William Shakespeare is one of the most famous playwrights in the world. He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire County, in 1564. His exact date of birth is unknown. It is commonly believed that this was April 23. His father was a well-to-do craftsman, a respected man in the city, and his mother a representative of the ancient Saxon family.
Childhood and Youth
During the years 1569-1571 Shakespeare was a pupil of a junior school, later a secondary school in Stratford. He had a decent level of education, but it is not known for certain whether William completed it or not. Most likely, he had to leave classes and help his father to cope with the family financial difficulties. The 18-year-old William married the pregnant Ann Hathaway, who was 8 years older than him; having married, the young couple was saved from dishonor and punishment. After that, three more children were born in their family. Shakespeare left Stratford in the second half of the 80’s and moved to London.
The Lost Period
The period of Shakespeare’s biography comprising subsequent years is usually called dark or lost years since there is no information about his life during this time. It is generally believed that the move to London tentatively happened in 1587, but there are other versions as well. Anyway, in 1592 Shakespeare already was the author of the historical chronicle “Henry VI.” During the 1592-1594, the theaters of the English capital were closed due to the plague epidemic. In order to fill the pause, Shakespeare wrote plays, in particular, “The Taming of the Shrew,” the tragedy “Titus Andronicus,” the poems “Lucretia” and “Venus and Adonis.” Also during the period from 1594 to 1600 Shakespeare wrote a large number of sonnets. All this made him a famous writer.
During the years 1595-1596, the famous tragedy Romeo and Juliet was written, as well as the Merchant of Venice, the first comedy subsequently called the “serious” one. If earlier the authors of the plays for the theater were the well-educated “university minds,” by that time their careers were over: some stopped writing, some died. Shakespeare came to replace them, marking a brand new era in the development of theatrical art.
In 1599, another significant event happened in Shakespeare’s life – the opening of the theater “Globe,” in which he was an actor, the main playwright and one of the owners. A year after the audience saw the famous “Hamlet,” and this event marked the start of a period of “great tragedies,” which include “Othello,” “King Lear,” and “Macbeth.” The comedies written at this time also had a much more serious, and sometimes even pessimistic, content. During this period of his life, Shakespeare became a nobleman and acquired a large house in Stratford.
In his poems and plays, Shakespeare invented thousands of words, often combining or contorting Latin, French, and native English roots. His impressive expansion of the English language, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, includes such words as: arch-villain, birthplace, bloodsucking, courtship, dewdrop, downstairs, fanged, heartsore, hunchbacked, leapfrog, misquote, pageantry, radiance, schoolboy, stillborn, watchdog, and zany.
Shakespeare wrote more than thirty plays. These are usually divided into four categories: histories, comedies, tragedies, and romances. His earliest plays were primarily comedies and histories such as Henry VI and The Comedy of Errors, but in 1596, Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet, his second tragedy, and over the next dozen years he used to return to this form, writing the plays for which he is now best known:
- Julius Caesar,
- King Lear,
- Antony and Cleopatra.
The Last Period
The year 1606 was the starting point for the last period in Shakespeare’s literary work, which was marked, in particular, by the creation of tragedies based on the antiquity themes (“Coriolanus”, “Anthony and Cleopatra”), as well as romantic tragicomedies “The Storm”, “Winter’s Tale” etc.
Around 1612 Shakespeare, whose career developed very successfully, unexpectedly left the capital and returned to Stratford, to his family. The researchers suggest that a serious illness was the cause for such a cardinal step. In March 1616, Shakespeare made his famous testament, which subsequently created the ground for the so-called Shakespearean question, that deals with the problem of the authorship of his works and his personality. On April 3, 1616, one of the world’s greatest playwrights died; he was buried on the outskirts of his native city in the Holy Trinity Church.
During his lifetime, William Shakespeare’s works were published only individually, sometimes in the form of collections (as his sonnets). The first complete collection of his works was prepared and published by his friends in 1623. The so-called Shakespearean canon included 37 plays; during the life of the playwright, only 18 of them were introduced to the public. His work marked the end of the process of forming the English language and culture, drawing a line under the European Renaissance. Until now, his plays are an integral part and the basis for the repertoire of theaters around the world. In the age of new technologies, almost all Shakespearean dramatical plays have been filmed.
William Shakespeare Quotes