If Shakespeare was alive today it is certain that there would be a lot
written about him. We would read reviews of his new plays in newspapers,
articles about his poetry in the literary papers, and gossip about his love life
and his taste in clothes splashed across the glossy magazines. His views about
everything under the sun, from the government to kitchen furniture, would
probably appear regularly in the colour supplements. His face would be familiar
on television talk shows, his voice well-known from radio broadcasts. There
would be so much recorded evidence about his life and his opinions that it would
not be hard to write about him.
Shakespeare, however, lived some four hundred years ago in the reign of
Queen Elizabeth I, when there was no tele-vision or radio, nor even any
newspapers as we know them today. Although he was respected as an important
person in his own lifetime, nobody ever thought of writing about him until well
after his death. And Shakespeare did apparently not believe in keeping a diary
either. So it is largely by luck that the little evidence we have, such as the
entry of his birth in the parish register, has survived at all.
And yet, by looking carefully at contemporary pictures, by reading
contemporary accounts, it is possible to get a good idea of how the boy whose
birth is recorded in the Stratford register of 1654 grew up into the man who
wrote such famous plays still known all over the world, as we type.