illustrated portrait of English playwright and poet William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

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For what 3 professions is Shakespeare famous?

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William Shakespeare was an actor, a playwright, and a poet, and, possibly, a soldier.  Born in the country, Shakespeare was the son of a farmer, who was the son of a farmer.  Determined to make his way in the world, William Shakespeare found a career in the entertainment business in London, where he was first an actor. However, he soon realized quickly that he would never be a comedian like Tarlton, a professional clown who played "the country innocent," that appears baffled by the ways of the city, but whose outsider's eyes "pricked the bubble of pretension and follies of the times" (Bate, Jonathan, and Rasmussen, Eric, eds. William Shakespeare: Complete Works. New York: The Modern Library, 2007, xiv).

This ousider looking in, the countrymen in the city, became a kind of model for Shakespeare who turned his talents to writing.  At the royal court of Queen Elizabeth I there was a new demand for sophisticated entertainment; so, Shakespeare turns his talents in this direction; he retained the common touch of the spirit of Tarlton, but also paid close attention to the university-educated dramatists who were writing history plays and tragedies for the public stage.  With his great talent for learning and mimicry, Shakespeare realized that he could do it all.

After his marriage to Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare had three children.  In addition to having to support his family, Shakespeare's father, John, having overextended himself, incurred much debt.

It is at this point that Shakespeare disappears from the historical record.  Conjecture is that he possibly went to seek his fortune as a soldier in the Dutch wars. For, William Shakespeare then wrote a memorable scene in 2 Henry IV, revealing his knowledge of the process of recruitment, while play after play is steeped in the technical language of warfare and military life (Bate and Rasmussen,xv).

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