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William Shakespeare

14 Jun 2017Literature Essays

William Shakespeare’s actual birth date is not officially known, but according to records and research he was born on April 23, 1564. This date is also Saint George’s Day, a British holiday. He was born on Henley Street in Stratford Upon Avon to parents John and Mary. His father was a tanner and leather goods salesman who became somewhat wealthy. He was a successful businessman and he also held several positions in the town of Stratford including one equal to being the mayor. He later lost this job and fell into poverty before dying in 1601. Shakespeare’s parents had three children that died before William was born, and he had two siblings named Gilbert and Joan. Because his father was an important man in Stratford when William was young, William received a good education. He attended a grammar school at Stratford upon Avon. This is where he first studied many of the Latin and English authors that later influenced his plays.

After leaving the school because of his father’s loss of the public service job, William married Anne Hathaway in 1582 when he was eighteen and she was twenty six. There is evidence that she was already many months pregnant when they got married. They had three children: Susanna and twins Hamnet and Judith who were named after close family friends. Shakespeare would leave his wife and children behind when he moved to London to become an actor.

The years 1585-1592 are called Shakespeare’s “lost years” because not a lot is known about what he did or what happened in his life during this time frame. Around 1585 he moved to London to study acting. By 1592 he was a popular and respected actor in London. He had also started writing plays of his own by this time, including Henry II and The Comedy of Errors. Most of his plays were performed by a troupe called Pembroke’s Men. Shakespeare wrote for this troupe and acted with them too. The troupe performed plays for Queen Elizabeth often. Shakespeare left theatre briefly after 1592 when an outbreak of the plague made many theatres close. He wrote sonnets and poetry until he returned to theatre around 1594.

Shakespeare bought the Globe Theatre with his troupe the Chamberlain’s Men after he returned to acting. The Globe was an open-air theatre and got its name because it was shaped like an octagon and was round like a globe. The Globe was one of the major theatres in London at the time, along with the Rose, the Swan and the Hope. Shakespeare and his troupe continued to perform for Queen Elizabeth and her court at this theatre. The Globe Theatre would later burn down during a performance of King Henry VII. Shakespeare continued to write, act and be involved in theatre until he died in 1616. The cause of Shakespeare’s death is unknown to this day. The vicar of Stratford’s Holy Trinity Church explained Shakespeare’s death in an entry in his journal by saying, “Shakespeare, Drayton and Ben Jonson had a merry meeting and it seems drank too hard, for Shakespeare died of a fever there contracted”.

Shakespeare’s influence in literature has continued to the present day for many reasons. He continues to be considered one of the most famous and influential writers and poets in history because his characters still seem believable and real even though his stories are set in a time long ago. The reader is still able to relate to them because Shakespeare wrote about common human emotions and understandable events. His characters are motivated by jealousy, anger, greed, power, love and lust. Readers can always relate to a character in Shakespeare’s work or sympathize with what the character goes through because people still feel those kinds of emotions today and always will. Shakespeare also wrote in a language and style that were unique when he first wrote his plays and sonnets and are now considered classic. Shakespeare is said to have impacted the English language as a whole, not just literature. He did this with the language he used in his plays and the structures and languages in his sonnets and poetry.

Most of Shakespeare’s sonnets were written in the 1590s and there are references in them to many people in Shakespeare’s life, including his wife Anne. But the first 126 sonnets Shakespeare wrote were actually addressed to a man, making some people question Shakespeare’s sexuality. There is no proof that Shakespeare was or wasn’t gay, and people continue to debate what he meant by addressing these sonnets to a male.

Many of Shakespeare’s tragedies were based on Greek and Roman myths or historical events, like Julius Caesar. Shakespeare also wrote histories like Richard III and King Henry VIII that focused on real historical figures and their lives. Shakespeare’s comedies include Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Many of Shakespeare’s comedies include comical situations involving lovers and some kind of magical element like fairies, sprites or witches.

Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets have inspired many movies over the years. There have been many movie versions of Shakespeare’s plays like Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth where actors use the actual lines of the play. But there are also movies that do not follow the lines of the play but have a story based on issues addressed in the play or that mimic the play’s characters. Some recent examples are the musical West Side Story, which was based on Romeo and Juliet, and the movie Ten Things I Hate About You and which was based on Taming of the Shrew. These are just two examples of films, musicals, plays and books that continue to be influenced by Shakespeare’s language, structure and stories.

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