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Shakespeare Essay, Research Paper

William Shakespeare

Shakespeare, William (1564-1616), was an English playwright and

Poet, he is considered the greatest dramatist the world has ever known and

the finest poet who has written in the English language. Shakespeare is

known as the most popular author, no other writer’s plays have been

produced so many times in so many different places. Many reasons can be

given for Shakespeare’s popular audience, one is because of his broad

understanding of human nature. Shakespeare understood people like nobody

else did, he could see a dramatic situation in all of humans that relate to each

other. From this he could create characters that have meaning beyond the time

and place of his plays, yet his characters are not symbolic figures, there


Shakespeare wrote at least thirty-seven plays which have been divided

into comedies, histories, and tragedies. These plays contain characteristics of

all walks of life. Some of these walks of life are Kings, pickpockets,

Drunkards, generals, hired killers, shepherds, and philosophers all were in

Shakespeare’s works. In addition to his deep understanding of human nature

Shakespeare had knowledge in a wide variety of other subjects, such as

Music, the law, the Bible, military science, the stage, art, politics, the sea,

History, hunting, woodcraft, and sports. As for as we know Shakespeare had

no professional experience in any field except the theater. Shakespeare was

born to what today would be called middle-class parents. His birthplace was

the small market town of Stratford-upon-Avon. After Shakespeare got

Married at the age of 18 he left Stratford to go to London to seek fortune in

the theatrical world. Within a few years he became one of the city’s leading

actors and playwrights. By 1612 Shakespeare had become England’s most

popular playwright.

Shakespeare had a huge amount of influence on culture throughout the

World, his works have shaped a lot of the English speaking world and other

Countries such as Germany and Russia. Shakespeare contributed to the

development of the English language also, people say he prevented literary

English from becoming fixed and artificial. Shakespeare’s works have not just

been used by scholars, many words and phrases from his plays and poems

have been a part of everyday speech. Some examples of the everyday speech

are fair play, a foregone conclusion, catch cold, and disgraceful conduct. As

far as sholars know common words such as assassination, bump,

eventful, and lonely have been invented by Shakespeare. Many people can

identify lines by Shakespeare even though they have never even seen or read

one of his play’s a few examples are “To be, or not to be,” “Friends,

Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears,” and “A horse! A horse! My

Kingdom for a horse!” Shakespeare’s genius as a poet enabled him to express

an idea both briefly and colorfully. In a tragedy Othello he described jealousy

as “the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” Another

tragedy King Lear, Shakespeare described a daughter’s ingratitude toward

her father as “sharper than a serpent’s tooth.”

Besides influencing language and literature Shakespeare had effected

other cultures of the English speaking world, his plays and poems have been

a part of education. As a result Shakespeare’s ideas on such subjects as

heroism, romantic love, and the nature of tragedy have shaped the attitudes of

millions of people. His portrayals of historical figures and events have also

influenced our thinking, for examples many people visualize Julius Caesar,

Mark Antony, and Cleopatra as Shakespeare as Shakespeare portrayed them

not like they been described in history books. Even historians have been

influenced by Shakespeare’s greatness. Shakespeare lived in England during

the reign of Queen Elizabeth a period known as the Elizabethan Age,

historians consider the Elizabethan Age as a peak of English culture. Some

have questioned whether the period would seem so important if Shakespeare

had not lived and worked in it.

Shakespeare’s influence reflects his astonishing popularity, his plays

have been a vital part of the theater in the Western world since they were

written more than 300 years ago. Through the years the parts of

Shakespeare’s play are considered to be the supreme test of their art.

Shakespeare’s plays have been attracting audiences in big, sophisticated

cities and in small, rural towns. His plays were performed on the frontiers of

Australia and New Zealand, they were part of the cultural life of the

American Colonies and provided entertainment in the mining camps of the

Old West. Today there are theaters in England, the United States, and

Canada dedicated to staging some of Shakespeare’s works. Shakespeare’s

plays appeal to readers as well as to theater goers, his play’s and his poems

have all been printed and translated many of times. Publishing industries

thrive on printing Shakespeare’s things so scholars can read every aspect of

the man that wrote the plays and poems. Every year hundreds of books and

articles appear on Shakespearean subjects. Thousands of scholars from all

over the world gather in dozens of meetings annually to discuss topics

related to Shakespeare. Special libraries and library collections focus upon

Shakespeare, numerous motion pictures have been made of his plays,

composers have written operas, musical comedies, and instrumental works

based on his stories and characters. The world has admired and respected

many great writers, but only Shakespeare has generated such varied and

continuing interest and such constant affection.

During the Elizabethan Age the English people cared little about

keeping biographical information not related to the church or state. Back than

playwriting wasn’t a highly regarded occupation and Elizabethans saw little

point in recording the lives of the dramatists, but they did record some parts

of Shakespeare’s life. Some of the information they included is church

registers and accounts of business dealings.

Some information about Shakespeare’s parents is John Shakespeare

Williams was a glove maker who owned a shop in the town of

Stratford-upon-Avon. Stratford is about 75 miles (120 kilometers) northwest

of London in the county of Warwickshire. John was a respected man and

held many important positions in the local government. Shakespeare’s mother

was born Mary Arden she was the daughter of a farmer but related to a

family of considerable social standing in the county. John married Mary

about 1557, the Ardens were Roman Catholics, Mary may have been

a catholic also but the Shakespeare’s publicly belonged to the Church of

England, the state church. Shakespeare when he was born in 1564 he was the

third of eight children. The register of Holy Trinity the parish church in

Stratford records his baptism on April 26, the custom at the time infants were

baptized about three days after their birth so Shakespeare was born on April

23. The Shakespeare’s were a family of considerable local prominence, in

1565 John Shakespeare became an alderman three years later he was elected

bailiff (mayor) the greatest civic honor that a Stratford resident could


At about the age of 7 young William Shakespeare attended the

Stratford grammar school. The teachers were graduates of Oxford University

one of the good collages around the area. The students spent about nine

hours a day in school they attended classes year around except for three

brief holiday periods. The teachers at Stratford grammar school enforced

strict discipline and physically punished students who broke the rules. At the

school the children studied Latin the language of ancient Rome. Knowing

Latin was necessary for a career in medicine, law, or the church, knowing

Latin was a sign of a well educated man. Some authors Shakespeare might

have read about were Cecero, Ovid, Plautus, Seneca, Terence, and Virgil. By

standards today the Stratford grammar school would of been demanding,

dull, and strict, no evidence exists that Shakespeare had any teacher who

might have stirred his imagination and brought routine studies alive.

All the hours in school didn’t hurt Shakespeare’s boyhood his

boyhood was probably not boring at all, he lived in Stratford which was a

lively town, do to the market place. In addition to the lively town on holiday’s

there was popular pageants and shows, some plays about the legendary

outlaw Robin Hood and his merry men. By 1569 traveling companies of

professional actors were performing in Stratford, the town also held two

large fairs each year which attracted numerous visitors from other counties.

Shakespeare also had other pleasures in his boyhood the fields and woods

surrounding the town provided opportunities to hunt and trap small game.

Shakespeare could also go to the River Avon which ran through the town

where he could fish. Shakespeare’s poems and plays show a love of nature

and rural life this display reflects his childhood experiences and his love of

the stratford countryside.

In November 1582, Shakespeare was married to Anne Hathaway.

Anne was the daughter of a farmer who lived in Shottery a village about 1

mile from Stratford. At the time Shakespeare was 18 years old and Anne was

26. Early in 1585 Anne Shakespeare gave birth to twins a boy, Hamnet, and a

girl Judith. No information exist on Shakespeare life from Feb. 2, 1583 when

the twins were baptized to 1592 then evidence indicates Shakespeare was

living in London, scholars sometimes call this time the lost years.

Shakespeare’s name appears with his parents names in a Stratford lawsuit in

1588, but he may not have been living in Stratford at that time. Scholars think

that sometime during the lost years Shakespeare moved to London and served

a period of apprentice shop in the city’s theatrical life. There is some evidence

Shakespeare had become well known in London theatrical life by 1592, that

same year a pamphlet appeared with an apparent reference to Shakespeare,

this reference suggested he had become both an actor and a playwright. A

writer named Robert Greene had written a letter going against theater owners,

actors, and writers who he believed had abused the talents of university

educated playwrights such as himself. After Greene had died the letter was

published in a pamphlet called Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit Bought with a

Million of Repentance. Most scholars agree that in one passage Greene

attacked Shakespeare as an acotor who thought he could write plays as well

as educated dramatists could, this passage follows with the Elizabethan

spelling and punctuation midernized: … an upstart Crow, beautified with our

feathers, that with his Tiger’s heart wrapped in a Player’s hide, supposes he is

as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you: and being an

absolute Johannes fac totum [Johnny-do-everything], is in his own conceit the

only Shake-scene in a country.

When Shakespeare got to London he joined a theater company, these

Company?s consists of a permanent cast of actors who do a lot of play’s week

after week. These companies were commercial organizations that depended

on admission prices for their income. Scholars don’t know which theater

company Shakespeare joined before 1594 but he was a sharer(stockholder) of

a company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men in 1594. There was evidence

that payment to Shakespeare and his fellow actors for performances by the

company at Queen Elizabeth’s court. Lord Chamberlain’s Men were one of

the most popular theatrical groups in London, Shakespeare was the leader of

the group for the rest of his career. From 1592 to 1594 London officials

closed the theaters because of plagues, so there was no need for play’s to be

written at this time Shakespeare began to write poems. The Elizabethans

considered the writing of poetry much more important than the writing of

play’s, Shakespeare believed that he would be able to gain the respect of the

people through poems instead of play’s. In 1593 Shakespeare’s poem Venus

and Adonis was printed by Richard Field a Stratford neighbor who had

become a London printer. He dedicated the poem to 19-year-old Henry

Wriothesley the Earl of Southampton. Shakespeare thought dedicating the

poem to him would win his support, Venus and Adonis quickly became a

success. Shakespeare wrote another poem called Rape of Lucrece in 1594

and dedicated it to Earl of Southampton, the wording of this was thought that

the Earl gave him money for the dedication to him in the first poem.

From 1594 to 1608 Shakespeare was fully involved in the London

theater world, in addition to his duties as a stockholder and actor in the Lord

Chamberlain’s Men he wrote an average of almost two play’s a year for his

company. During Shakespeare’s time he was not praised as other people in

later time did. An exception was the English clergyman and schoolmaster

Francis Meres. In 1598 Meres wrote Palladis Tamia, a book that has become

an important part in the source of information of Shakespeare’s life. In this

book Meres said of Shakespeare “As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the

best for Comedy and tragedy among the English is the most excellent in both

kinds for the stage.” Although Meres’ praise did not represent everyone’s

opinion it showed that Shakespeare had established writer by at least the late

1590’s and he had not yet written most of his tragedies such as Hamlet,

Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth. By the 1590’s Shakespeare had not only

become an established writer but he had also become prosperous. In 1597 he

purchased New Place one of the two largest houses in Stratford, Shakespeare

obviously remained a Stratford man at heart in spite of his busy successful life

in London. Shakespeare preferred to invest in Stratford more than in London.

In 1599 Shakespeare and six associates became owners of the Globe a

new outdoor theater in the London suburb of Southwark, the Glabe was one

of the largest theaters in the London area it may have held as many as 3,000

spectators. Also in 1599 a printer William Jaggard published The Passionate

Pilgrim a book of 20 poems supposedly written by Shakespeare, in fact it

only had contained only two of Shakespeare’s sonnets and three poems from

his comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost. The printer used Shakespeare’s name on the

cover to promote the book’s sale.

In 1603 Queen Elizabeth the first died and was succeeded by her

cousin James the forth of Scotland as king of England he became James the

first. James enjoyed and actively supported the theater, he issued a royal

license to Shakespeare and his fellow players, which allowed the men to be

called the King’s Men. In return for the license the actors entertained the king

at court on a more or less regular basis. James support came at a convenient

time an outbreak of plague in 1603 had closed the theaters for long periods

making theatrical life uncertain, in fact James’s entry into London as king had

to be postponed until 1604 because of the plague. When James finally made

his royal entry into London the King’s Men accompanied him. The members

of the group were known as the grooms of the chamber in spite of this title

and the name King’s Men the actors were not actually friends of the king,

their relationship to the royal court was simply that of professional

entertainers. The King’s Men achieved success and became London’s leading

theatrical group. In 1608 the company leased the Blackfriars theatre for 21

years, the theater stood in a heavily populated London district called

Blackfriars. The Blackfriars Theatre had artificial lighting, was heated, and

served as the company’s winter playhouse. In the summer they performed at

the Globe Theater though. From 1599 to 1608 was a period of extraordinary

literary activity for Shakespeare, during these years he wrote several

comedies and almost all the tragedies that have made him famous.

Shakespeare’s masterpieces during this period include the comedies Much

Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night the history Henry the fifth and the

tragedies Antony, Cleopatra, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, King Lear, Macbeth, and


In 1609 a London publisher Thomas Torpe published a book called

Shakespeare?s sonnets. This book had contained more than 150 sonnets

Shakespeare had written. Scholars have been really curious about this

dedication Thorpe wrote to the book. This dedication reads: ?To the only

begetter of these ensuing sonnets Mr. W.H.?. For many years people have

tried to figure out who Mr. W.H. is, but have not accomplished it, Scholars

have studied the sonnets to determine what extent they are autobiographical,

but they have failed to discover anything to go on. Most of Shakespeare?s

readers say the sonnets are just good to read not as a autobiographical


During Shakespeare?s last eight years of life Shakespeare wrote only

four plays: Cymbeline, Henry the 8th, The Tempest, and The Winter?s Tale.

Some people say that the Tempest written about 1610 was Shakespeare?s last

play. Evidence shows that Shakespeare purchased a house in the Blackfriars

district of London and gradually reduced his work in London instead of

abruptly ending it. Shakespeare had divided his time between Stratford and

London his public life in London and his private in Stratford. Shakespeare

had houses in London until 1604 but he went back to Stratford all the time.

Some important things he had to go back for is his mothers death in 1608 and

his daughter Susanna? s marriage in 1607. His other daughter Judith married

Thomas Quiney on Feb. 10, 1616. Six weeks later Shakespeare made a will.

Within a month Shakespeare had died and was buried inside the Stratford

parish church. Shakespeare?s monument records the day of his death, which

is April 23. Shakespeare?s son Hamnet died in 1596 at the age of 11. His

daughter Susanna had one child Elizabeth. Shakespeare?s other daughter

Judith gave birth to three boys but they died before she did. Shakespeare?s

last descendant, his grand daughter Elizabeth died in 1670.


Fetzer, Scott. The World Book Encyclopedia.

World Book Inc., 1993ed.

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