When William Shakespeare was about twenty, his life changed forever. He left Stratford and walked to London, where, in time, he became the world’s greatest playwright.
Here is Shakespeare’s little-told story, presented against the colorful tapestry of his England, the kingdom under Elizabeth I and James I. In the reigns of those monarchs, the nation was emerging from centuries of medieval turmoil. The small island that had changed so little since the Norman Conquest of 1066 suddenly became a center of international adventure, political experimentation, and artistic development.
Young Shakespeare was fortunate to be in England. The first professional theater opened in London in 1576; he arrived, stage-struck and in search of a job, around 1587. He retired to Stratford a wealthy gentleman in 1611, only a generation before the theaters of England were closed by the Puritans. During Shakespeare’s London years, England seethed with plots and intrigue and throbbed with pageantry; everywhere a writer looked was a scene to fire his imagination. Like Sir Walter Raleigh and other daring contemporaries, William Shakespeare was, indeed, an Elizabethan who took advantage of his time.