by J Bloggs
An essay on the life, times and works of William Shakespeare.
William Shakespeare. Perhaps the greatest literary influence the world has ever seen. Perhaps the most influential force behind the creation of modern english. Perhaps the greatest writer in history.
The life of the legendary writer has been well documented since the 18th century. A wordsmith of many works, his articles have become renowned worldwide. Having written over 30 plays and many more sonnets, his works are the most performed of any writer, even today. From growing up in England, a life as writer, actor, owner of a production company and author of some of the worlds greatest tragedies, his life in the 16th and 17th century has been well documented in the 21st century.
With works covering comedy, history, tragedy, sonnets and poetry, William Shakespeare is renowned as the greatest dramatist the world has ever known.
The life of William Shakespeare has been well documented throughout the centuries. Although not all the records are proven to be strictly accurate, we have a clear picture of his life and the events that led to, and contributed to, his successful writing career.
William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, in England. The third child of eight. Although his birthday is not officially known, it is celebrated on the 23rd of April. He was baptized on the 26 April, 1564. Today, he is sometimes referred to as ‘The Bard if Avon’ or just ‘The Bard’. His father was John Shakespeare, a successful glover, and his mother is Mary Arden.
Most of Shakespeare biographers agree that he was educated at Kings New School in Stratford. A free ‘public’ school, as we would put it nowadays. There, Shakespeare would have been educated heavily on the classics and the Latin Language, fueling his love of writing later on in life.
At only age 18, Shakespeare married his wife, Anne Hathaway. Although it was not a strictly legal marriage due to his age, it may have had something to do with Hathaway’s pregnancy. Shakespeare and Hathaway had three children during their marriage. Daughter Susanna, born six months after the couples marriage, and twins Hamnet and Judith two years later. Hamnet died of unknown courses at age 11. He was buried on the 11th August, 1596.
From the years of 1585-1592, almost all records of Shakespeare have disagreed. He seemed to have disappeared entirely. This is known as the ‘Lost Years’ as no one knew for certain what kind on endeavors Shakespeare got up to. Indeed, it has been suggested by several historians that he was a horse minder and school teacher. It has even been suggested that he fled London because of a serious charge of deer poaching.
Around 1590-1613 Shakespeare began to write some of his most profound work. This era was split into four time periods by Shakespearian biographers. Comedies, more comedies and histories, tragedies, and finally, romances. During this time, he wrote the plays that we would all come to recognize today. In short, the plays that created his lasting legacy.
During this time he also wrote poems and hundreds of sonnets which are now believed to be for his own private readership and not official publication.
During his time at London, in the prime of his wordsmithing, Shakespeare owned a playing company named ‘Lord Chamberlain's Men’ later re-named ‘The King’s Men’. A playing company was a group of actors and sharers (shareholders) who would provide actors for, and put on productions. Shakespeare’ s company produced plays in the Globe Theatre. Some of their performances were even attended by Queen Elizabeth 1 of England.
At the end of his writing spell, 1623, Shakespeare retired to Stratford, his birth place. Because proper retirement was uncommon in those day, Shakespeare made many trips to London in order to supervise and co-write other productions. Three years after his retirement, 1616, Shakespeare died on the 23 April. His wife, Anne Hathaway, and their two daughters outlived him. Two days later, on the 26th, he was buried in the Holy Trinity Church.
Allot of Shakespeare's life was shrouded in mystery, and some of his more personal mannerisms are still unknown to us. The authorship and authenticity of Shakespeare's works is still under question. There are certain beliefs that he himself did not write all of his plays. Through popular interest, this theory has continued to be debated into the 21st century. There has been many claims to Shakespeare's’ religion, but it is popularly believed that he was a christian. At least, his mother came from a Christian family. There have also been several claims to Shakespeare's sexuality. Although he married Anne Hathaway, it is suggested that the marriage was born out of deep friendship, as apposed to sexual love. It is said that several of his sonnets titled ‘Dark Lady’ hint to Shakespeare's other interests. Although many claims have been made about Shakespeare, some of them absurd, they have not tarnished his reputation, nor dulled his shine.
Shakespeare was a revered dramatist and writer in his day, however, real acclaim did not begin to arise until after his death. Through the 20th century, his works were popular literary texts, and they were performed more often that any other playwrights’ in the world.
Even several centuries past his death. The legendary playwright has been well remembered. Not only are his works central literary texts in the modern world, he is remembered through text, speech and memorial. In Stratford, sometime before 1923, a monument of Shakespeare in the act of writing was erected in his honor. Its plaque compares him to the great poets, philosophers and writers of the ages. Socrates. Virgil. Nowadays, we compare them to him.
Although he did not know where it would lead him, Shakespeare’s introduction to literacy was at a very early age. At King’s New School, Shakespeare's was introduced and taught the latin language and grammar. He would also have studied famous texts. This introduced him to the world of dramatization.
Shakespeare golden age lasted just over two decades, from 1590-1613, he wrote his greatest works. This period of time has been divided into four eras by Shakespearian historians and biographers.
During and before the early 1590’s, Shakespeare wrote mainly comedies. It is widely believed that ‘Richard 111’ and ‘Henry 1V’ were among the first plays he wrote. From 1595, he wrote tragedies and great histories. This period ended with the creation of two of his most esteemed pieces of work. ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Julius Caesar’ . From 1600-1608 Shakespeare began his tragedy writing. Finally, from 1608-1603 Shakespeare wrote romantic plays, known as tragicomedies. As romance was not considered a suitable genre for tragedy, Shakespeare made a bold move using that particular genre.
Shakespeare wrote many plays and used several genres to convey his story telling. His works include...
▪ All's Well That Ends Well
▪ As You Like It
▪ The Comedy of Errors
▪ Love's Labour's Lost
▪ Measure for Measure
▪ The Merchant of Venice
▪ The Merry Wives of Windsor
▪ A Midsummer Night's Dream
▪ Much Ado About Nothing
▪ Pericles, Prince of Tyre
▪ The Taming of the Shrew
▪ The Tempest*
▪ Twelfth Night, or What You Will
▪ The Two Gentlemen of Verona
▪ The Two Noble Kinsmen
▪ The Winter's Tale
▪ King John
▪ Richard II
▪ Henry IV, part 1
▪ Henry IV, part 2
▪ Henry V
▪ Henry VI, part 1
▪ Henry VI, part 2
▪ Henry VI, part 3
▪ Richard III
▪ Henry VIII
▪ Romeo and Juliet
▪ Titus Andronicus
▪ Timon of Athens
▪ Julius Caesar
▪ Troilus and Cressida
▪ King Lear
▪ Antony and Cleopatra
Some of Shakespeare's plays were not published or produced. But the majority were at some point or another. They were performed at the ‘Globe Theatre’ in London. The crowds were usually vast and were often attended by royal or prestigious persons. The Queen, Elizabeth herself attended one of Shakespeare’s performances.
There are many Shakespearian plays we know of, and there are assumed to be many that we are yet unaware of, but several of Shakespeare's greatest have gone down in history as literary milestones from which all other dramatization is based. Shakespeare's most famous masterpiece, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ has become the most performed play in the world.
Others such as ‘Macbeth’ ‘Hamlet’ ‘Julius Caesar’ ‘Midsummer’s nights dream’ and ‘Merchant of Venice’ to name but a few, have become some of the most famous plays in the history of the English language, and it is unlikely that they will be overshadowed or bested. Ever.
William Shakespeare lived in Elizabethan times or, the Elizabethan area. It lasted from 1558-1603 under the rule of English Queen, Elizabeth 1. It was named the golden age, mainly because of the periods of turmoil before and after it, but also because Elizabeth provided the nation with a general (if not total) period of peace and prosperity.
William Shakespeare lived to see the entirety of this period. It was considered a period of prosperity and peace for the English people. There were advances in the arts, technology and science. It was the height of the English Renaissance (Rebirth) and so the standard of living was very good.
Considering the periods before and after the Elizabethan Era, living in England was good, compared to the other countries in Europe. The country was prospering, and for the most part, there was not much hunger, disease or poverty. The standard of life was clean and fresh. Academics were flourishing. There was a huge exploration in the arts, which gave Shakespeare many opportunities to present his work. In fact, Shakespeare himself was largely responsible for these forays into a new ficticious world.
Internally, Britain appeared stable, although chaos was bubbling just under the cool surface, waiting for the opportunistic moment to release itself. A spanish armada, which was repelled, attempted to invade Britain and the government was not yet strong enough to gain the monarch’s power, as would happen a mere 40 years after Elizabeths death.
Although this was a prosperous and tranquil time, it was only the eye of the storm. After Elizabeth’s death, Britain launched herself into a period of war, strife and turmoil. It’s government was unstable and it’s people, unhappy. Luckily Shakespeare was not alive to see such times.
Under the prosperous reign of The Virgin Queen Elizabeth, the art of literacy, drama and dramatization flourished. English drama written during the Golden Age of English History is referred to as Elizabethan Theatre, because it was written in the Elizabethan era.
Shakespeare was one of many writers to contributed texts to this period. It may also be called Early Modern English Theatre. Because of the tranquil circumstances in which it was being written, Elizabethan Theatre was an entirely new breed of dramatization. A trend that was continued long into the next century, even when dramatization was declining in England.
Romeo and Juliet was considered by many to be Shakespeare’s master piece. It has been performed more than another play and has captured the imagination of millions. Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet during his second period of writing, 1595, during which he wrote tragedies.
Romeo and Juliet is about two teenage ‘star-crossed lovers’ who fall deeply in love. However, their families, the Montages and the Capulets, are engaged in a blood feud, and Juliet is pressured to marry Count Parris. Romeo and Juliet arrange to be married in secret. Juliet’s mother forces her to marry the count and so, in a last desperate attempt to make a life with Romeo, she arranges for her friend the Friar to give her a drug that will give her the appearance of being dead. When she awakens, her and Romeo can be together. However, the message fails to get to Romeo and, seing Juliet ‘dead’, he poisons himself. When Juliet awakes, she finds Romeo dead and stricken with grief, kills herself with a dagger. At the sight of their two children dead, the Montague and Capulet families agree to settle their feud, so there will be no more confrontation.
There is no doubt that William Shakespeare was the greatest writer alive, and it is unlikely that there shall be a better one in a thousand years. Shakespeare understood the true concept of a plot, conflict, humor and drama. He was enable to ensnare audiences long after his death with his epic works. Though he may be gone, his stories and his legacy shall live on for many generations to come.