illustrated portrait of English playwright and poet William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

Start Free Trial

Did William Shakespeare return to Stratford after he left his house for London? When? Why? When did he die?      

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Bad news on this one is that, like most questions about Shakespeare's biography, we don't have any hard and fast answers. All we have are the very, very basics of his life story. So we do know that he was born in Stratford in 1564, and we know that he married Anne Hathaway, when he was only 18 (the marriage license we have is dated 27 November, 1582). After that, we're not quite sure at what point he left for London.

But we do know he arrives in London somewhere around 1585-1592 (the intervening gap is often called 'The Lost Years', precisely because we don't know what happened!) and quickly establishes himself as a writer with the Lord Chamberlain's Men (who, later, under James I, become the King's Men).He didn't, unfortunately, leave us a biography, or detailed biographical information to go on.We only know from dating his plays the approximate sequence of his writing lifetime.

We think, though there's no hard evidence, that Shakespeare returned to Stratford toward the end of his life. No plays are attributed to him after 1612, and although there is some evidence of him spending time in London, we presume he was living in Stratford with his wife and children. He died in 1616.

Why did he retire? Did he even retire? We just don't know. Yet, perhaps, if you have a look at the epilogue to 'The Tempest', in which Prospero bids farewell to his art, you might be able to suggest (though, again, without any actual evidence) that this play represents Shakespeare's own farewell to the stage.

Hope it helps!



Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are different arguments as to why he returned to Stratford after spending nearly 20 years in London.

While some sources claim that he might have just gotten fed up with the ever-growing and ultra busy London life, others might claim that there is no official explanation.

Yet, as recently as 2008 an article was published stating that a new theory has arisen where Shakespeare might have started losing his vision.

As a rationale to this idea is that, coincidentally, he had also stopped writing for quite some time- he may have considered this a cue for considering retirement, and hence he returned to Stratford in 1613, the same year when his co-property (The Globe Theatre) also burned down in a suspiciously convenient fire.  He died three years later in 1616. Coincidentally too, this was the same year of the death of Miguel de Cervantes, Shakespeare's Spanish counterpart, author of "Don Quijote"

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team