William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

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Though William Shakespeare is reckoned as being the world greatest playwright, we know very little about him. The barely fact we got of him is from church records, land titles, will and criticism from Williams rivals. The cause of such little knowledge is many. Firstly he lived for a long time ago, papers rotten and facts disappear. Secondly he wasn’t that famous at his time as he is now. His work consists of quite a few plays, mainly tragedies and comedies, but also 150 sonnets. The sonnets are special poems, poems about strong love.


Shakespeare was baptized, as we know for sure, in April 26 1564 in Stratford Upon Avon, England. And it’s assumed that he was born three days before, on April 23. William was the third child of John and Mary Shakespeare. He had two older sisters and three younger brothers. John Shakespeare was from a not as wealthy family like his wife, but became a prominent man of the town. He was the town official of Stratford and a local businessman, working with leatherwork. As well as dealing with grain. Mary Shakespeare was, as said, from a wealthy family and had inherited land from her father, even she was the youngest daughter.


As a child William went to a public school, The King’s New Grammar School, were they taught them, among other things, Latin. In one of his plays, William describes a schoolboy “creeping like a snail unwillingly to school.” Weird for the world greatest author, Shakespeare never went at university. When he was a boy, travelling theatres visited Stratford, William enjoyed that and maybe it gave him thoughts for the future?


Eighteen years old William married an eight years older pregnant woman. The women named Anne Hathaway. Just a few mounts later she gave William a daughter, Susannah. Two more children followed, they were twins, a boy called Hamnet and a girl called Judith. William and Anne had few children in proportion to what was normal at that time. The parents of families had to make sure that someone would take care of them while growing old.


In 1586, only four years after getting married, William headed for London, leaving his family and joined a theatre group called the Lord Chamberlain’s men. The group were the official acting company of England’s court. Later they became the royal company and called them selves The King’s men. First William started as an actor for the group, later he wrote plays and became very popular and successful. In 1595 William became one of the senior member of the company which was a great honour.


Now, William had made a little fortune of the writing and he was aloud to call himself a gentleman. One year later, 1597, he bought the largest house in Stratford. The house, named New Place, was a much desired house in the area. Later he also started buying land around the property.


The Globe was a new theatre in London where Shakespeare’s company performed and worked. Here were many of Williams plays showed and they even played for Queen Elizabeth the first. In 1598 Shakespeare became a 10% owner of The Globe. But under a performing of Henry the eight did the theatre burn down because they used actual canons during the act.


Shakespeare’s work can be divided into four periods.

1. 1591-93, this is called the experimental period of Shakespeare. Titus Andronicus, Love's Labour's Lost, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Comedy of Errors and The Taming of the Shrew.


2. 1593-01 marks the establishment of Shakespeare. The famous tragedy Romeo and Juliet was written. Otherwise he wrote mostly comedies, The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer-Night's Dream, Much Ado about Nothing, The Merry Wives of Windsor and history plays, Henry IV, Parts I and II, Henry V, Richard II, King John and Julius Caesar.


3. 1601-10, this period marks perhaps the apex of Shakespeare's work with the tragedies, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear, but also comedies such as Twelfth Night, All's Well that Ends Well and the epic history play, Antony and Cleopatra.


4. 1610-11, Cymbeline, Henry VIII and romances such as The Tempest and The Winter's Tale.


Unfortunately no original works of Shakespeare has been saved. At his time there were just wrote for performances and were never regarded as pieces of literary work.


47 years old, William retired to Stratford to his family. He died five years later in 1616 lying in his bed at New Place. Before he died he famously bequeaths the second best bed to his wife, something which construed to a not such a happy marriage with Anne.

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