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Shakespeare and Macbeth Essay

The age of Shakespeare was a great time in English history. The reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) saw England emerge as the leading naval and commercial power of the Western world. European wars brought an influx of continental refugees into England, exposing the Englishman to new cultures. In trade, might, and art, England established an envious preeminence. At this time, London was the heart of England, reflecting all the vibrant qualities of the Elizabethan Age. This atmosphere made London a leading center of culture as well as commerce.

Its dramatists and poets were among the leading literary artists of the day. In this heady environment, Shakespeare lived and wrote. London in the 16th century underwent a transformation. Its population grew 400% during the 1500s, swelling to nearly 200,000 people in the city proper and outlying region by the time an immigrant from Stratford came to town. A rising merchant middle class carved out a productive livelihood, and the economy boomed. William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire and was baptized a few days later on 26 April 1564.

His father, John Shakespeare, was a glove maker and wool merchant and his mother, Mary Arden, was the daughter of a well-to-do landowner from Wilmcote, South Warwickshire. It is likely Shakespeare was educated at the local King Edward VI Grammar School in Stratford. At the age of 18, Shakespeare married to the daughter of a local farmer’s daughter, Anne Hathaway on November 28, 1582. After seven years of disappearing from 1585 to 1592, he was eventually mentioned again in a London pamphlet, Shakespeare has made his way to London without his family and is already working in the theatre.

As well as belonging to its pool of actors and playwrights, Shakespeare was one of the managing partners of the Lord Chamberlain’s Company (renamed the King’s Company when James succeeded to the throne). Shakespeare was prolific. His earlier plays were mainly histories and comedies such as ‘Henry VI’, ‘Titus Andronicus’, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, ‘The Merchant of Venice’ and ‘Richard II’. The tragedy, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, was also published in this period. By the last years of Elizabeth I’s reign Shakespeare was well established as a famous poet and playwright and was called upon to perform several of his plays before the Queen at court.

In 1598 the author Francis Meres described Shakespeare as England’s greatest writer in comedy and tragedy. In 1602 Shakespeare’s continuing success enabled him to move to upmarket Silver Street, near where the Barbican is now situated, and he was living here when he wrote some of his greatest tragedies such as ‘Hamlet’, ‘Othello’, ‘King Lear’ and ‘Macbeth’. Shakespeare spent the last five years of his life in New Place in Stratford. He died on 23 April 1616 at the age of 52 and was buried in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.

He left his property to the male heirs of his eldest daughter, Susanna. He also bequeathed his ‘second-best bed’ to his wife. It is not known what significance this gesture had, although the couple had lived primarily apart for 20 years of their marriage. The first collected edition of his works was published in 1623 and is known as ‘the First Folio’. Shakespeare & Macbeth: The emphasis on the fact that Shakespeare worked for the Lord Chamberlain’s Company (renamed the King’s Company when James succeeded to the throne) is very crucial to the productions of Shakespeare.

Although Macbeth wasn’t bad at all, Shakespeare was paid by the King so he was supposed to cheer the King to portray Macbeth as an evil figure. Theatres were booming at that time, but they were certainly tools manipulated by the governors. James 1, the King especially obsessed with witches. These two elements mixing with the distinction between genders converged to one of the most famous tragedies, Macbeth. Witches stood out right in the opening scene of Macbeth, which suggests the exact time setting of the story —— James 1 time.

Although witches are quite entertaining to people now, they were definitely signs of devil back in James1 time. And it was James who made witchcraft illegal. According to law in 1542, “it was a serious crime to use witchcraft for unlawful purposes”, then in 1563, “it was a serious crime to invoke evil spirits and to practice magic if somebody is killed”, afterwards in 1604, “it was a serious crime to consult with, entertain, employ, feed or reward any evil or wicked spirit; magic becomes a crime that is punished by death”.

During 16th and 17th century, science wasn’t widely spread, religious was controlling over the people so that they believed in magic and ‘mysterious’ things. That was one of the main reasons why witches were so popular at that time and the rulers were so afraid of them. The first identification of the detailed list James 1 wrote in his book, Daemonologie, was that “they are mostly old women” which reflects the roles of men and women in Jacobean England.

Women were considered to be inferior to men because people still hold the belief that Eve tempted Adam to sin against God by encouraging him to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. In general, women were governed by the rules and men dominated the society, which made some women stand up to fight against them, including Lady Macbeth. Disobedience was seen as a crime against their religion. The Church firmly believed this and quoted the Bible in order to ensure the continued adherence to this principle.

The Scottish protestant leader John Knox wrote: “Women in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man. ” To summarize, Shakespeare lived in the most prosperous time of the English history when theatres were booming and his masterpieces were praised by both the governors and the ordinary. References: 1. October 18th, 2013 http://www. elizabethan-era. org. uk/ 2. James 1, Daemonologie (1597) 3. October 17th, 2013 http://www. bbc. co. uk/history/people/william_shakespeare (January 28th, 2013) 4. October 17th, 2013 http://www. bardweb. net/england. html


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