William Shakespeare (baptised April 26, 1564 – died April 23, 1616) was an English poet and playwright widely regarded as the greatest writer of the English language, as well as one of the greatest in Western literature, and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He wrote about thirty-eight plays and 154 sonnets, as well as a variety of other poems. Already a popular writer in his own lifetime, Shakespeare's reputation became increasingly celebrated after his death and his work adulated by numerous prominent cultural figures through the centuries. In addition, Shakespeare is the most quoted writer in the literature and history of the English-speaking world. He is often considered to be England's national poet and is sometimes referred to as the "Bard of Avon" (or simply "The Bard")  or the "Swan of Avon".
Shakespeare is believed to have produced most of his work between 1586 and 1616, although the exact dates and chronology of the plays attributed to him are often uncertain. He is counted among the very few playwrights who have excelled in both tragedy and comedy, and his plays combine popular appeal with complex characterisation, poetic grandeur and philosophical depth.
Shakespeare's works have been translated into every major living language, and his plays are continually performed all around the world. In addition, many quotations and neologisms from his plays have passed into everyday usage in English and other languages. Over the years, many people have speculated about Shakespeare's life, raising questions about his sexuality, religious affiliation, and the authorship of his works.