Shakesperience.com

The Complete Shakespeare Experience    

WILLIAM

SHAKESPEARE

“The Bard of Avon”

Born 1564

Died 1616

S

hakespeare’s will gave most of his estate to his daughter, Susanna, and her male heirs. He left his “second best bed” to his wife, a curious bequest which raises questions about its meaning to this day, although most interpretations do not take it to be an insult since the best bed was usually reserved for guests in those times.

 In any event, by law, Shakespeare’s wife was automatically entitled to one-third of his property and the use of their home for life. Anne Hathaway Shakespeare died seven years later in 1623 and is buried by William’s side.


Controversy


Although there has been much discussion over the years suggesting that Shakespeare was not the author of his own plays or at least the sole author, contemporary scholars believe that Shakespeare did write them as it is too much of a stretch to believe that a man so well-respected by some of the greatest literary minds of the time, including Shakespeare’s good friend, Ben Jonson, could have been so thoroughly deceived.

So little is known about Shakespeare’s private life that many people looked for clues in his work, some in his plays, and more in the 154 sonnets he wrote.  There, they tried to discover who “the friend,” the “dark lady,” and the “rival poet” were and if they were based on real people in Shakespeare’s life.


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Professional Craftsmanship


During Shakespeare’s early years in theater, it is thought he would likely have apprenticed in the theater companies of the time and perhaps have collaborated with other playwrights, such as Christopher Marlowe. His earliest works are believed to follow the fashion of the day which focused on Senecan tragedies, otherwise known as a “tragedy of blood.” Afterward, he moved on to historical plays as these came into favor with Elizabethan audiences.


In the next phase of his career, he had become mature as a playwright and produced The Merchant of Venice, Henry IV, and Romeo and Juliet. He often drew on previous works, reaching far back into ancient Greek history if needed, for his plots, but made the plays his own by modifying the language with his wits and dramatic skills.

Hamlet, produced about 1601, signifies a period in Shakespeare’s career where he explored heavier themes, such as good and evil, and their effect on people’s lives.

Toward the end of his career, Shakespeare wrote what today we might call a dramedy, part drama, part comedy, such as The Tempest.

It will take some effort to understand Shakespeare’s language. English in the later 16th and early 17th Centuries was quite different from the English spoken today. But, with some preparation, the plays soon become easily understood and even more easily enjoyed as their themes of human nature are just as relevant today as during Shakespeare’s times.


Shakespeare was a master at creating three-dimensional characters which mirror the complex nature of human beings. His kingly characters were as richly developed as his simple fools. He deftly weaved the supernatural into his plays, using witches, ghosts, and fairies, while maintaining a sense of realism, much the way Charles Dickens did nearly 250 years later in A Christmas Carol.


Shakespeare was also a magnificent wordsmith, crafting dialogue in a form known as blank verse which uses unrhymed iambic pentameter, a style first developed in Italy and later adopted in English writing.

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John Shakespeare’s house, thought to

be William Shakespeare’s birthplace.