The English dramatist and poet William Shakespeare was the author of the most widely
admired and influential body of literature by any individual in the history of Western
civilization. His work includes 36 plays, 154 sonnets, and 2 narrative poems. Knowledge
of Shakespeare is derived from two sources: his works and those remains of legal and
church records and contemporary allusions through which scholars can trace the external
facts of his life.
The poetry of the
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been written by someone more educated, perhaps statesman and philosopher Sir Francis
Bacon or the Earl of Southampton, who was Shakespeare's patron. However, he was
celebrated in his own time by English writer Ben Jonson and others who saw in him a
brilliance that would endure. Since the 19th century, Shakespeare's achievements have
been more consistently recognized, and throughout the Western world he has come to
be regarded as the greatest dramatist ever.