Shakespeare (Shakespere), William. The greatest of the English dramatic poets. Born in Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire, in 1564. Of the incidents of his youth, almost nothing is known, except that he married in his 19th year and soon afterwards resorted to London, where he became an actor of repute at the Globe and Blackfriars theaters. In 1593, he inaugurated his literary career by the publication of his poem "Venus and Adonis"' and, in the following year, his first published play appeared, the precursor of a succession of works which constitute the crowning glory of English dramatic literature. Shakespeare enjoyed the favor of Queen Elizabeth and James I, and the friendship of Southampton, Raleigh, Ben Jonson, and other of the principal of his contemporaries. After realizing an easy fortune by his contributions to the stage, he retired to his native town, and there died in 1616. Shakespeare's tragedies of "Hamlet," "Macbeth," "Othello," "Romeo and Juliet," and "King Lear" are wonderful examples of his power of expressing the strongest passions of the human soul; while, on the other hand, his comedies, particularly "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "Much Ado About Nothing," "Twelfth Night," "The Taming of the Shrew," etc., are unsurpassed in the English language. Of his dramas, strictly so called, perhaps the finest are "As You Like It," "The Merchant of Venice," and "The Tempest."