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Essay on william shakespeares life

Essay By Paul Bleier:

William Shakespeare was a supreme English poet and playwright,

universally recognized as the greatest of all the dramatists.

A complete, authoritative account of Shakespeare's life is lacking;

much supposition surrounds relatively few facts. His day of birth is

traditionally held on April 23, and he was baptized on April 24, 1564. He

was the third of eight children, and was the eldest son of John

Shakespeare. He was probably educated in a local grammar school. As the

eldest son, Shakespeare would of taken over his father's business, but

according to one account, he became a butcher because of reverses in his

father's financial situation. According to another account, he became a

school master. That Shakespeare was allowed considerable leisure time in

his youth is suggested by the fact that his plays show more knowledge of

hunting and hawking than do those of other dramatists. In 1582, he married

Anne Hathaway. He is supposed to have left Stratford after he was caught

poaching in a deer park.

Shakespeare apparently arrived in London about 1588 and by 1592 had

attained success as a playwright. The publication of Venus and Adonis, The

Rape of Lucrece and of his Sonnets established his reputation as a poet in

the Renaissance manner. Shakespeare's modern reputation is based mainly on

the 38 plays he wrote, modified, or collaborated on.

Shakespeare's professional life in London was marked by a number of

financially advantageous arrangements that permitted him to share in the

profits of his acting company, the Chamberlain's Men, and its two theaters,

the Globe and the Blackfriars. His plays were given special presentation

at the courts of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. After about 1608,

Shakespeare's dramatic production lessened and he spent more time in

Stratford. There he established a family in and imposing house, the New

Place, and became a leading local citizen. He died on April 23, 1616, and

was buried in the Stratford church.

Although the precise date of many of Shakespeare's plays is in doubt,

his dramatic career is divided into four periods: (1) the period up to

1594, (2) the years from 1594 to 1600, (3) the years from 1600 to 1608, (4)

the period after 1608. In all periods, the plots of his plays were

frequently drawn from chronicles, histories, or earlier fiction.

Shakespeare's first period was one of experimentation. His early plays

are characterized to a degree of superficial construction and verse. Some

of the plays from the first period my be no more than retouchings of

earlier works by others. Four plays dramatizing the English civil strife

of the 15th century are possibly Shakespeare's earliest dramatic works.

These plays, Henry VI, Parts I, II, III, and Richard III, deal with the

evil results of weak leadership. Shakespeare's comedies of the first period

represent a wide range. The Comedy of Errors depends on its appeal on the

mistakes in identity between two sets of twins involved in romance and war.

The Taming of the Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Love's Labour's

Lost are all comedies and satires.

Next, Shakespeare's second period includes his most important plays

about English history. The second period historical plays include Richard

II, Henry IV, Parts I and II, and Henry V. These plays deal with English

kings who lose their power to their successors. Outstanding among the

comedies of the second period is A Midsummer Night's Dream. It is fantasy

filled and is achieved by the interweaving of several plots involving two

pairs noble lovers, a group of bumbling townspeople, and members of the

fantasy realm. Another comedy is The Merchant of Venice which is

characterized by friendship and romantic love. The witty comedy Much Ado

About Nothing is marred by an insensitive treatment of its main character.

Shakespeare's most mature comedies, As You Like It, and Twelfth Night, are

characterized by a hilarious and kindly charm that depends upon the

attraction of lovely heroines. The Merry Wives of Windsor is a comedy

about middle-class life which contains a comic victim of the middle-class.

One of the two tragedies of this period is Romeo and Juliet. It is famous

for its poetic treatment of youthful love, and dramatizes the fate of two

lovers victimized by feuds of their elders. The other, Julius Caesar, is a

serious tragedy of political rivalries.

Shakespeare's third period includes his greatest tragedy and his dark

or bitter comedies. The tragedies of this period are the most profound of

his works. Hamlet goes far beyond other tragedies of revenge in picturing

the mingled sordidness and glory of the human condition. Othello the

growth of unjustified jealously in the protagonist. King Lear deals with

the consequences of the irresponsibility and misjudgment of an early ruler

of Britain and his councillor. The tragic outcome is the result of their

giving power to their evil offspring rather that their good offspring.

Antony and Cleopatra with a different type of love, namely, the middle-aged

passion of the Roman general Mark Antony for the Egyptian queen Cleopatra.

In Macbeth, Shakespeare depicts the tragedy of a basically good man, who

led on by others, succumbs to ambition. In getting and retaining the

Scottish throne, Macbeth dulls his humanity to the point where he becomes

capable of committing any enormity. Three other plays of this period

suggest a bitterness lacking in these tragedies because the protagonists do

not seem to possess greatness or tragic stature. In Troilus and Cressida

The gulf between the ideal and the real, both individually and politically,

is evoked. In Coriolanus, the Roman hero is portrayed as unable to bring

himself either to woo the Roman masses or to crush them by force. Timon of

Athens is a similarly bitter play about a character reduced to nothing by

ingratification. The two comedies of this period are also dark in mood.

Of these, All's Well That Ends Well is less significant that Measure for

Measure which suggests a picture f morality in Christian terms.

Finally, the fourth period of Shakespeare's work comprises his

principles tragedies. Toward the end of his career, Shakespeare created

several plays suggestive of a mood of final resignation in the human lot.

These plays differ greatly than his other comedies, but ending happily with

a reunion or final reconciliation. The romantic tragicomedy Pericles,

Prince of Tyre concerns the character's painful loss of his wife and the

persecution of his daughter. After many adventures, Pericles is reunited

with his loved ones. In Cymbeline and The Winter's Tale, domestic

complication are resolved by restoring loved ones. The most successful

product of his creativity is his last complete play, The Tempest, in which

the resolution suggests the beneficial effects of the union of wisdom and

power. Two final plays include a historical drama, Henry VIII, and The Two

Noble Kinsmen, a story of two noble friends for one woman.

Hence, from a poor family, Shakespeare emerged as a great playwright.

The odds were against him, but he rose to the occasion and wrote over 38

plays which made him famous throughout the world. He is still considered

to be the best playwright that ever lived.

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