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William Shakespeare is generally regarded as the greatest writer ever in the English language. Although it is uncertain when he first began writing, it is documented that several of his plays had been performed on the London stage as early as 1592. In all, 38 plays have survived, along with 154 sonnets and several other poems. His earliest written plays were apparently histories; Richard III and Henry VI are among the earliest known. His plays were performed solely by the Lord Chamberlain's Men after 1594, and following the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603, the group changed its name to the King's Men, in honor of Elizabeth's successor, King James I. Shakespeare also acted in many of his plays (as well as those of other writers), but he apparently restricted his own acting performances after 1605. Most of his plays were written between 1589-1613, and he eventually split his time between London and his home in Stratford-upon-Avon. His tragicomedy, The Tempest--one of his finest plays--is believed to be the last written. Though popular during his lifetime, Shakespeare only received the high accolades due him during the centuries following his death in 1616.
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