Shakespeare, William (1564-1616), English playwright and poet, recognized in much of the world as the greatest of all dramatists. Hundreds of editions of his plays have been published, including translations in all major languages. Scholars have written thousands of books and articles about his plots, characters, themes, and language. He is the most widely quoted author in history, and his plays have probably been performed more times than those of any other dramatist.
There is no simple explanation for Shakespeare's unrivaled popularity, but he remains our greatest entertainer and communicate through his portrayal of a wide variety of characters. He was able to enter fully into the point of view of each of his characters and to create vivid dramatic situations in which to explore human motivations and behavior. His mastery of poetic language and of the techniques of drama enabled him to combine these multiple viewpoints, human motives, and actions to produce a uniquely compelling theatrical experience.
For someone who lived almost 400 years ago, a surprising amount is known about Shakespeare's life. Indeed we know more about his life than about almost any other writer of his age. Nonetheless, for the life of the greatest writer in the English language, there are still significant gaps, and therefore much supposition surrounds the facts we have. He composed his plays during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, who ruled England from 1558 to 1603, and during the early part of the reign of her cousin James VI of Scotland, who took England's throne as James I after Elizabeth's death in 1603. During this period England saw an outpouring of poetry and drama, led by Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, and Christopher Marlowe, that remains unsurpassed in English literary history (see English Literature). Although the exact date of Shakespeare's birth is unknown,