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William Shakespeare`S Biography Essay, Research Paper

William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564. He was baptized on April 24, 1564, in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. He was the third of eight children born to John Shakespeare and Mary Arden, three of whom died in childhood. John was a well-known merchant and Mary was the daughter of a Roman Catholic member of the gentry, or high social position. The house where Shakespeare spent his childhood stood adjacent to he wool shop in which his father plied a successful trade as a glover and dealer in leather goods and other commodities. Before moving to Stratford sometime prior to 1552 John Shakespeare had been a farmer in the neighboring village of Snitterfield. Whether he was able to read and write is uncertain. By marrying Mary Arden, the daughter of his father’s landlord, he acquired the benefits of a better social standing and a lucrative inheritance, much of which he invested in property such as houses. And by involving himself in public service, he rose by sure degrees to the highest municipal positions Stratford had to offer such as: chamberlain in 1561, alderman in 1565, and bailiff ,or mayor, and justice of the peace in 1568.

Shakespeare was educated at the local grammar school. According to history, because Shakespeare was the eldest son, he should have been the apprentice to his father’s shop so that he could be taught everything his father knew and soon take over the business. But instead he was the apprentice to a butcher because of the trouble in his father’s financial situation. Just what happened to alter John Shakespeare’s financial and social position after the mid 1570s is not clear. Shakespeare was still allowed a lot of free time when he was young. This was suggested by historians that his plays show more ideas of hunting and hawking than do those of other play writers. In 1582 he married Anne Hathaway, the daughter of a farmer. He was thought to have left Stratford after he was caught poaching in the deer park of Sir Thomas Lucy. He was 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 however, eventually did not live.

The age of Shakespeare was a great time in English history. The reign of Elizabeth, from 1558 to 1603, saw England emerge as the leading naval and commercial power of the Western world. Elizabeth I’s England consolidated its position with the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, and firmly established the Church of England. Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Sir Walter Raleigh sent colonists eastward in search of profit. In trade, might, and art, England established an envious preeminence.

At this time, London was the heart of England, reflecting all the vibrant qualities of the Elizabethan Age. It was in this atmosphere that London became a leading center of culture as well as commerce. Its dramatists and poets were among the leading literary artists of the daythis is the environment in which Shakespeare lived and wrote.

In the 1580’s, the writings of the University Wits defined the London theatre. Though grounded in medieval/Jacobean roots, men such as Marlowe, Greene, Lyly, Kyd, and Peele, produced new dramas and comedies using Marlowe’s styling of blank verse. Shakespeare outdid them all; he combined the best traits of Elizabethan drama with classical sources, enriching the admixture with his imagination and wit.

Shakespeare apparently arrived in London around 1588 and by 1592 had gained success as an actor and a playwright. Shortly after that, he secured the business of Henry Wriothesley, 3rd earl of Southampton. The publication of Shakespeare’s two poems Venus and Adonis in 1593, and The Rape of Lucrece in 1594, and some of his Sonnets, published in 1609, established a reputation for him as a talented and popular Renaissance poet. Shakespeare’s modern reputation is based mainly on the 38 plays that he wrote, modified, and collaborated on. When in his days, these plays frequently had little respect by his educated friends, who considered English plays of their own to be only tasteless entertainment.

Shakespeare’s professional life in London was marked by a number of financially beneficial arrangements that allowed him to share in the profits of his acting company, the Chamberlain’s Men, later called the King’s Men. The acting company had 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 coexistent writer.

After 1608, Shakespeare’s dramatic production lessened and it seemed that he spent more time in Stratford. There he had secure family in a wealthy house called New Place. Shakespeare had become a leading local citizen. He died on April 23, 1616, and was buried in the Stratford church.

The earliest Shakespeare also owes a debt to Christopher Marlowe, whose writing probably gave much inspiration

William Shakespeare, in terms of his life and his body of work, is the most written-about author in the history of Western civilization. His canon includes 38 plays, 154 sonnets, and 2 epic narrative poems. The First Folio was published posthumously in 1623 by two of Shakespeare’s acting companions, John Heminges and Henry Condell. Ever since then, the works of Shakespeare have been studied, analyzed, and enjoyed as some of the finest masterpieces of the English language.

Major Works:

Plays

2 Henry VI, 3 Henry VI, 1 Henry VI ,Richard III, The Comedy of Errors, Titus Andronicus, The Taming of the Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, King John, The Merchant of Venice, 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV, Much Ado About Nothing, Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It (1599–1600); Hamlet, The Merry Wives of Windsor (1600–01); Twelfth Night, Troilus and Cressida (1601–02); All’s Well That Ends Well (1602–03); Measure for Measure, Othello (1604–05); King Lear, Macbeth (1605–06); Antony and Cleopatra (1606–07); Coriolanus, Timon of Athens (1607–08); Pericles (1608–09); Cymbeline (1609–10); The Winter’s Tale (1610–11); The Tempest (1611–12); Henry VIII (1612–13).

Poems

(dates of publication given): Venus and Adonis (1593); The Rape of Lucrece (1594); “The Phoenix and the Turtle” (1601); Sonnets with “A Lovers complaint” (1609).

Literary Works\Major Literary Works

Though Shakespeare has an extensive library of works, his major works are: Hamlet and Macbeth. Hamlet is a tragedy about a prince names Hamlet. Hamlet is mourning his father’s death. He also resents his mother because she remarried his uncle, Claudius, who has become king. The ghost of Hamlet’s father appears and tells Hamlet that he was murdered by Claudius, and tells Hamlet to avenge his death. Shakespeare handles the very complicated plot of Hamlet brilliantly.

Macbeth is another tragedy. This play is set in Scotland. The nobleman Macbeth and his companion Banquo are returning from a battle when they run into three witches. The witches tell Macbeth that he will be thane, or baron, and then king of Scotland. He becomes thane then later King. But Macbeth has no peace. The witches predict that Banquo will be king. So Macbeth orders Banquo’s house to be killed. As the play continues you see Macbeth become obsessed with killing. Shakespeare does an excellent job of showing a man’s change of conscience.

Literary Works\ Summary of Literary Works

William’s Tragedy Romeo and Juliet, is in regard to two lovers, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet. Which come from different households, which have been feuding for many years. The main issues that concern Romeo and Juliet are the issue of love and hate, and defiance of their parent’s wishes.

The play begins with two servants of the Capulet family armed with swords. They are ready to fight with any “dog of the house of Montague.” They express the hatred toward Montague in vulgar terms and sexual references. Then two servants of the Montague household enter and the two sides begin to fight. The fight ends temporarily when Benvolio, a Montague and Romeo’s cousin, appears and beats down their swords. Immediately after this, however, a member of the Capulet family, Tybalt, bursts in, and begins to fight with Benvolio. Escalus, the Prince, commands them to stop breaking the peace, complaining that these street battles have erupted on several occasions. He then threatens the lives of the fighters. Old Montague asks Benvolio about the argument, but Lady Montague’s is more concerned with their son, Romeo. She is glad that Romeo was not in the fight, but she then says that her son has been depressed. Romeo enters, he appeares down and distracted. Romeo explains to Benvolio that he is madly in love with a woman named Rosaline. She has sworn to keep her virginity, which is the reason of Romeo’s depression. Benvolio says that Romeo should “forget to think of her,” and his Romeo replies that he will stop thinking about Rosaline if Benvolio can show him “a mistress that is passing fair”.

In Act I Scene ii, the scene shifts to another street in Verona, where a young noble, name County Paris, is speaking with Old Capulet about the Duke’s threatened punishment and then says that he desires to marry Capulet’s daughter, Juliet. Old Capulet initially objects to this proposal, saying that Juliet is too young, but he then says that he will allow the marriage if Paris can win Juliet’s love. Old Capulet then instructs a servant to deliver invitations to a party that he is planning, and leaves the stage. The servant has a predicament: he is illiterate and cannot read the list of guests. Just then, Romeo and Benvolio pass by. Romeo reads the list. After he finds the name of Rosaline among the invited guests. Romeo plans to attend the party and Benvolio says that he will show Romeo some other maid at the feast.

Scene iii begins at the Capulet’s house, Juliet’s talkative Nurse fondly recalls her mistress’s childhood to Juliet’s mother, Lady Capulet. When Juliet arrives, Lady Capulet talk to her daughter out about her willingness to marry, and Juliet says that she has not considered it. Her mother says “Well, think of marriage now,” saying that many girls of Verona who are younger than Juliet are already wives. Lady Capulet tells her daughter that Paris will be at the party.

Scene iv begins in front of Capulet’s house, Romeo, Benvolio and Mercutio approach the festivities inside. Mercutio performs a brilliant piece about Queen Mab who lives in dreams. When Romeo objects, saying that his friend talks of nothing, Mercutio replies that Romeo is right because his subject is dreams “which are the children of an idle brain”.

In scene v the setting now moves into the Capulet house. Guests arrive and are greeted by Old Capulet and his wife. Romeo enters with his crew and falls in love with the beautiful Juliet with his first glance at her. His love for Rosaline is gone instantaneously. The fiery Tybalt recognizes Romeo’s voice as that of a Montague and makes ready to fight with him, but Old Capulet says that Romeo is a “virtuous and well-govern’d youth” and that Tybalt should leave him alone. This provides Romeo and Juliet with the opportunity to speak to each other face-to-face. Romeo’s first words to Juliet are like poetry in which he says that he is an unworthy pilgrim come to the shrine of Juliet’s beauty. Juliet replies in a discouraging, but flirtatious manner. In a series of exchanges, the lovers both show interest in each other, and then kiss. When Juliet leaves, Romeo asks the Nurse who Juliet is and learns that she is the daughter of the Capulet’s. Juliet then asks about the identity of Romeo, and is told that he is the son of Montague. Like Romeo, she finds it ironic that the one they love is from the people they hate.

Act II starts in the orchard of the Capulet house. Romeo lingers where his love Juliet is supposed to be. Benvolio and Mercutio enter looking for Romeo, but Romeo hides from them and his two friends leave. This is the extremely famous balcony scene of the play. Romeo sees Juliet appear at a window and says, “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks”. Juliet, not aware that Romeo stands in the shadows below, says the famous lines: “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? /Deny thy father and refuse thy name”. Romeo reveals himself and the two profess their love, saying that what divides them is merely their last names. Juliet says she has anxiety that their romance will be extinguished. She is called away from Romeo by the Nurse, but reappears and the two agree to marry. She exits again, and appears a third time. The two make plans to communicate with each other then give farewells.

In scene iii, the setting shifts to the cell of Friar Laurence, a major character who tries to help Romeo and Juliet to marry in the hope that this will end the feud between the families. Romeo enters and tells the good friar about his love for Juliet. The Friar agrees to help Romeo and his beloved, saying that they must move “wisely and slow, they stumble that run fast”

On the city’s streets, Benvolio tells Mercutio that Tybalt has challenged Romeo to a fight. Mercutio remarks that Romeo is no match for Tybalt, who is a skilled fighter. Romeo arrives and the three youths exchange words. Juliet’s nurse then enters, asking for a word from Romeo for Juliet. He says that Juliet should meet him at the Friar’s cell that afternoon where they will be secretly married. The Nurse finds Romeo to be a gentleman and blesses the plan. Juliet impatiently awaits the return of her Nurse with a word from Romeo. The Nurse arrives but first teases Juliet before telling Romeo’s message about marrying secretly that afternoon.

Scene vi begins at the Friar’s cell. Friar Laurence and Romeo await the arrival of Juliet. He calls the potential wedding ceremony a “holy act” but also says that “these violent delights have violent ends.” Juliet enters, Romeo compares her to a blazing light, and Friar Laurence marries the two in holy matrimony

Act III starts with a duel scene, which takes place in Verona. Benvolio suggests that he and Mercutio lay low, because the “Capels” are in the street. Mercutio says that Benvolio only anticipates a fight because he is by nature a hot-tempered man. The “Capels” do, in fact, arrive led by Tybalt who tests Mercutio’s temper. Romeo then enters, and Tybalt challenges him to a fight. But Romeo refuses to fight: even after Tybalt calls him a villain, Romeo wishes him well. Mercutio is furious by his Romeo’s “dishonorable, vile submission!” He draws his sword and fights with Tybalt. Romeo breaks them up, but this just gives Tybalt the chance to stab Mercutio. Mercutio is seriously wounded and curses the Capulet and the Montague families with “a plague a’ both houses.” Benvolio, who returns with the news that Mercutio is dead, carries Mercutio off stage. When Tybalt comes back again, Romeo fights with him and Tybalt is slain. Romeo runs from punishment by the Prince, crying out that he is “fortune’s fool.” The Prince follows a group of citizens to the place of the fight. Benvolio recounts what has occurred. Recognizing that Tybalt was the instigator of the confusion, the Prince spares Romeo from a death penalty, but banishes him from Verona.

At the Capulet house, Juliet is unaware of what has happened. She can’t wait to elope with Romeo. The Nurse arrives and says “he’s dead.” Juliet assumes that “he” is Romeo, but the Nurse then tells her that “Tybalt is gone, and Romeo banished.” Juliet fixes upon the word “banished,” and says that she would rather that ten thousand Tybalts had died than that her Romeo be banished. The Nurse tries to console her, promising to seek Romeo out.

In hiding at Friar Lawrence’s cell, Romeo learns that the Prince has banished. He says he would rather die than be separated in life from Juliet. Friar Laurence rebukes Romeo. The Nurse comes in and sees Romeo on the ground distraught. Romeo offers to stab himself, but the Friar stops, then questions his manhood. He tells Romeo that all is not lost, and directs him to travel to Mantua and await developments there.

At the Capulet house, Old Capulet talks about his daughter’s distress, believing that Juliet is grieving over the death of her cousin, Tybalt. Paris indicates a willingness to delay his marriage to Juliet during this time of mourning, but Old Capulet says that the marriage of Paris and Juliet should take place in three days time.

In the orchard of the Capulet house, Romeo and Juliet are together even though Romeo risks his life by remaining in Verona. The two are deeply in love but mourn the turn of events that will force them to part. When Romeo leaves, Lady Capulet enters and asks about Juliet’s grief for Tybalt. Juliet plays along, pretending to hate the villain Romeo. But when her mother tells Juliet that she will be married to Paris on Thursday, Juliet complains that it is too hasty and refuses to wed her father’s choice of son-in-law. Old Capulet enters and is enraged by Juliet’s rejection of marriage to Paris, calling her “young baggage.” The Nurse defends her mistress from this verbal assault but Old Capulet silences her and then speaks of Paris’s noble family, intelligence and beauty. After her parents leave, Juliet tells the nurse that she cannot marry Paris. The Nurse overlooks this problem and admires the virtues of Paris, which now surpass those of the banished Romeo. When the Nurse leaves her alone on the stage, Juliet says that she will go to Friar Laurence for advice and that “If all else fail, myself have the power to die.”

At Friar Laurence’s cell, Paris arranges for the wedding with Juliet. Juliet enters and Paris calls her his wife and then departs. Now alone, Juliet and the Friar talk about the obstacles that stand in the way of her reunion with Romeo. When she threatens to kill herself, the Friar sees hope. He will give Juliet a potion that will make her seem to be dead for forty-two hours. After her family finds her in this death-like state, they will inter her in the family tomb. Friar Laurence will send word of this ruse to Romeo in Mantua and when she awakes from “a pleasant sleep,” she will find Romeo there and the two can then return to Mantua together.

In scene ii the settings returns to the Capulet house, where Juliet’s parents and the household staff prepare for the wedding celebration. Juliet appears and says that she has changed her mind; she now wishes to tie the knot with Paris. Old Capulet is glad about his daughter’s apparent change of heart. At the same location, after the Nurse and her mother exit, Juliet considers the dangers of taking the potion that Friar Laurence has given to her. But she overcomes all of her apprehensions and drinks the vial, toasting to Romeo. Lady Capulet sends the Nurse to awaken Juliet.

Scene v continues from the previous scene in Juliet’s bedroom, the Nurse tries to awaken a slumbering Juliet, but when she draws back the curtain, she finds what appears to be a corpse. The Nurse tells Juliet’s mother and father that their daughter is dead. Friar Laurence and a group of musicians arrive, expecting to take part in the wedding of Julie and Paris. Old Capulet tells them: “All things that we ordained festival, /Turn from their office to black funeral”

On a street in the city of Mantua, Romeo speaks of a dream about joyous news. But then one of the Montague’s servants arrives with word from Verona that Juliet lies dead in the Capulet family’s mausoleum. On the basis of this incomplete report, Romeo seeks out an pharmacist to provide him with poison. He plans to go to the tomb in which Juliet lies and die alongside her.

Back at Friar Laurence’s cell in Verona, Friar John arrives with bad news: he was blocked by accident from delivering Father’s Laurence’s letter to Romeo. Friar Laurence realizes that this mishap could mean disaster and goes forth immediately to the graveyard open the Capulet family tomb before Juliet wakes.

At the churchyard in Verona, Paris has come to Juliet’s tomb to glimpse her beauty once more. He instructs a boy servant to stand watch and enters with a torch into the Capulet mausoleum. Romeo and the servant Balthasar then enter. Romeo instructs his man to leave the scene, saying that he merely wishes to retrieve a ring from Juliet’s hand. Balthasar is doubtful and fears that Romeo may attempt suicide; he decides to hide nearby. Romeo and Paris encounter each other. Romeo calls Paris a gentle youth and warns him not to interfere with his plans. Paris defies him, they fight, and Paris is slain by Romeo. Romeo takes Paris’ body further into the tomb and lays it alongside the “corpse” of his beloved Juliet. He stands over Juliet’s body, saying that not even death can conquer her beauty. He kisses Juliet, takes the pharmacist’s swiftly acting potion and dies. Just then, Friar Laurence appears: trying to run to the tomb of the Capulets, the priest tripped and stumbled over tombstones and arrived too late to save Romeo from his misguided suicide. He then enters the tomb just as Juliet wakes from her slumber. Friar Laurence tells Juliet that Romeo is dead. She takes Romeo’s dagger and stabs herself to death when Friar Laurence is distracted. The Prince, the Capulets, and the Montagues then enter. Friar Laurence tells the Prince and the others about the failed plan to bring Romeo and Juliet together and of their tragic, mistaken suicides. The Prince chastises the heads of the families, declaring that it is their fault that this catastrophe has occurred. Old Montague and Old Capulet join hands; the feud is over, and they agree to erect golden statutes of Romeo and Juliet.

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