Tuesday, 28 February 2012


This year Britain commemorate the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death

There is little known about Shakespeare and the mystery multiply because so many people trying to find out more. Even the authenticity, of the so-called portraits of the artist, is questioned.
William Shakespeare was baptised in the parish church of Stratford-on-Avon, England, on 26 April 1564. Since in those days only the entries of baptism can be found it is assumed that he was born one or two days earlier.
His father, John Shakespeare, was a successful glove-maker. Soon after William's birth he became the town bailiff which was in his days the town mayor. After 1576, John Shakespeare, had financial problems. This fact could explain why the gifted William was not send to a university.
However, it has been established that according to Shakespeare's writing that he did receive a good, grammar-school-like education and most properly in Stratford.

In 1582, when Shakespeare was 18 years old he fell in love and married a girl called Anne Hathaway. She was eight years older than him and already pregnant at the time. They had two girls with the name of Susanna and Judith. A son called Hamnet, but unfortunately, died when he was eleven.
Shakespeare went into history when he was working in London in 1592 with the play of Henry VI. Robert Greene called him an 'upstart crow' in a pamphlet. Greene was an envious fellow-dramatist. Greene looked down on him because he was not university educated. According to that Shakespeare was later on looked upon as either a genius or even a fake because of that snobbery. It gave Francis Bacon, a famous philosopher and a man of letters. A lot of material and ideas. Bacon, it was said, wrote plays in his spare time.
From 1593 to 1594 an epidemic of the plague closed the London theatres. Shakespeare had a patronage from the Earl of Southampton and because of that he could concentrate on writing poetry. After the epidemic was over, he joined the new theatre company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, as an actor and playwright.
From here on, Shakespeare wrote a number of comedies and historical plays. His famous play 'Romeo and Juliet' dates from 1595 and it was about the tragic event. However, his earlier works like 'Love's Labour's Lost and 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' shows a fresh and youthful, singing quality. It shows in the many use of rhymed verses.
'The Merchant of Venice' shows already a darker comedy in which Shakespeare was writing a few years later. He established with that an idea that a comedy doesn't necessary have to be funny provided the end is to be a happy one.
At that time Shakespeare wrote two plays of Henry IV with the most celebrated comic creation. It was the fat, deceitful Falstaff with all his misadventures. It is said that the Queen Elizabeth I was so amused that she demanded another play in which Falstaff would also appear. Shakespeare promptly obliged and wrote the 'The Merry Wives of Windsor.
1599 The Chamberlain's Men theatre company moved across the Thames into the Globe Theatre. Shakespeare managed to get one-tenth share in the company. Being a successful theatre company it gave him more income than when he was just writing a play which brought £6 each time.
When Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603 and James I became King of England the theatre company was in high favour. The name was changed to the King's Men and they performed a number of times at court. He was now well known and respected and became rich. He bought a lot of properties in his home town. During this time of his height, he wrote the most knowledgeable and far-reaching works and tragedies such as Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra.
These plays are all of great tragedies and cruelty which give a bleak view of life. Therefore, it is assumed that Shakespeare himself went through a crises or desperate struggle in his private life. He wrote them in a unique poetic style of language and disguised black verses with ever-increasing freedom. The freedom became more obvious in his last work. The tragic mood vanished and it followed with The Winter's Tale and The Tempest. These two plays ended in a reconciliation and with a pleasant note right through. It was a perfect ending to a great writer's career.
When Shakespeare retired around 1610, he was very wealthy and moved to live in Stratford-on-Avon again. He kept in tough with the London theatre for some years. He died on 23 April 1616 and apparently didn't care about his plays of what will become of them. Luckily, for the following generations, they were put together and published by his fellow-players Heminge and Condell. In the 'First Folio' a younger dramatist, Ben Jonson, wrote a poem which states perfectly that Shakespeare as being 'not of an age, but for all time'.


During 1593 till 1594 when the theatre in London were closed because of the epidemic of the plague, Shakespeare wrote two long narrative poems,  One was 'Venus and Andonis' and the other was 'The rape of Lucrece'.  He dedicated them to the nobleman, Henry Wriothsley, Earl of Southampton.  Did Shakespeare try to secure a generous patronage?  If so, Southampton's patronage was not very generous.
A rumour circulated around that Shakespeare was part of a triangle.  In his sonnets, a sequence of verses are about a young man which was never identified, an equally mysterious dark young lady and including Shakespeare describing a triangular love affair.
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