Bard hailed as Olivier of his day

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The Independent Culture

William Shakespeare was one of the finest actors of his generation, it is claimed in a new biography of the Bard published this week. Throughout his life he regarded himself as a player who did writing on the side. And many of his most famous parts were created for him to play, including both Julius Caesar and Henry IV.

William Shakespeare was one of the finest actors of his generation, it is claimed in a new biography of the Bard published this week. Throughout his life he regarded himself as a player who did writing on the side. And many of his most famous parts were created for him to play, including both Julius Caesar and Henry IV.

Until now, theories about Shakespeare's mysterious early life have pointed to a number of possible occupations in the "lost years" of his youth and early manhood - long before he took up the quill for a living, and at least 12 years before his earliest recorded appearance as an actor. They have included butcher, glover, scrivener, soldier, sailor, dyer, schoolmaster and lawyer.

In Shakespeare: The Player, author, actor and Shakespeare scholar John Southworth argues that the young William spent these years training to become one of the greatest actors of his time. "It would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that he was in many ways the Laurence Olivier of his day," he said.

Mr Southworth is convinced that Shakespeare left Stratford at 16 to tread the boards, after becoming apprenticed to a group of travelling players.

"There is a myth that Shakespeare didn't become an actor until he was 25, after he had married Anne Hathaway and had three children," said Mr Southworth. "This is quite simply not the case."

Mr Southworth claimed that by the time Shakespeare made his first recorded impact in London theatrical circles in 1592 at the age of 28, he was already an accomplished actor with 12 years' experience.

"Early biographers established a pattern about Shakespeare's life which can only be described as a myth," he said. "This distorted view has gone on being perpetuated."

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