William Shakespeare wrote two narrative poems, 38 plays and 154 sonnets during his lifetime and is often considered the greatest English-language dramatist, poet and writer. He was also an actor in both his own plays and those of others. He partially owned the Lord Chamberlain's Men, an acting company later called the "King's Men." "Romeo and Juliet" and "Hamlet" are two of his best-known plays.

As of 2014, little is known of William Shakespeare's personal life. He was born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, and he married Anne Hathaway in late 1582. At some point between 1585 and 1592, he began acting and writing professionally with much success. The Lord Chamberlain's Men formed in 1594, and Shakespeare had a stake, which eventually made him quite wealthy. Shakespeare was able to read the political and social atmospheres of his time well, often employing subtle and not-so-subtle tactics in his plays that pandered to theater attendees of every class, helping make his company one of the two premier acting groups in London.

His early comedy and history works, such as the popular "Titus Andronicus," seemed crude to some critics but rapidly built up his reputation. He quickly followed these with the much acclaimed "Romeo and Juliet." Shakespeare then turned to comedies of more romantic natures, including "A Midsummer Night's Dream." He began adding comedic prose to his histories beginning with "Henry IV, Part 1." The Lord Chamberlain's Men were often invited to play for Queen Elizabeth I and, after her death, King James I . Shakespeare's four great tragedies — "Hamlet," "Othello," "King Lear" and "Macbeth" — are often his most praised pieces of work. "Hamlet" is frequently described as the greatest tragedy ever told.