William Shakespeare

Often referred to England’s national poet, the “Bard of Avon”, and widely regarded as the world’s pre-eminent dramatist and greatest writer in the English language. The English poet and playwright William Shakespeare was believed to have been born on ths day 23rd April1564 (based on his baptism 26 April 1564). Shakespeare was born and brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Sometime between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part-owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later known as the King’s Men.

His surviving works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. The first recorded works of Shakespeare include Richard III and the three parts of Henry VI, written in the early 1590s during a vogue for historical drama. He then wrote Titus Andronicus, The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Two Noble Kinsmen and Cardenio. During the mid-1590s Shakespeare wrote his most acclaimed comedies A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a witty mixture of romance, fairy magic, and comic lowlife scenes. The equally romantic Merchant of Venice, which contains a portrayal of the vengeful Jewish moneylender Shylock, which reflects Elizabethan views but may appear derogatory to modern audiences. He also wrote the Plays Much Ado About Nothing which is full of wit and wordplay, As You Like Which is set in a charming rural setting of and Twelfth Night which contains lively merrymaking.

While Richard II, was written almost entirely in verse, Shakespeare infused prose comedy into the histories of the late 1590s, and wrote Henry IV, parts 1 and 2, and Henry V. He also wrote two tragedies: Romeo and Juliet, the famous romantic tragedy of sexually charged adolescence, love, and death and Julius Caesar—based on Sir Thomas North’s 1579 translation of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives. During the early 17th century, Shakespeare wrote the so-called “problem plays” such as Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida, and All’s Well That Ends Well, Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus. In his final period, Shakespeare turned to romance or tragicomedy and completed three more major plays: Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest, as well as the collaboration, Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Less bleak than the tragedies, these four plays are graver in tone than the comedies of the 1590s, but they end with reconciliation and the forgiveness of potentially tragic errors.

His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. He was born and brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon.  Shakespeare was probably educated at the King’s New School in Stratford, a free school chartered in 1553, about a quarter-mile (400 m) from his home. Grammar schools varied in quality during the Elizabethan era, but grammar school curricula were largely similar: the basic Latin text was standardised by royal decree. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, although there is some speculation that he was also married to his childhood sweetheart Anne Whately, who may have been The Dark Lady referred to in the sonnets. He had three children with Hathaway: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later known as the King’s Men. He appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613 at age 49.

Few records of Shakespeare’s private life survive, and there has been considerable speculation about such matters as his physical appearance, sexuality, religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others.  Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime. In 1623, two of his former theatrical colleagues published the First Folio, a collected edition of his dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognised as Shakespeare’s.

During his life Shakespeare was a respected poet and playwright, but his reputation did not rise to its present heights until the 19th century. The Romantics, in particular, acclaimed Shakespeare’s genius, and the Victorians worshipped Shakespeare with a reverence that George Bernard Shaw called “bardolatry”. In the 20th century, his work was repeatedly adopted and rediscovered by new movements in scholarship and performance. Sadly though Shakespeare passed away on 23rd April 1616 but he left behnd an endurng legacy and his books Sonnets & plays remain highly popular today and are constantly studied, performed, and reinterpreted in diverse cultural and political contexts throughout the world and remain as popular today as they’ve always been.

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