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• William Shakespeare was born in 1564, in Stratford-upon-Avon, located in the centre of England. His father, John, trained as a glovemaker and married Mary Arden. In 1582, at the age of 18, William married Anne Hathaway. • Their first-born of 8 children, Susanna, was baptised on 26 May 1583. Two years later twins followed, Hamnet and Judith.

• The King’s New Grammar School taught boys basic reading and writing. We assume William attended this school since it existed to educate the sons of Stratford but there is no definite proof. Likewise a lack of evidence suggests that William, whose works are studied at Universities, never attended one himself!

• We do not know when or why Shakespeare left Stratford for London, or what he was doing before becoming a professional actor and dramatist in the capital. There are various traditions and stories about the so-called 'lost years' between 1585 and 1592.

• Shakespeare's reputation was established in London by 1592. When James I (James VI of Scotland) came to the English throne in 1603 he granted royal patronage to Shakespeare's acting company, which thus became the 'King's Men.' As had happened in the 1590s in Elizabeth I's last years, Shakespeare's plays were presented before the court in the royal palaces, as well as to audiences in the public theatres.

• Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets and 37 plays that we know of. The early plays included comedies and histories. Later some of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies were written in the early 1600s, including Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth. His late plays, often known as the Romances, date from 1608 to 1612 and include Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale and The Tempest.

• In 1623, seven years after his death, the First Folio, the first collected edition of his plays, was published. It contains thirty-six plays. • Shakespeare died in Stratford, aged fifty-two, on 23 April 1616. It is also assumed that Shakespeare played many roles in a variety of his own plays,

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• A number of paintings have been supposed to offer authentic likenesses of Shakespeare; the only one that is now seriously considered as having possibly been painted from life is that known as the Chandos portrait.

• There is nothing to show that anyone doubted Shakespeare's authorship until the late eighteenth century. Those who express doubts focus on the following arguments: • 'The works are too learned to be the product of a man from Stratford who did not go to a university.' • 'The plays show too much knowledge of foreign countries and aristocratic manners to have been written by a man of middle-class, provincial origins.‘ • Replacement Shakespeares have ranged, from Queen Elizabeth I, Daniel Defoe, Sir Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe and a 17th Earl of Oxford.

• Why is Shakespeare rated so highly in English? • Because no single person has ever commanded the English language in the same way. He accurately portrayed the nuances of human existence so clearly that the plays are still relevant 400 years later. In addition, this was done with intricate word play and poetic language that amazed academics and entertained rowdy audiences.

Language • The average person has a vocabulary of 2000 words, Shakespeare’s was 29000. • He invented over 1700 words.

Accused, addiction, advertising, amazement, assassination, backing, bandit, bedroom, beached, birthplace, blanket, bloodstained, barefaced, blushing, bet, bump, buzzer, caked, cater, champion, circumstantial, cold-blooded, compromise, courtship, countless, critic, dawn, deafening, discontent, dishearten, drugged, dwindle, epileptic, equivocal

elbow, excitement, exposure, eyeball, fashionable, fixture, flawed, generous, gloomy, gossip, hint, hurried, impede, impartial, invulnerable, jaded, label, laughable, lonely lower, luggage, lustrous, majestic, marketable, mimic, monumental, mountaineer, negotiate, noiseless, obscene, ode, olympian, outbreak, puking, radiancerant, remorseless, savagery, scuffle, secure, submerge, summit, swagger, torture, tranquil, undress, unreal, varied, vaulting, worthless, zany.

Shakespeare's Audience • Most of the poorer audience members, referred to as groundlings, would pay one penny (which was almost an entire day's wage) to stand in front of the stage, while the richer patrons would sit in the covered galleries, paying as much as half a crown each for their seats. • Shakespeare's audience would have been composed of tanners, butchers, iron-workers, millers, seamen from the ships docked in the Thames, glovers, servants, shopkeepers, wig-makers, bakers, and countless other tradesmen and their families.

• If you cannot understand my argument, and declare "It's Greek to me", you are quoting Shakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sorrow than in anger, if your wish is father to the thought, if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy,

• if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle, if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort or too much of a good thing, if you have seen better days or lived in a fool's paradise -

• why, be that as it may, the more fool you, for it is a foregone conclusion that you are (as good luck would have it) quoting Shakespeare; if you think it is early days and clear out bag and baggage, if you think it is high time and that that is the long and short of it, if you believe that the game is up and that truth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low till the crack of doom because you suspect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop) without rhyme or reason, then - to give the devil his due -

• if the truth were known (for surely you have a tongue in your head) you are quoting Shakespeare; even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I were dead as a door-nail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then - by Jove! O Lord! Tut, tut! for goodness' sake! what the dickens! but me no buts - it is all one to me, for you are quoting Shakespeare. (The Story of English, 145)

Elizabethan language is problematic:

• Many words used in the Elizabethan language are no longer in use. • An amusing example of words now 'extinct' in the modern English language is 'gong'. The Elizabethan word 'gong' meant dung. The men whose job was to empty and dispose of the waste from the privies (toilets) were called 'Gong Farmers'! • The Elizabethan alphabet contained 24 letters. • In the Elizabethan alphabet the letters "u" and "v" were the same letter as were and "i" and "j“

• The "j" was usually used as the capital form of the letter "i" in the Elizabethan alphabet • The letter "u" was used only in the middle of a word, and the "v" was used at the beginning! • Another letter which resembled a "y" was used to represent the "th" sound. The word "the" was therefore written in a similar way as "ye" would in the modern day. • Numbers were frequently written in lower case Roman numerals, with the last "i" in a number written as a "j". For example - viij March

• Elizabethan words were written in a variety of different ways. The name Shakespeare was spelt in an variety of ways during Elizabethan times including Shakspere, Shakespere, Shakkespere, Shaxpere, Shakstaff, Sakspere, Shagspere, Shakeshafte and even Chacsper! Shakespeare himself always wrote “Shakspere.”

Old English • The original Old English language was influenced by Viking invasion, which conquered and colonised parts of Britain in the 8th and 9th centuries. This injected German words into a language that already contained lots of French and Latin. • English literature started to reappear around 1200. By the end of the next century, the royal court had switched to English.

Beowulf - approx AD 900 Hwæt! Wē Gār-Dena in geārdagum, þēodcyninga, þrym gefrūnon, hū ðā æþelingas ellen fremedon. Oft Scyld Scēfing sceaþena þrēatum,

Middle English • From The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, 14th century Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote The droghte of March hath perced to the roote And bathed every veyne in swich licour, Of which vertu engendred is the flour; Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth Inspired hath in every holt and heeth The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne, And smale foweles maken melodye, That slepen al the nyght with open yÍ (So priketh hem Nature in hir corages); Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages

Modern English • is dated from the Great Vowel Shift, which took place during the 15th century. English was further transformed by the spread of a London-based dialect in government and by the standardising effect of printing. By the time of Shakespeare the language had become Modern English. In 1604 the first English dictionary was published.

Paradise Lost - John Milton 1667 Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste Brought death into the world, and all our woe, With loss of Eden, till one greater Man Restore us, and regain the blissful seat

Unusual Word Arrangements • A common question is if people really spoke the way they do in Shakespeare's plays. The answer is no. Shakespeare wrote the way he did for poetic and dramatic purposes. There are many reasons why he did this--to create a specific poetic rhythm, to emphasize a certain word, to give a character a specific speech pattern, etc.

• Below are six sentences that Shakespeare could have used to create the same meaning. • I ate the sandwich. I the sandwich ate. Ate the sandwich I. Ate I the sandwich. The sandwich I ate. The sandwich ate I.

Elizabethan Beliefs • The people not only believed in ghosts and witches, but in magic of every sort. Alchemy was a common hobby, and many a man of brain wasted his time and ruined his fortune in the vain search for the philosopher's stone or trying to turn lead into gold. • As well as astrology, or astronomical fortune-telling, people believed in fairies. Any one might not only have seen the pleasant fairies, but also the wicked, and might have become blind by the sight, if he did not take care to protect himself by charms. Every hour in the day, every article in the world — stone, plant, or animal — had its cluster of superstitions. Christopher Marlowe discovered this the hard way.

• Religion had a lot of power, mostly Christian, and ruled the way people lived. It was very much believed that you could go to hell for numerous offences such as suicide. Suicide victims were buried in unmarked graves without a funeral. • Shakespeare included politics, the church and social issues of his time in his plays.

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The Bubonic Plague (The Black Death) • 1603 again ravages London killing 33,000 people • The Black Death received its name due to the combination of symptoms suffered by the victim. This terrible great disease has plagued mankind for centuries. Its spread in Europe and Asia killed millions of people. • This disease had major consequences on the life and family of William Shakespeare. He lost brothers and sisters as well as close friends and fellow actors to the disease. The Elizabethan era and the life of people were dictated by rules to prevent the spread of any such virus. People were required to obtain permission before they could travel as just one of the consequences of the deadly plague! The theaters were often closed due to the pestilence - most of the actors would then leave London for the comparative safety of the countryside.

• Shakespeare’s plays are still performed in their truest form, as well as in twisted versions. Film versions of the plays are also successful, some being adapted to meet a new audience.

• A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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• Romeo and Juliet

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• The Taming of the Shrew

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• Twelfth Night

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• Hamlet

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