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Shakespeare?S Biography Essay, Research Paper

Shakespeare’s Biography

Shakespeare is one of those historical literary figures whose name carries the connotation of genius. His name is mentioned with the same reverence given to those masters of the arts who have become larger than life, so famous that they are known by last names only: Chaucer, Beethoven, Bach, Degas, Monet, Mozart, and Picasso. Shakespeare’s plays have become so ingrained in part of the English-speaking culture that it is impossible to list all of his contributions to language, literature, and drama. Shakespeare is the most quoted English author of all time. Although Shakespeare’s name and contribution to literature is awe-inspiring, the man himself was undistinguished. He never thought to be famous, and that one day his plays would be taught in schools all around the world.

William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564, in Stratford-upon-Avon to John and Mary Arden Shakespeare. He was their third child. He survived infancy which is remarkable considering the bubonic plague had come to Stratford the following summer killing about one-sixth of the entire population. Neither of Shakespeare’s parents could write; however, they made sure that William could not only read but write as well. In Stratford, education was free to the sons of the Burgesses the middle class which John Shakespeare was a member. John Shakespeare worked himself up from a simple glove maker to a merchant and one of the leading members in the town. At the age of 5 the boys were sent to ‘petty school’ and were taught the alphabet by using hornbook and cross-rows.

William Shakespeare must be remembering his hornbook when he wrote in Richard III, “He hearkens after prophecies and dreams/ And from the cross-rows plucks the letter G.” Based on scattered comments throughout his plays, Shakespeare may not have liked his school years. In Romeo and Juliet, he writes “Love goes toward schoolboys from their books/ But love from love, toward school with heavy looks.” Geromio, in The Taming of the Shrew, returns from Petruchio’s troublesome wedding states “As willingly as e’er I came from school.” Regardless of how he felt about his schooling, it provided him “small Latin and less Greek” that he would need to succeed in his chosen profession. John and mary Shakespeare were the most influential in Shakespeare’s writing, for they encouredged him to write; however, it was the simple people who lived at that time who influenced his writing. About 1577, John Shakespeare fortune began to decline to a point where he had to take William out of school at the age of thirteen.

In 1582, Shakespeare at the age of eighteen married Anne Hathaway. Anne Hathaway was eight years older than her husband. Shakespeare was married by special license for one could not marry during a certain time due to religious. However, the reason became clear after six months of marriage when she gave birth to a baby girl named Susanna. Two years later in February 1585, Anne Shakespeare gave birth to twins, Hamnet, a boy and Judith, a girl. Shakespeare seemed to have regretted his early marriage in his later life, and his plays contain many references that seems to criticisms of his own youthful misadventures. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lysander tries to talk his way into Hermia’s bed, saying, “One turf shall serve as pillow for us both/ One heart, one bed, two bosoms, and one troth.” Hermia turns him away, and tells him to “Lie father off, in humane modesty;/ Such separation as may well be said/ Becomes a virtuous bachelor and a maid.”

However Shakespeare did live up to his family obligations. The years of 1585-1592 is referred to as the ‘lost years’. Since there are no records of what happen during that time of his life, Shakespeare simply fades away and re-appears in London in 1592 as a writer.From that point on he wrote plays and sonnets and was a bookkeeper for theaters for a living untill he opened up the most famous theater, The Globe.

For each play, there was a reason why he wrote it. Most plays were written for plain entertainment and money while many other were written for either Queen Elizabeth or noblemen who paid well. Macbeth was written for King James I who loved the supernatural so Shakespeare added the three witches for him. Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream for special festival occasion when the Queen herself might be present. Many claim A Midsummer Night’s Dream was written about Queen Elizabeth. Although it would be flattery to be depicted by Titania, the fairy Queen, who is the most beautiful and strong woman in the play, it really is almost disrespectful for Titania falls in love with Bottom whose head is turned into a donkey’s. All of these works remind the reader that Shakespeare wrote his works for actual performances. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the most visual from all of Shakespeare plays; it is not meant to be read but seen. Almost all-Elizabethan playwrights wrote for mostly bare stages and minimal props, so the appeal of the Dream to the viewer’s imagination is immense. An upper-class audience is inclined to favor romance and fantasy in its entertainment. The escape to the wood by Hermia, Lysander, Demetrious, Helena, Titania, Oberon and the hilarious interaction of the Athenian tradesmen, including the comical Bottom, combined to create one of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedies. The play contains further reflection on the business of the theater, with the tradesman’s rehearsal and the performance of the ludicrous “Pyramus and Thysby.”

Every character in Shakespeare plays came from people around him and the most famous sayings probably came from a fragmented speech he had probably overheard. Shakespeare continued writing more plays late into his life. His most famous plays were written a few years before his death Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, Anthony and Cleopatra and The Tempest are just a few of them. These later works were more complex and bares more

of the soul. The Tempest, a play written for the court of James I to celebrate a court wedding, is Shakespeare’s farewell to the theater. The play, a fairytale with a magician and beautiful daughter, centers on the reconciliation of two generations. G.B. Harrison praises The Tempest, “Shakespeare has finally achieved complete mastery over words in the blank-verse form. This power is shown throughout the play, but particularly in some of Prosero’s great speech…” Shakespeare makes his farewell to the theater through the voice of Prospero, the magician. After recounting a catalogue of scenes he had created over the years, from raging storms to corpse rising from the dead, Prosero announces, “this rough magic/ I here abjure…/I’ll break my staff, / Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,/ And….I’ll drown my book.” (V.i.50-57) His only writing after this farewell was Henry VII and his Sonnets.

On March 25, 1616, while he was in good health, Shakespeare made a will. Leaving a dowry to his daughter, Judith, and his household to his eldest daughter, Susanna, he gave small amounts of money to friends and money of rings to fellow actors of the Kings’ Men. A month later he became ill and died on April 23, 1616, at the age of fifty-two. As he lay dying, the chapel bell knelled for the passing of his soul, for the man for whom love was the center of the universe and the central subject of his many works.

In conclusion, Shakespeare was most influenced by his parents and the people around him. Shakespeare wrote for purely entertainment and money; but most of all, shakespeare plays must be seen to gain the full effect. In turn, love shaped most of his work, and his contribution to the English-speaking culture is immense.

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