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cburr eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shakespeare lived about 52 years. We don’t know for sure when he was born, but we do know that he was baptized on April 26, 1564. He probably would have been baptized soon after his birth, because the Book of Common Prayer said a child had to be baptized on the next Sunday or earlier holy day unless there was a good reason to wait. Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616. Many like to think of April 23, 1564 as Shakespeare’s birth date, since it is the same day as his death.

rmrose | Student

I do not mean to be contradictory, but there are many modern scholars (S. Greenblatt, R.A. Cohen, etc.) who believe that Shakespeare was really more middle-aged, as he would have been if he were a playwright of today. Because it is based on an AVERAGE, the measurement for determining Elizabethan (or Jacobean) lifespans is a little skewed when it comes to determining whether 52 years was "old." The evidence actually suggests that 52 was not old for men of this period of time.

Yes, the AVERAGE age has been calculated to be in the mid-30's, but, remember that an average is taken from the entire pool of the population, which included a high level of mortality at an early age. The *average* was relatively short due to disease, dangerous times, etc. Consider that most children did not survive to adulthood; many young men were killed in dangerous occupations; the plague(s) would wipe out huge portions of the population.

But, the longer men and women survived these "unnatural" causes of death, the longer they lived -- those who survived would live to ages comparable to modern life-spans.

Shakespeare survived many plagues, he survived the rough streets of Southwark, he survived his long "commutes" to Stratford. And there is no conclusive evidence that he could not have easily survived another 20 years. He was considered middle-aged by even his contemporaries.

If you need some concrete references, let me know.