"Perfectly Imperfect: The Shakespeare Story"


Few authors today write with such universal understanding that their
works will be popular with all types of people, and so successfully that their
work survives centuries. These authors posses qualities we can seldom identify
in their lifetimes. Yet we do know this -- William Shakespeare was one of them.
William Shakespeare\'s parents were John Shakespeare and Mary Arden.
John Shakespeare was born in 1529. His father was a small tenant farmer in
Snitterfield, near Stratford-upon-Avon. He became a successful glover and
trader, and owned civic office in Stratford. He was not born to the nobility,
but he did have some authority in the town. In 1596 he was given by the College
of Arms the right to a coat of arms and a crest. Doing that advanced his status
to that of a country gentleman. He would belong to the upper class of rural
society. That was the class just under the knights and the nobility to which the
country gentleman could be promoted if he made money in trade or the law and had
influence at court. His rise in authority began the year after he was married.
He became constable of Stratford, in charge of keeping the town safe. From 1561
to 1565, he was Chamberlain, responsible for the oversight and maintenance of
Corporation of Stratford property. In 1564, his name appeared on the list of
Capital Burgesses. He was likely a member for a number of years, just without
his name on the list. Capital Burgesses were the main English parliament
representatives for towns or boroughs. Later on, he was bailiff of the town,
and held many important positions throughout his life. William Shakespeare\'s
mother, Mary Arden, was born to nobility, a wealthy family. She was the
youngest daughter of Robert Arden, also a country gentleman, of Wilmcote. He
left in his will to Mary the estate of Asbies in Wilmcote and six pounds,
thirteen shillings, and sixpence. Within a year of her father\'s death, in 1557,
Mary married John Shakespeare.
William Shakespeare was the third child, born after Joan and Margaret
Shakespeare. Margaret died before William was born, and Joan died sometime
before 1569. William was born in 1564. His exact birth date is not known,
though it is known that he was baptized on April 26 in the Holy Trinity Church
of Stratford. His birthday could have been any of the four or five days before
that day. Traditionally, it has been said that he was born on the 23 of April,
the same day of his death and St. George\'s Day, but this is more because of the
coincidence than based on fact. Gilbert Shakespeare was born in 1566, Anne was
born in 1571, Richard in 1574, and Edmund in 1580. This made William the eldest.

Little is known about William\'s childhood. He was educated for free at
the local grammar school, and learned Latin and a little bit of Greek. His
plays suggest that he did not enjoy school, and it seems that he did enjoy
sports. Many different play companies came to Stratford to perform, and since
John Shakespeare was in charge of the theater at some times, it is almost for
sure that William saw many plays while he was growing up. This probably gave
him the background that he needed for writing plays. His family was well off
and he lived easily until he was fifteen. That year, his father began to lose
authority and money. William enjoyed the outdoors as a teenager, and was known
to go on long walks in the country. He met Anne Hathaway when he was seventeen,
probably on one of those walks. She was the daughter of Richard Hathaway and
lived at Hewland\'s Farm, now known as Anne Hathaway\'s Cottage. Anne was also
about 8 years older than William, an unheard of thing in the English countryside.
Yet they decided to be married soon afterwards, though William was a minor.
They received their marriage license on November 27, 1582, soon after Anne\'s
father died. Curiously, their first child was born only six months later!
Susanna Shakespeare was born in late May of 1583. Twins, a boy and a
girl named Hamnet and Judith were born two years later. They were named after
a couple who lived nearby. Hamnet was William\'s very good friend. The twins
were conceived in 1584, obviously, so Shakespeare must have been in Stratford at
the time. What happened to the next seven years? It is not known. Some think
that he was drawn to London for riches or to seek his fortune. However,