William Shakespeare - LIFE,WORKS referat






William Shakespeare

      (1564-1616)

I         Introduction   
         

English playwright and poet, recognized in much of the world as the greatest of all dramatists. Shakespeare’s plays communicate a profound knowledge of the wellsprings of human behavior, revealed through portrayals of a wide variety of characters. His use of poetic and dramatic means to create a unified aesthetic effect out of a multiplicity of vocal expressions and actions is recognized as a singular achievement, and his use of poetry within his plays to express the deepest levels of human motivation in individual, social, and universal situations is considered one of the greatest accomplishments in literary history.

II     Life  
        

A complete, authoritative account of Shakespeare’s life is lacking, and thus much supposition surrounds relatively few facts. It is commonly accepted that he was born in 1564, and it is known that he was baptized in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. The third of eight children, he was probably educated at the local grammar school. As the eldest son, Shakespeare ordinarily would have been apprenticed to his father’s shop so that he could learn and eventually take over the business, but according to one account he was apprenticed to a butcher because of declines in his father’s financial situation. According to another account, he became a schoolmaster. In 1582 Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, the daughter of a farmer. He is supposed to have left Stratford after he was caught poaching in the deer park of Sir Thomas Lucy, a local justice of the peace. Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway had a daughter in 1583 and twins—a boy and a girl—in 1585. The boy did not survive.

Shakespeare apparently arrived in London about 1588 and by 1592 had attained success as an actor and a playwright. Shortly thereafter he secured the patronage of Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton. The publication of Shakespeare’s two fashionably erotic narrative poems Venus and Adonis (1593) and The Rape of Lucrece (1594) and of his Sonnets (published 1609, but circulated previously in manuscript form) established his reputation as a gifted and popular poet of the Renaissance (14th century to 17th century). The Sonnets describe the devotion of a character, often identified as the poet himself, to a young man whose beauty and virtue he praises and to a mysterious and faithless dark lady with whom the poet is infatuated. The ensuing triangular situation, resulting from the attraction of the poet’s friend to the dark lady, is treated with passionate intensity and psychological insight. Shakespeare’s modern reputation, however, is based primarily on the 38 plays that he apparently wrote, modified, or collaborated on. Although generally popular in his time, these plays were frequently little esteemed by his educated contemporaries, who considered English plays of their own day to be only vulgar entertainment.

Shakespeare’s professional life in London was marked by a number of financially advantageous arrangements that permitted him to share in the profits of his acting company, the Chamberlain’s Men, later called the King’s Men, and its two theaters, the Globe Theatre and the Blackfriars. His plays were given special presentation at the courts of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I more frequently than those of any other contemporary dramatist. It is known that

he risked losing royal favor only once, in 1599, when his company performed “the play of the deposing and killing of King Richard II“ at the request of a group of conspirators against Elizabeth. In the subsequent inquiry, Shakespeare’s company was absolved of complicity in the conspiracy.

III  Works  
       

Although the precise date of many of Shakespeare’s plays is in doubt, his dramatic career is generally divided into four periods: (1) the period up to 1594, (2) the years from 1594 to 1600, (3) the years from 1600 to 1608, and (4) the period after 1608. Because of the difficulty of dating Shakespeare’s plays and the lack of conclusive facts about his writings, these dates are approximate and can be used only as a convenient framework in which to discuss his development. In all periods, the plots of his plays were frequently drawn from chronicles, histories, or earlier fiction, as were the plays of other contemporary dramatists.

           

A       First Period  

Shakespeare’s first period was one of experimentation. His early plays, unlike his more mature work, are characterized to a degree by formal and rather obvious construction and by stylized verse.

Chronicle history plays were a popular genre of the time, and four plays dramatizing the English civil strife of the 15th century are possibly Shakespeare’s earliest dramatic works (see England: The Lancastrian and Yorkist Kings). These plays, Henry VI, Parts I, II, and III (1590?-1592?) and Richard III (1592-1593?), deal with evil resulting from weak leadership and from national disunity fostered for selfish ends. The four-play cycle closes with the death of Richard III and the ascent to the throne of Henry VII, the founder of the Tudor dynasty, to which Elizabeth belonged. In style and structure, these plays are related partly to medieval drama and partly to the works of earlier Elizabethan dramatists, especially Christopher Marlowe. Either indirectly (through such dramatists) or directly, the influence of the classical Roman dramatist Seneca is also reflected in the organization of these four plays, especially in the bloodiness of many of their scenes and in their highly colored, bombastic language. The influence of Seneca, exerted by way of the earlier English dramatist Thomas Kyd, is particularly obvious in Titus Andronicus (1594?), a tragedy of righteous revenge for heinous and bloody acts, which are staged in sensational detail.

           

B       Second Period

Shakespeare’s second period includes his most important plays concerned with English history, his so-called joyous comedies, and two of his major tragedies. In this period, his style and approach became highly individualized. The second-period historical plays include Richard II (1595?), Henry IV, Parts I and II (1597?), and Henry V (1598?). They encompass the years immediately before those portrayed in the Henry VI plays. Richard II is a study of a weak, sensitive, self-dramatizing but sympathetic monarch who loses his kingdom to his forceful

successor, Henry IV. In the two parts of Henry IV, Henry recognizes his own guilt. His fears for his own son, later Henry V, prove unfounded, as the young prince displays a responsible

attitude toward the duties of kingship. In an alternation of masterful comic and serious scenes, the fat knight Falstaff and the rebel Hotspur reveal contrasting excesses between which the prince finds his proper position. The mingling of the tragic and the comic to suggest a broad range of humanity subsequently became one of Shakespeare’s favorite devices.



C       Third Period

         

Shakespeare’s third period includes his greatest tragedies and his so-called dark or bitter comedies. The tragedies of this period are considered the most profound of his works. In them he used his poetic idiom as an extremely supple dramatic instrument, capable of recording human thought and the many dimensions of given dramatic situations. Hamlet (1601?), perhaps his most famous play, exceeds by far most other tragedies of revenge in picturing the mingled sordidness and glory of the human condition. Hamlet feels that he is living in a world of horror. Confirmed in this feeling by the murder of his father and the sensuality of his mother, he exhibits tendencies toward both crippling indecision and precipitous action. Interpretation of his motivation and ambivalence continues to be a subject of considerable controversy.

D      Fourth Period



The fourth period of Shakespeare’s work includes his principal romantic tragicomedies. Toward the end of his career, Shakespeare created several plays that, through the intervention of magic, art, compassion, or grace, often suggest redemptive hope for the human condition. These plays are written with a grave quality differing considerably from Shakespeare’s earlier comedies, but they end happily with reunions or final reconciliations. The tragicomedies depend for part of their appeal upon the lure of a distant time or place, and all seem more obviously symbolic than most of Shakespeare’s earlier works. To many critics, the tragicomedies signify a final ripeness in Shakespeare’s own outlook, but other authorities believe that the change reflects only a change in fashion in the drama of the period.

The romantic tragicomedy Pericles, Prince of Tyre (1608?) concerns the painful loss of the title character’s wife and the persecution of his daughter. After many exotic adventures, Pericles is reunited with his loved ones. In Cymbeline (1610?) and The Winter’s Tale (1610?), characters suffer great loss and pain but are reunited. Perhaps the most successful product of this particular vein of creativity, however, is what may be Shakespeare’s last complete play, The Tempest (1611?), in which the resolution suggests the beneficial effects of the union of wisdom and power. In this play a duke, deprived of his dukedom and banished to an island, confounds his usurping brother by employing magical powers and furthering a love match between his daughter and the usurper’s son. Shakespeare’s poetic power reached great heights in this beautiful, lyrical play.

Two final plays, sometimes ascribed to Shakespeare, presumably are the products of collaboration. A historical drama, Henry VIII (1613?) was probably written with English dramatist John Fletcher (see Beaumont and Fletcher), as was The Two Noble Kinsmen (1613?; published 1634), a story of the love of two friends for one woman.

William Shakespeare

      - Quick Facts -

  English dramatist, poet, and actor

Date Baptized

April 26, 1564

Death

April 23, 1616

Place of Birth

Stratford-upon-Avon

Known for

Producing perhaps the most varied and powerful body of work any author has ever written

Exploring elemental themes of power, justice, love, and death in his tragedies, comedies, histories, romances, and sonnets

Creating realistic stage characters whose appeal comes in their truly human motives, actions, and flaws

Achieving widespread and lasting recognition for his work, which continues to be taught and performed worldwide

Adding innumerable phrases and quotations to the English language

Milestones

1593  Published the poem Venus and Adonis

1594  Published the poem The Rape of Lucrece





1594  Joined the Chamberlain's Men theatrical company as an actor and playwright

Early 1590s  Shakespeare's early plays, The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew, Richard III, and Henry VI, Parts I, II, and III, were performed for the first time.

Mid 1590s  Shakespeare's plays Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Richard II were first performed.

Late 1590s  Shakespeare's comedic plays The Merry Wives of Windsor, Much Ado About Nothing, and As You Like It were first performed. His tragic play Julius Caesar was performed about 1599.

1600-1606  Shakespeare's great tragedies Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth were first performed.

1606-1613  Shakespeare's later plays, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, The Winter's Tale, The Tempest, and Henry VIII were first performed.

1609  Published Sonnets

1623  First Folio, a compilation of all of Shakespeare's plays, was posthumously published.

Did You Know

During a performance of Shakespeare's Henry VIII at London's Globe Theatre in 1613, a cannon set the roof on fire and the theater was destroyed.

At 18, Shakespeare married 26-year-old Anne Hathaway. They had a daughter, Susanna, and twins, Hamnet and Judith.

In the mid-19th century, some scholars believed that Shakespeare’s plays were authored instead by Sir Francis Bacon.

 

 









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