William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 (baptised) – 23 April 1616) was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as both the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His extant works, including collaborations, consist of approximately 39 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.
Shakespeare was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna and twins Hamnet and Judith. Sometime 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. At age 49 (around 1613), he appears to have retired to Stratford, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare's private life survive; this has stimulated considerable speculation about such matters as his physical appearance, his sexuality, his religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others. Such theories are often criticised for failing to adequately note the fact that few records survive of most commoners of the period.
Shakespeare's sonnets, or simply The Sonnets comprise a collection of 154 poems in sonnet form written by William Shakespeare that deal with such themes as love, beauty, politics, and mortality. The poems were probably written over a period of several years. All but two first appeared in a 1609 collection; numbers 138 ("When my love swears that she is made of truth") and 144 ("Two loves have I, of comfort and despair") had previously been published in a 1599 miscellany entitled The Passionate Pilgrim.
The Sonnets were published under conditions that have become unclear to history. For example, there is a mysterious dedication at the beginning of the text wherein a certain "Mr. W.H." is described as "the only begetter" of the poems by the publisher Thomas Thorpe, but it is not known who this man was. (A popular contender is Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, right.) Also, although the works were written by William Shakespeare, it is not known if the publisher used an authorized manuscript from him, or an unauthorized copy.
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For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings:
How some have been depos'd, some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have depos'd,
Some poison'd by their wives, some sleeping kill'd;
All murder'd: for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court.
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