William Shakespeare was born in April
of 1564 (the exact date is not certain, because all people recorded
back then was the date of baptism, but most agree on April 23 as baptism
always followed birth by a few days) to John Shakespeare and Mary Arden.
He was baptized on April 26 of the same year. At age
twenty he met Anne Hathaway, who was eight years older than he. They
married on the 28 of November 1582. The ceremony was a rushed affair,
seeing as Anne was three months pregnant. The 1580's are sometimes
referred to as the "lost years" of Shakespeare because not much is known
about the time. All anyone knows is that on the 26 or May 1583 his
daughter Susanna was baptized, and on February 2, 1585, his son Hamnet
and daughter Judith were baptized.
What we know next is that by the time 1592
rolled around, Shakespeare was a London playwright with enough of
a reputation to get denounced as an "upstart Crow, beautified with
our feathers" by Robert Greene (who was a contemporary of Shakespeare).
In 1596 his son Hamnet died, which some say is the base for The
Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
became an actor, writer, and part owner of the playing company The Lord
Chamberlain's Men. The company became so popular after Elizabeth
I's death in 1603 and the succession of James I that they were renamed
The King's Men. Shakespeare wrote 37 (that's the number that everyone
agrees on; there are many disputes about other plays that no one is really
sure of) plays and 154 sonnets in his life time. He died on the 26
of April 1616.
There are many disputes about the bard's
identity. Some believe that Shakespeare was really Sir Francis Bacon.
Others believe that he was really a group of writers. There's a group
of people who believe Shakespeare was really Edward de Vere. However,
most people are in general agreement that Shakespeare was one person, and
the person everyone thinks he is at that.
Back round history-
Shakespeare was born in Elizabethan England, a golden age
of England. Elizabeth I was queen and a good one at that. Daughter
of Henry VII and Anne Boylen, Elizabeth was declared a bastard and
unfit to rule early in life. After the death of her father, her
younger brother Edward became king. Six years and a minor crisis
later, Mary became queen. Mary was the older sister to Elizabeth,
and product of Henry VIII first marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Mary,
a fanatical Roman Catholic, ordered the burning of many Protestants.
She married Philip of Spain, which caused a drop of support from
the everyday Brit. The British had a deeply rooted hate of Spain,
and when Mary wed one, they were quite angry. Their only consolation was
that Mary never made Philip King of England. Mary also went to war
with France as an ally of Spain. She lost Calais, England's last
bit of land in France. Calais was important to the wool trade, which
took a serious hit. Mary died in 1558, and Elizabeth took the throne.
Restoring order from the chaos of Mary, Elizabeth proved herself
a capable ruler. She never married. The Elizabethan Era was
the height of the English Renaissance and a wonderful time for poetry
and theater. Elizabeth died on 24 March 1603, and left the throne
to James VI of Scotland.
Why Shakespeare matters-
matters because he is one of the best playwrights of all time (in
my humble opinion). Shakespeare could do something others couldn't:
write emotion. His plays (aside from the history plays) can be
set in any time period. Why? Because emotion is relevant
in all time periods. Love, anger, jealousy, loss, despair,
indifference, and lots besides are all relevant in Ancient Greece or
1920's New York. In the movie Shakespeare in Love, it is said
that no play can show the true nature of love aside from Romeo and
Juliet. Most agree.
Another reason Shakespeare is so important
is that it can really show us the consequences of our actions. In
Othello, it is demonstrated to us how jealous some one can be, and
what such jealousy can lead to. Much Ado About Nothing shows
the benefits of eavesdropping, but warns us of deception. Listening
on other people's conversations brings Benedict and Beatrice together,
but deception ruins Hero. In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare
shows us what our long standing grudges can do to generations to come.
Montague and Capulet have been fighting for so long, it is the
ultimate end of both their children. Shakespeare provides us with
examples of what can go wrong when we act a certain way. He takes
us by the hand and shows us the consequences of our actions.
What this site focuses on-
This site focuses
on a few plays of Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado
About Nothing, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, As You
Like It, and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Reviews, plots,
and quotes will all be included. The reason these plays are the focus
of the site is that these are my personal favorites that I know well. I
like Othello, but I don't know the play well, and I wouldn't want
to comment on something I've seen once.