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William Shakespeare was the son of John Shakespeare, an alderman and a successful glover originally from Snitterfield, and Mary Arden, the daughter of an affluent landowning farmer.[8] He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon and baptised there on 26 April 1564. His actual birthdate remains unknown, but is traditionally observed on 23 April, St George's Day.[9] This date, which can be traced back to an 18th-century scholar's mistake, has proved appealing to biographers, since Shakespeare died 23 April 1616.[10] He was the third child of eight and the eldest surviving son.[11]

Although no attendance records for the period survive, most biographers agree that Shakespeare was probably educated at the King's New School in Stratford,[12] a free school chartered in 1553,[13] about a quarter-mile from his home. Grammar schools varied in quality during the Elizabethan era, but the grammar curriculum was standardised by royal decree throughout England,[14] and the school would have provided an intensive education in Latin grammar based upon Latin classical authors.[15]