READ: William Shakespeare

1 Who is William Shakspeare?

William Shakespeare, who was baptized April 26, 1564, (his actual birth date is unknown), and died April 23, 1616, is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language. His surviving works consist of some 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every language, and performed more than any other playwright.

Shakespeare was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon, where at the age of 18 he married Anne Hathaway. They had three children, Susanna and twins Hamnet and Judith.

Between 1585 and 1592 he began a successful career in London as a writer, actor and part owner in a theatre troupe called the "Lord Chamberlains Men," later the name was changed to the "Kings Men."

Few records regarding his private life have survived, and there has been much speculation over the years about his physical appearance, religious beliefs, and whether or not the works he is credited for writing, were actually written by him. Some people have said that William Shakespeare was merely a cover name to protect the actual authors, who for reasons such as social rank, state security or gender, could not take credit for the work. However, all but a few Shakespeare scholars refute the idea based on lack of evidence.

Most of Shakespeare's play were written for the Globe Theatre. Many of Shakespeares plays were performed at the Globe, starring several famous actors. Among those actors were; Richard Burbage and William Kempe. The Globe was subsequently burned down, and a replica reconstructed some years later.

wiki commons
*Reconstructed Globe Theatre*

Shakespeare's first plays were written in the conventional style of the day. Soon however, Shakespeare began to adapt the more traditional language to suit his own purposes. His standard poetic form became blank verse, composed in iambic pentameter. This means that the verse is generally unrhymed, and consists of ten syllables to a line, spoken with a stress on every second syllable.

However, Shakespeare did not adhere to this pattern strictly, but varied it depending on the play and the unique character giving the speech. We will learn more about this style of writing and speaking in subsequent chapters.

Brockett, O.G. (1999) History of the Theatre, (8th ed). MA: Allyn & Bacon.