William Shakespeare
Wherever we go today, we just can’t seem to get away from him. He is in movies, in the theater, even on TV. Whether modernized or back in Elizabethan times, his influence is everywhere in the things we use for our entertainment. We think we know who he really was and what his life was all about. He almost seems immortal in our eyes. Who was William Shakespeare? Who was this man we still have placed on a pedestal almost four thousand years after he lived? Was he really the man that Hollywood glamorized? Shakespeare’s life, work and controversies come together to form our beliefs of who this great writer really is.
William Shakespeare is clouded with mystery. He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England in 1564. “Although his exact birth date is not know, there is a record of his baptism on April 26, 1954” (Kay 13). “His date of birth would have fallen shortly before that day is traditionally considered to be April 23, 1954” (Campbell and Quinn 755). He was born to John Shakespeare and his wife, Mary Arden and was the oldest of three sons. He also had four sisters. “Little is known of Shakespeare’s early life, although it is likely that he received an education at the good local grammar school” (Lawall 2110). Other than that, there really is not much known about Shakespeare’s youth. The next concrete piece of evidence about Shakespeare’s life is his marriage to Anne Hathaway in November 1582, when he was just eighteen years old. It was a marriage of inconvenience. Anne was eight years older than he was and pregnant at the time so they had no choice but to marry. Their first daughter, Susanna, was born in 1583 and twins Hamnet and Judith were born in 1585. Shakespeare is said to have felt trapped by this marriage. Soon after he left for London. That is where he stayed until he returned to Stratford in 1610 for the last few years of his life. “Shakespeare died April 23, 1616, the same day as his supposed birth and was buried in the chancel of Holy Trinity Church April 25” (Gray 1).
It is not know exactly when Shakespeare arrived in London. It is speculated to be sometime around 1591. It is here that Shakespeare the actor came to be known. The first evidence of Shakespeare appearing on stage was in 1594 with Lord Chamberlain’s Men. “It is also not known when he started writing for sure, but he rapidly established himself as an actor and scriptwriter, probably freelance, working for several theater troops” (Kay 141). His first official publication appeared in 1593 while all of the theaters were closed for the plague. This was Venus and Adonis, which will be discussed later.
The most information we have about Shakespeare is the plays and poems he has
written. His plays are probably the best well known. “His imagination was stirred greatly by a wide range of theatrical models such as mystery plays, ancient drama and the drama of the generations immediately preceding him” (Kay 43). The histories and tragedies almost always claim at some level to be true, to be based on real events. His comedies often stress fictional situations and proclaim their relation to literary traditions. The first recorded play written by Shakespeare is thought to be Two Gentlemen of Verona. Love\'s Labour\'s Lost was the first script to have Shakespeare\'s name printed on it as the author in 1598. Some of his more memorable plays include Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Taming of the Shrew. When all of Shakespeare’s plays were written cannot be exactly pinned down. Researchers have only been able to estimate the dates from the records of performances of the plays or of someone discussing them in writing. Shakespeare wrote thirty-eight plays in all. Many of the plays have been made into movies. They are set in either Elizabethan England or in contemporary times. Most recently there was 10 Things I Hate About You, an updated version of Taming of the Shrew set in an American high school in 1998. Others choose a more traditional approach Romeo and Juliet. That story was also modernized in a 1996 version that used Shakespeare’s language but was set to gang violence