William Shakespeare and His Works

Considered to be the greatest playwright and poet of all time William Shakespeare was born and baptized in April 26, 1564. There is no specific recorded date of Shakespeare’s birth but only the date of his baptismal at Stratford-upon-Avon village in Warwickshire, England. During the time of his birth there were only 1,500 populations and 200 houses in their village. His father, John Shakespeare belongs to the family of yeomen which hold prestigious positions in their community. Yeomen belong to the social classes that own large tracts of land and holds positions on municipal offices. William’s mother, Mary Arden also came from the families of landed gentry and so the Shakespeare family was of Anglican ancestry and considered richer than the ordinary people during those period.Some historians say that the first exposure of William Shakespeare to theater might have occurred when his father was taking him to plays participated by traveling actors who frequent their town. When he was 18, William met and married 26 year old Anne Hathaway on November 27, 1582. The couple had their first daughter Susanna who was born in May 1583 followed by twins, Hamnet and Judith who were born in 1585. Hamnet died in 1596 at the age of 11 due to unknown disease.Many historians say Shakespeare’s presence in Stratford was not all always seen because he always frequent London trying to build his career. But what has become of Shakespeare’s career was not very comfortable for his family. While Shakespeare spent his time traveling to Stratford and London, Anne and the children stayed alone in Stratford for days. Shakespeare has long been in love with his works and spent more time dealing with business affairs, do acting and writing than staying with his family.In 1592, Shakespeare started to get the attention of nobles in London while working for the theatre as a playwright. With the help of his friends the Earls of South Hampton and Pembrooke, William’s introduction as a theatre actor and author easily rose him to fame. The Queen noticed his talent and William was invited to join the Lord Chamberlin’s Men and became a shareholder and senior member in 1595.In 1597, Shakespeare was earning more popularity and wealth in London and was able to buy his first house called New Place which was then the most elegant and largest house in Stratford. Becoming the most popular playwright and an actor in 1599, he became one of the joint owners of the famous Globe Theater until he had his share to the company’s management (Kniery & Minor).William Shakespeare was known by historical figures as “The Bard of Avon” because he is undisputedly the best English language writer ever lived. However, his personal life was full of speculations and intrigues probably because his involvement with literature, culture, art, theatre and film made him the most popular personality during his era. Over the centuries various aspects of assumptions surrounded his private life including his religion, sexual orientation, sources of collaborations, his authorship of plays and sonnets. Other authors sometimes misquoted him and printed his works imprecisely and most of his works were adapted or revised by many scholars and historians far from their real meaning which somehow contributed more to larger misinterpretations to the true concepts of his original ideas.Going back to his childhood, most people in England believed that Shakespeare was born on April 23 the same date as their patron Saint George was born but based from his town’s record there is no existing date of his birth because during those period churches only record citizen’s baptisms and burials and most of these were actually recorded few days after the actual event. During his younger years, Shakespeare attended the Christian Holy Trinity church studying the Book of Common Prayer and the Bible. He became a lector and from his earnings he was able to watch theatrical productions like Queen’s Men, the Worcester’s Men, the Leicester’s Men and the Lord Strange’s Men. When he was eleven, Shakespeare was thought to enter the grammar school of Stratford where he immersed himself studying theater, acting, Latin study and history as well.In 1593, a year after his marriage, a plague came to London and the city of London became a forbidden city temporarily stopping the operations of theatres. Shakespeare has to stop writing and acting for a while but this enabled him to write and think about more plays and sonnets for his future plays. The excitement on the world of Shakespeare’s career began as he unleashes more popular works such as The Passionate Pilgrim in 1599 and The Phoenix and The Turtle in 1601. This is the era when Shakespeare begins to associate himself with The Lord Chamberlain’s Men and with the appointment of James I to the throne, the Chamberlain’s Men became the King’s Men. Shakespeare along wit his troupe and friend Richard Burbage became the regular performers at court, theatres co-owned by Shakespeare such as the Blackfriars, The Theatre and The Globe in London.It was said that when Shakespeare was writing his plays he uses a sheet of paper folded four ways which they call the ‘quarto texts’. The First Folio was his first collection of his dramatic works which compile thirty-six plays from transcriptions, playbooks, quarto texts and diaries. The manuscript has approximately nine hundred pages and took him two years to complete. It was printed in 1623 entitled Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies (Merriman, 2009).The poems of Venus and Adonis made in 1593 and The Rape of Lucrece in 1594 are two of Shakespeare’s great poems dedicated to Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southhampton whom many people thought Shakespeare had platonic affection. Venus and Adonis is a long narrative poem that depicts the rejection of Venus by Adonis and tells of his death followed by the loss of beauty of the world. However, conservative groups during those times reacted to this poem as they say the poem is more on glorifying sensuality which connotes content of sexuality. But despite oppositions, this narrative poem has become more popular and needed to be printed six times even after nine years from its first publication. Shakespeare has popularized himself as the best dramatist of his time but as historians check on his works, he does best in poetry which contributes to his being famous.His most famous sonnets compiled between 1593 and 1601 were only published in 1609. Its edition entitled The Sonnets of Shakespeare contains 154 sonnets all in three quatrains and a couplet which is originally a Shakespearean style of writing. His sonnets are grouped in two which are the sonnets 1-126 that is addressed to handsome, noble and beloved friend and sonnets 127-152 to a fascinating but mysterious lady. The trademarks of Shakespeare on his sonnets usually describe the inevitable decay of time but always discuss the immortal beauty and the greatness of poetry.We can see that in his plays and poems he has made-up words with the contortion or combining Latin words in between lines along with the combination of French and native words. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Shakespeare has an impressive expansion of the English language to bring about the necessary emotions and actions of his stories and poems. Words that are not very common during those era became popular such as arch-villain, birthplace, courtship, bloodsucking, dewdrop fanged, heartsore, downstairs, hunchbacked, misquote, leapfrog, radiance, pageantry, stillborn, watchdog and zany were all Shakespearean in nature.Shakespeare has made more than 30 plays in his lifetime which are mostly divided into four categories. These are categorized under histories, comedies, tragedies and romances. Some of his earliest plays fall under the comedy category and histories such as The Comedy of Errors and Henry VI. In 1596, Romeo and Juliet, the world’s most famous romance story was written by Shakespeare but ironically it belongs to his tragedy category. Following these great masterpieces, he again made more best known plays as Julius Caesar, Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear and Anthony and Cleopatra. During the final years of his career he went back to writing romantic plays such as Cymbeline, The Tempest and A Winter’s Tale.However, only eighteen of his plays were able to reach the publishers during his lifetime and the complete collection of his masterpieces were not published until the publication of First Folio in 1623. Because of his greatness and wisdom, Shakespeare has made his own contemporaries. The famous Francis Meres cited Shakespeare in his poems and plays in 1598 which made the Chamberlain’s Men to become the best company in London to lead the dramas.Around 1610, Shakespeare was already a rich man and in his retirement from stage in 1613, Shakespeare returned to his home in Stratford.  Before he died in April 1616, he made his last will leaving all his possessions to his two daughters and wife which he calls his “second best bed”. Shakespeare was buried in Holy Trinity Church at the town he was born and left a legacy that was never rivaled by any other man until today.Shakespeare’s career was founded on a very rich historical and cultural literary art that until today nobody can take over his place as the greatest playwright of all time. Although his works were more associated with the Elizabethan period, literary historians say he is considered both of an Elizabethan and a Jacobean as his works were completed during the time of King James I in 1603 (Poets.Org, 2009).Here we discuss the general summary William Shakespeare’s works: Poetry, Tragedies, Histories and Comedies as perceived by general agreement among historians and scholars who particularly take time in studying his works and concepts.PoetryBased from the dates Shakespeare has written and printed his sonnets, it was believed that generally they were written in the 1590s although until today this issue is still much debated but with no conclusive findings. There were 154 sonnets published by Thomas Thorpe in 1609. Shakespeare’s dedication to Mr. W.H. was thought to possibly represent the initials of William Herbert, the third earl of Pembroke or maybe of Henry Wriothesly’s who was regarded as Shakespeare’s best friend among his friends. These sonnets evoke lyrically writing of beauty, mortality and love laced with moral anguish with worshipful adoration of a love that did not flourish. Addressed to a young man that was close to Shakespeare’s heart were 126 sonnets while sonnets 127-152 are addressed to a dark but mysterious lady without really revealing the total personality of the woman. This kind of writing creates intrigue even to the Shakespearean scholars as Shakespeare himself has the penchant to hide the real identity of his subjects. These were the sonnets and the time they were published:The Rape of Lucrece (1594)The Sonnets of Shakespeare (1609)Venus and Adonis (1593)TragediesThese were inspired plays that evoke stories of puritanical tragedies of fallen love and glory. Shakespeare may have been inspired with his study of Lives written in 1597 by Greek historian and essayist Plutarch and Chronicles written in 1587 by Raphael Holinshed. Scholars say some of Shakespeare’s tragedies were reworks from these books based from their English or Roman background and historical figures. The following tragedies are listed and arranged chronologically:Titus Andronicus which was first printed and performed in 1594Romeo and Juliet performed in 1594-95, printed in 1597Hamlet performed 1600-01, printed 1623Othello performed 1604-05, printed 1622Anthony and Cleopatra performed 1606-07, printed 1623King Lear performed 1606, printed 1608Coriolanus performed 1607-08, printed 1623 (a rework from Plutarch)Timon of Athens performed in 1607-08, printed 1623Macbeth performed in 1611-12 printed 1623HistoriesShakespeare’s life was greatly influenced by the lives of kings and political events and so his stories of historical dramas were generally based on the English Kings that discusses the era from John to Henry VIII. Only Shakespeare has the courage to tackle and put it into plays and dramas which were considered a very ambitious undertaking for a man involve in literary work. The following were printed in the First Folio in 1623 and presented also in chronological order.King Henry VI Part 1 played in 1592, printed 1594King Henry VI Part 2 played in 1592-93, printed 1594King Henry VI Part 3 played in 1592-93 printed 1623King John written played in 1596-97, printed 1623King Henry IV Part 1 played 1597-98, printed 1598King Henry IV Part 2 played 1597-98, printed 1600King Henry V played 1598-99, printed 1600Richard II played 1600-01, printed 1597Richard III played 1601, printed 1597; andKing Henry VIII played 1612-13, printed 1623ComediesThese are stories that depict the ignorance and sometimes ironical proof that man lives in a world full of comical undertakings as described by Shakespeare. They are also listed in chronological order of performance and printing and these are the following:Taming of the Shrew first performed 1593-94 and printed in 1623Comedy of Errors 1594 (1623),Two Gentlemen of Verona 1594-95 (1623),Love’s Labour’s Lost 1594-95 (1598),Midsummer Night’s Dream 1595-96 (1600),Merchant of Venice 1596-1597 (1600),Much Ado About Nothing 1598-1599 (1600),As You Like It 1599-00 (1623),Merry Wives of Windsor 1600-01 (1602),Troilus and Cressida 1602 (1609),Twelfth Night 1602 (1623),All’s Well That Ends Well 1602-03 (1623),Measure for Measure 1604 (1623),Pericles, Prince of Tyre 1608-09 (1609),Tempest (1611),Cymbeline 1611-12 (1623),Winter’s Tale 1611-12 (1623)Until this day, it is not clear how or why Shakespeare died although in 1664, Reverend John Ward, vicar of Stratford declared that Shakespeare, Ben Johnson and Drayton have met in one occasion and for fun they drank too much alcohol which made Shakespeare chills with fever the next day and probably caused his death. This is still unfounded but sadly for a man with such talent, death is not the end but the beginning of an awakening of the world in recognizing the works of the best persona in classical literary works. Today we can find Shakespeare’s tombstone the epitaph that symbolizes his belief in God and his solemn peace with him. For it is inscribed:Good friend for Jesus sake forbeareTo digg the dust encloased heareBlessed by y man y spares he stonesAnd curst be he y moves my bones(Merriman, 2009)ReferencesKniery, M., ; Minor, R. William Shakespeare. Retrieved from http://www.springfield.k12.il.us/schools/Springfield/eliz/ShakespeareBiog.htmlMerriman, C. D. (2009). William Shakespear Biography. Retrieved from http://www.online-literature.com/shakespeare/Poets.Org (2009). William Shakespeare. Retrieved from http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/122