1300 187 187
 

William Shakespeare

"He was just like any other man, but that he was like all other men."

William Hazlitt

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was born at Stratford upon Avon in April, 1564. He was the third child, and eldest son, of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden. His father was one of the most prosperous men of Stratford, who held in turn the chief offices in the town. His mother was of gentle birth, the daughter of Robert Arden of Wilmcote. In December, 1582, Shakespeare married Ann Hathaway, daughter of a farmer of Shottery, near Stratford; their first child Susanna was baptized on May 6, 1583, and twins, Hamnet and Judith, on February 22, 1585. Little is known of Shakespeare's early life; but it is unlikely that a writer who dramatized such an incomparable range and variety of human kinds and experiences should have spent his early manhood entirely in placid pursuits in a country town. There is one tradition, not universally accepted, that he fled from Stratford because he was in trouble for deer stealing, and had fallen foul of Sir Thomas Lucy, the local magnate; another that he was for some time a schoolmaster.

From 1592 onwards the records are much fuller. In March, 1592, the Lord Strange's players produced a new play at the Rose Theatre called Harry the Sixth, which was very successful, and was probably the First Part of Henry VI. In the autumn of 1592 Robert Greene, the best known of the professional writers, as he was dying wrote a letter to three fellow writers in which he warned them against the ingratitude of players in general, and in particular against an 'upstart crow' who 'supposes he is as much able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes Factotum is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country.' This is the first reference to Shakespeare, and the whole passage suggests that Shakespeare had become suddenly famous as a playwright. At this time Shakespeare was brought into touch with Edward Alleyne the great tragedian, and Christopher Marlowe, whose thundering parts of Tamburlaine, the Jew of Malta, and Dr Faustus Alleyne was acting, as well as Hieronimo, the hero of Kyd's Spanish Tragedy, the most famous of all Elizabethan plays.

In April, 1593, Shakespeare published his poem Venus and Adonis, which was dedicated to the young Earl of Southampton: it was a great and lasting success, and was reprinted nine times in the next few years. In May, 1594, his second poem, The Rape of Lucrece, was also dedicated to Southampton.

There was little playing in 1593, for the theatres were shut during a severe outbreak of the plague; but in the autumn of 1594, when the plague ceased, the playing companies were reorganized, and Shakespeare became a sharer in the Lord Chamberlain's company who went to play in the Theatre in Shoreditch. During these months Marlowe and Kyd had died. Shakespeare was thus for a time without a rival. He had already written the three parts of Henry VI, Richard III, Titus Andronicus, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love's Labour's Lost, The Comedy of Errors, and The Taming of the Shrew. Soon afterwards he wrote the first of his greater plays - Romeo and Juliet - and he followed this success in the next three years with A Midsummer Night's Dream, Richard II, and The Merchant of Venice. The two parts of Henry VI, introducing Falstaff, the most popular of all his comic characters, were written in 1597-8.

The company left the Theatre in 1597 owing to disputes over a renewal of the ground lease, and went to play at the Curtain in the same neighbourhood. The disputes continued throughout 1598, and at Christmas the players settled the matter by demolishing the old Theatre and re-erecting a new playhouse on the South Bank of the Thames, near Southwark Cathedral. This playhouse was named the Globe. The expenses of the new building were shared by the chief members of the Company, including Shakespeare, who was now a man of some means. In 1596 he had bought New Place, a large house in the centre of Stratford, for £60, and through his father purchased a coat-of-arms from the Heralds, which was the official recognition that he and his family were gentlefolk.

By the summer of 1598 Shakespeare was recognized as the greatest of English dramatists. Booksellers were printing his more popular plays, at times even in pirated or stolen versions, and he received a remarkable tribute from a young writer named Francis Meres, in his book Palladis Tamia. In a long catalogue of English authors Meres gave Shakespeare more prominence than any other writer, and mentioned by name twelve of his plays.

Shortly before the Globe was opened, Shakespeare had completed the cycle of plays dealing with the whole story of the Wars of the Roses with Henry V. It was followed by As You Like It, and Julius Caesar, the first of the maturer tragedies. In the next three years he wrote Troilus and Cressida, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Hamlet, and Twelfth Night.

On March 24, 1603, Queen Elizabeth died. The company had often performed before her, but they found her successor a far more enthusiastic patron. One of the first acts of King James was to take over the company and to promote them to be his own servants, so that henceforward they were known as the King's Men. They acted now very frequently at Court, and prospered accordingly. In the early years of the reign Shakespeare wrote the more sombre comedies, All's Well that Ends Well, and Measure for Measure, which were followed by Othello, Macbeth, and King Lear. Then he returned to Roman themes with Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus.

Since 1601 Shakespeare had been writing less, and there were now a number of rival dramatists who were introducing new styles of drama, particularly Ben Jonson (whose first successful comedy, Every Man in his Humour, was acted by Shakespeare's company in 1598), Chapman, Dekker, Marston, and Beaumont and Fletcher who began to write in 1607. In 1608 the King's Men acquired a second playhouse, an indoor private theatre in the fashionable quarter of the Blackfriars. At private theatres, plays were performed indoors; the prices charged were higher than in the public playhouses, and the audience consequently was more select. Shakespeare seems to have retired from the stage about this time: his name does not occur in the various lists of players after 1607. Henceforward he lived for the most part at Stratford, where he was regarded as one of the most important citizens. He still wrote a few plays, and he tried his hand at the new form of tragi-comedy - a play with tragic incidents but a happy ending - which Beaumont and Fletcher had popularized. He wrote four of these - Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, and The Tempest, which was acted at Court in 1611. For the last four years of his life he lived in retirement. His son Hamnet had died in 1596: his two daughters were now married. Shakespeare died at Stratford upon Avon on April 23, 1616, and was buried in the chancel of the church, before the high altar. Shortly afterwards a memorial which still exists, with a portrait bust, was set up on the North wall. His wife survived him.

William Hazlitt (1778–1830) on Shakespeare:

The striking peculiarity of Shakespeare’s mind was its generic quality, its power of communication with all other minds—so that it contained a universe of thought and feeling within itself, and had no one peculiar bias, or exclusive excellence more than another. He was just like any other man, but that he was like all other men. He was the least of an egotist that it was possible to be. He was nothing in himself; but he was all that others were, or that they could become. He not only had in himself the germs of every faculty and feeling, but he could follow them by anticipation, intuitively, into all their conceivable ramifications, through every change of fortune or conflict of passion, or turn of thought. He had “a mind reflecting ages past,” and present—all the people that ever lived are there. There was no respect of persons with him. His genius shone equally on the evil and on the good, on the wise and the foolish, the monarch and the beggar.

Penguin Shakespeare
2009 - Shakespeare's Sonnets : Popular Penguins
2008 - Richard the Second
2008 - Pericles
2008 - Henry the Sixth Part III
2007 - The Tempest
2006 - Troilus and Cressida
2006 - The Taming of the Shrew
2006 - The Two Noble Kinsmen
2005 - Measure for Measure
2005 - Titus Andronicus
2005 - Henry the Fourth Part One
2005 - Antony and Cleopatra
2005 - All's Well That Ends Well
2005 - As You Like It
2005 - Much Ado About Nothing
2005 - Othello
2005 - A Midsummer Night's Dream
2005 - Richard the Third
2005 - Hamlet
2005 - The Winter's Tale
2005 - Twelfth Night
2005 - Cymbeline
2005 - Romeo and Juliet
2005 - Henry the Fourth Part Two
2005 - Macbeth
2005 - King Lear
 
Tragedies
2009 - King Lear
2009 - Othello
2009 - Hamlet
2009 - Julius Caesar
2009 - Antony and Cleopatra
2009 - Titus Andronicus
2009 - Macbeth
2009 - Cymbeline
2008 - Timon of Athens
2005 - "Coriolanus"
1998 - Troilus and Cressida
 
Comedies
2011 - The Merchant of Venice
2010 - The Winter's Tale
2009 - As You Like It
2009 - Twelfth Night
2009 - The Merry Wives of Windsor
2009 - The Two Noble Kinsmen
2009 - Much Ado About Nothing: Arden Shakespeare
2005 - The Taming of the Shrew
2004 - The Two Gentlemen of Verona
2003 - "Pericles"
1999 - The Tempest
1998 - Love's Labour's Lost
1979 - Midsummer Nights Dream
1968 - The Comedy of Errors
1967 - Measure for Measure
1967 - All's Well That Ends Well
 
Cambridge School Shakespeare
2009 - King Lear
2009 - As You Like It
2008 - King John
2005 - Othello
2005 - A Midsummer Night's Dream
2005 - Twelfth Night
2005 - The Tempest
2005 - The Merchant of Venice
2005 - King Richard III
2003 - The Merry Wives of Windsor
2000 - Coriolanus
1999 - King Henry IV : Part 2
1999 - The Winter's Tale
1998 - King Henry IV : Part 1
1997 - The Sonnets
1994 - The Two Gentlemen of Verona
1994 - Antony and Cleopatra
1993 - All's Well That Ends Well
1993 - King Henry V
1993 - Measure for Measure
1992 - King Richard II
1992 - The Comedy of Errors
 
Histories
2009 - King Richard III
2009 - King Henry IV, Part 1
2009 - King Richard II
2009 - King Henry VIII
2009 - King Henry VI, Part 3
2009 - King Henry VI, Part 2
2009 - King John
2009 - King Henry IV Part 2
2000 - King Henry VI, Part 1
1995 - "King Henry V"
 
NO FEAR SHAKESPEARE
2009 - As You Like It (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2008 - Romeo and Juliet
2008 - Hamlet
2007 - No Fear Shakespeare : A Companion (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2006 - Antony and Cleopatra
2005 - Henry IV (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2005 - A Comedy of Errors (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2004 - Sonnets
2004 - Richard III
2004 - Henry V (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2004 - Much Ado about Nothing (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2004 - The Taming of the Shrew
2003 - King Lear (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2003 - Othello (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2003 - A Midsummer Night's Dream (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2003 - Romeo and Juliet (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2003 - The Tempest (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2003 - Twelfth Night (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2003 - The Merchant of Venice (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2003 - Julius Caesar (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2003 - Hamlet (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2003 - Macbeth (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
 
Poems
2010 - Shakespeare's Sonnets
2006 - The Poems
2003 - The Sonnets
1999 - The Sonnets and A Lover's Complaint
 
All Titles
1992 - King Richard II
1992 - The Comedy of Errors
1993 - Measure for Measure
1993 - King Henry V
1993 - All's Well That Ends Well
1994 - Antony and Cleopatra
1994 - The Two Gentlemen of Verona
1997 - The Sonnets
1998 - King Henry IV : Part 1
1999 - The Winter's Tale
1999 - King Henry IV : Part 2
1999 - The Tempest
2000 - Coriolanus
2000 - The Comedy of Errors
2000 - Titus Andronicus
2000 - As You Like It
2000 - Measure for Measure
2000 - Much Ado About Nothing
2000 - The Merchant of Venice
2000 - King Lear : The 1608 Quarto and 1623 Folio Texts
2000 - A Midsummer Night's Dream
2000 - Richard III
2001 - Richard II
2001 - Troilus & Cressida
2001 - Henry VI, Part 1
2001 - Julius Caesar
2001 - The Taming of the Shrew
2001 - The Narrative Poems
2001 - All's Well That Ends Well
2001 - Othello
2002 - Pericles
2002 - Henry VIII
2003 - The Sonnets
2003 - Hamlet (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2003 - Macbeth (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2003 - The Merry Wives of Windsor
2003 - Othello (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2003 - A Midsummer Night's Dream (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2003 - Romeo and Juliet (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2003 - The Tempest (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2003 - Twelfth Night (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2003 - The Merchant of Venice (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2003 - Julius Caesar (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2003 - King Lear (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2004 - Much Ado about Nothing (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2004 - The Taming of the Shrew
2004 - Henry V (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2004 - Hamlet
2004 - Richard III
2004 - Sonnets
2005 - Macbeth
2005 - Henry the Fourth Part Two
2005 - A Comedy of Errors (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2005 - King Richard III
2005 - Henry IV (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2005 - The Tempest
2005 - The Merchant of Venice
2005 - Twelfth Night
2005 - A Midsummer Night's Dream
2005 - Othello
2006 - Antony and Cleopatra
2007 - No Fear Shakespeare : A Companion (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2008 - Romeo and Juliet
2008 - Hamlet
2008 - King John
2009 - As You Like It
2009 - King Lear
2009 - As You Like It (No Fear Shakespeare Series)
2011 - First Folio of Shakespeare