On this day in 1606, William Shakespeare’s play King Lear is performed at the court of King James I of England. Lear is one of the later works penned by the playwright.
Shakespeare’s father was probably a common tradesman. He became an alderman and bailiff in Stratford-upon-Avon, and Shakespeare was baptized in the town on April 26, 1564. At age 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, and the couple had a daughter in 1583 and twins in 1585. Sometime later, Shakespeare set off for London to become an actor and by 1592 was well established in London’s theatrical world as both a performer and a playwright. His earliest plays, including The Comedy of Errors and The Taming of the Shrew, were written in the early 1590s. Later in the decade, he wrote such tragedies as Romeo and Juliet (1594-1595) and comedies, including The Merchant of Venice (1596-1597). His greatest tragedies were written after 1600, including Hamlet (1600-01), Othello (1604-05), King Lear (1605-06), and Macbeth (1605-1606).
He became a member of the popular theater group the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, who later became the King’s Men. The group built and operated the famous Globe Theater in 1599. Shakespeare ultimately became a major shareholder in the troupe and earned enough money to buy a large house in Stratford in 1597. He retired to Stratford in 1610, where he wrote his last plays, including The Tempest (1611) and The Winter’s Tale (1610-11). Meanwhile, he had written more than 100 sonnets, which were published in 1609. Shakespeare’s plays were not published during his lifetime. After his death, two members of his troupe collected copies of his plays and printed what is now called the First Folio (1623).