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About the Author
On or about Saturday 22d April 1564, William Shakespeare, son of John Shakespeare, glover and dealer in wool, and his wife Mary, nee Arden, was born in Henley Street, Stratford-on-Avon, and was baptized on the 26th. Nothing whatever is known of his early life, and the few meagre details ascertained as to the condition of his family will be found in a subsequent division of this work. Tradition and imagination have supplied untrustworthy materials, with which his biographers have endeavoured to fill up the gap in our information; but it is not until 28th November 1582 that we find any further reliable fact established concerning him. On that day his marriage bond is dated, he being in his nineteenth year, and his bride, Anne Hathaway, in her twenty-sixth. Their first child, Susanna, was baptized 26th May 1583. To account for this young lady's premature arrival a pre-contract is assumed, but not proved, by recent writers. On 2d February 1585 their twin children, Hamnet and Judith, were baptized; and in 1587, in the spring, Shakespeare gave his assent to a proposed settlement of a mortgage on his mother's Asbies estate. For ten years after there is no vestige of any communication with his family. It is at this point that his public life begins. In 1587 Leicester's players visited Stratford for the first time. The company, under the same name, that had performed there in 1576 had as well as Warwick's been dissolved in 1583, in order that the Queen's men might be selected from them. In 1586, during the prevalence of the plague in London, this more recent company had been travelling on the Continent, and on their return to England made a provincial tour. Shakespeare probably joined them during or immediately after their visit to Stratford, and during their travels received his earliest instruction in comic acting from Kempe and Pope, who soon after became noted performers; Bryan also belonged to the company at this date. They probably acted mere interludes, not regular five-act plays. On 4th September 1588 the Earl of Leicester died; and his players soon after found a new patron in Lord Strange. They then settled in London, and acted at the Cross Keys in Bishopsgate Street. The head of the company, in its altered constitution, was "Famous Ned Allen," who on 3d January 1588-9 bought up for 37, 10s. Richard Jones' share of "playing apparels, play-books, instruments, &c.," in order to set up his new company.