On April 23, 1616, at the age of 52, William Shakespeare
let fall the curtain and joined the choir invisible shuffled off this mortal coil. He left behind a wife, two daughters, a fairly nice parcel of land in Stratford-upon-Avon, and a body of work that would become one of the bases for modern English literature. His treatment of Richard Plantagenet in Richard III has colored scholarly thought for four hundred years. It’s more likely that you know Mark Antony asked Rome to lend him their ears than that you know he misappropriated public funds. The Bard might have been a Catholic, might have stolen his early poetry wholesale (as claimed by one Mr. Robert Greene) might’ve had male lovers, might’ve spent a few years in prison or traveling, might’ve wholly abandoned his family in Stratford for the delights of the stage. He impregnated a woman out of wedlock, he wrote for two royal courts, he cavorted with Christopher Marlowe and inserted roles for his friends. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of Greco-Roman mythology. Baconians, Oxfordians, Derbyites and Roland Emmerich ignore the facts to sully his name. Kenneth Branagh spent the nineties dancing on his grave. He is not the alpha and omega of the Renaissance, of the Tudor period, of the early Stuart period; he is not the be-all and end-all of English literature - but he is, at the very least, a poet beyond measure.
He also wrote the first yo mama joke.
DEMETRIUS. Villain, what hast thou done?
AARON. That which thou canst not undo.
CHIRON. Thou hast undone our mother.
AARON. Villain, I have done thy mother.
- Titus Andronicus, IV.II