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Shakespeare was born in Stratford-on-Avon in 1564, the same year of Marlowe. His father was a glover and his mother was of a good country family. He studied at Stratford grammar school, where he learned some Latin and Greek. When he was only 18, he married Anne Hathaway, who was about 26, and they had a child, Susan, and then the twins, Hamnet and Judith. After their birth he had to escape to London to save his life by the prison. In London he had many jobs and only in the end he became an actor. Robert Greene attacked him in a pamphlet, defining him “an upstart crow beautified with our feathers”. He was considered the greatest playwright in the reigns of Elizabeth and James I. Unlike Marlowe and the other University Wits, he never attended either of the two universities. This fact led to the theory that he was not learned enough to have written his plays. Hypotheses evolved the plays were composed, under the pen name of Shakespeare, by Bacon or Marlowe, who was maimed but not killed in the tavern brawl, went on writing in “incognito”.
But the problem of Shakespeare’s identity is not so important after all. The most important things are his works. As copyright did not exist in Shakespeare’s time, so it was possible to copy other writers without any legal consequences. Even Shakespeare seldom invented his plots, but borrowed them from the others. He did not publish his plays, which circulated in a dubiously authorized versions, called “bad quartos”, full of gaps and mistakes. In 1623 two former actors and friends of Shakespeare decided to publish a “First Folio”, the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays.
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