an infatuation with the nature of life and death; what it all means, and what happens to the soul upon death. It is in this way that Shakespearean plays such as Romeo and Juliet, Othello, and Hamlet can be applied to contemporary theatre because the themes in question are in fact modern ideas. In an essay titled "Falling in Love: The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet," John F. Andrews sums up the experience of viewing or reading Shakespeare's works "as one that takes place, not in the characters of a dramatic work, but in the audience that participates vicariously in those characters' thoughts, emotions, and interchanges." Although Shakespeare's plays were written 400 years ago, the ideas expressed by the characters, as well as by the character's actions, are timeless. After all, no matter how advanced humans may become, our basest senses, our human nature, will always remain.