william shakespeare


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William Shakespeare was born on 23rd April, 1564 (same year as Galileo) in Stratford-on-Avon, England, a prosperous market town, about a day’s journey from London in that period. His father was a glove-maker and trader in agricultural goods. He became a member of the town council while his mother came from a property-owning family (famiglia di proprietari terrieri) in a small town near Stratford. Shakespeare almost certainly attended (frequentò) the private Stratford Grammar School it where he learned Latin, the rules (regole) of prose and poetic composition, English history, Greek and Roman history and mythology; he did not go to college. At 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, 26. They had three children: two daughters and a son. The son died while still a child. In his early twenties, Shakespeare went to London and became a member of an acting company, groups of actors who stayed together over time. Every company was under the sponsorship of a member of the nobility. Shakespeare soon began writing plays for his company and continued until about 1612, when he retired (andò in pensione) to Stratford at the age of 48. He wrote tragedies, comedies, plays and romantic tragicomedies, he also wrote two long narrative poems, and 154 sonnets. Shakespeare was financially successful. Shakespeare died in Stratford on April 23, 1616, aged 52. Both his daughters died childless (senza figli); there are no Shakespeare descendants.

– There are no certain sources about him, somebody even says he did not properly exist, others say it was Francis Bacon’s pen-name. However, legends say he was born in April 1564 in Stratford upon Avon, the son of Mary Arden and John Shakespeare, a glover, a tradesman and a yeoman (farmer=coltivatore).  William studied Latin, composition and rethoric at the local Grammar School. When he was 18, he married a girl called Anne Hathaway, probably eight years older than he, and they had three children, a daughter Susanna and twins (gemelli) Hamnet and Judith. The tradition tells that, around 1584, Shakespeare left Stratford because he had got  into trouble (si era messo nei pasticci) through hunting(cacciando) in the territories of Sir Thomas Lucy, and  in order to avoid (per evitare) punishment (punizione) he left his native town.  The legend also narrates that the character of Justice Shallow in The Merry Wives of Windsor is a parody of  Sir Lucy. Then there are about 8 years during which it there are no news about the Bard. Probably he emerged in London as an actor and a successful playwright.  By 1594 Shakespeare had become the principal member of the company of the Chamberlain’s Men, which became  the King’s Men when James I became king. They performed at first in their own theatre the Globe, built in 1599 and later in the covered (coperto) Blackfriars theatre. Shakespeare bought a house, New Place, in Stratford where it seems he finally went to live in 1610 and where he died on April 23, 1616. Both his daughters died childless; there are no Shakespeare descendants.

Shakespeare’s London was the cultural capital of the world. The age took the name Elizabethan from Queen Elizabeth I, who ruled from 1558-1603. Under her rule, England reached new economic, military, and cultural power. The English defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 assured England’s political control of the seas. England’s power and prosperity attracted merchants from every country in the world, and writers, poets, and artists were encouraged under the queen’s intelligent protection.

In Elizabethan London there were many theatres- the Rose, the Swan, the Red Bull, the Globe, usually situated outside the city limits, and held by “companies”- groups of producers, actors, and writers who stayed together from play to play.
Shakespeare himself was a good actor at first: he played small parts in some of his own plays such as the Ghost in Hamlet.
These companies were usually sponsored by a rich merchant or nobleman. All his life Shakespeare stayed with one company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, which became the King’s Men in 1603, when Elizabeth died and James I took the throne.

TRAGEDIES
William Shakespeare started writing tragedies because he thought the tragic plots used by other English writers were lacking artistic purpose and form. He used the fall of a notable person as the main focus in his tragedies. Suspense and climax were an added attraction for the audience. His work was extraordinary in that it was not of the norm for the time. A reader with even little knowledge of his work would recognize one of the tragedies as a work of Shakespeare.
A hero today is seen as a person who is idolized. Nowadays, a hero does not have to have wealth or certain political beliefs, but instead can be regarded as a hero for his/her actions and inner strength. However, in the plays of Shakespeare, the tragic hero is always a noble man who enjoys some status and prosperity in society but possesses some moral weakness or flaw which leads to his downfall. External circumstances such as fate also play a part in the hero’s fall. Evil agents often act upon the hero and the forces of good, causing the hero to make wrong decisions. Innocent people always feel the fall in tragedies, as well.
The four most famous Shakespeare tragedies are King Lear, Hamlet, Othello, and Macbeth.

COMEDIES
William Shakespeare’s plays come in many forms. There are histories, tragedies, comedies and tragicomedies. Among the most popular are the comedies which are full of laughter, irony, satire and wordplay.
Many times the question is asked: what makes a play a comedy instead of a tragedy? Comedies treat subjects lightly, meaning that they don’t treat seriously such things as love. Shakespeare’s comedies often use puns, metaphors and insults to provoke ‘thoughtful laughter’. The action is often strained by artificiality, especially elaborate and contrived endings. Disguises and mistaken identities are often very common.
The plot is very important in Shakespeare’s comedies. It is often very convoluted, twisted and confusing, and extremely hard to follow. Other character- istics of Shakespearean comedy are the themes of love and friendship, played within a courtly society. Songs – often sung by a jester or a fool, parallel the events of the plot. Foil and stock characters are often inserted into the storyline.
Love provides the main ingredient. If the lovers are unmarried when the play opens, they either have not met or there is some obstacle to their relationship. Examples of these obstacles are familiar to every reader of Shakespeare: the slanderous tongues which nearly wreck love in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’; the father insistent upon his daughter marrying his choice, as in ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’; or the expulsion of the rightful Duke’s daughter in ‘As You Like It’.
Shakespeare uses many predictable patterns in his plays. The hero rarely appears in the opening lines; however, we hear about him from other characters. He often does not normally make an entrance for at least a few lines into the play, if not a whole scene. The hero is also virtuous and strong but always possesses a character flaw.
In the comedy itself, Shakespeare assumes that we know the basic plot and he jumps right into it with little or no explanation. Foreshadowing and foreboding are put in the play early and can be heard throughout the drama. All Shakespearean comedies have five acts. The climax of the play is always during the third act.
Shakespearean comedies also contain a wide variety of characters. Shakespeare often introduces a character and then discards him, never to be seen again during the play. Shakespeare’s female leads are usually described as petite and often assume male disguises. Often, foul weather parallels the emotional state of the characters. The audience is often informed of events before the characters and when a future meeting is to take place it usually doesn’t happen immediately. Character names are often clues to their roles and personalities, such as Malvolio from ‘Twelfth Night’ and Bottom in ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’.
Many themes are repeated throughout Shakespeare’s comedies. One theme is the never-ending struggle between the forces of good and evil. Another theme is that love has profound effects and that people often hide behind false faces.
The comedies themselves can be sub-categorised as tragicomedies, romantic comedies, comedies of justice and simple entertaining comedies with good wholesome fun.

Shakespeare

The development which occurred after the 1570s, when the first theatres began to be built, was due to S’s comedies and tragicomedies. For a brief period . the richness of the European Renaissance interacted with the vigour of the popular tradition to create new national forms. The new element is a high consciousness of personal experience which the medieval and early Tudor drama had lacked.
Violent actions are the physical expressions of this new feeling and playwright William Shakespeare was capable of adapting words to dramatic purposes in order to raise language to a great vitality. Not only through language but also through characterization Shakespeare made of the Elizabethan drama the great period of dramatic forms. In fact Shakespeare’s powers in verse and dramatic genius are at their high-test in great tragedies. Each of these portrays noble figures, caught in a different situation, when some weakness or bias, of his nature is exposed. Upon his actions depends not only his own fate but that of an entire nation since Shakespeare has represented the whole world in which his hearses move. Each of his plays is so made that it can appeal to different audience at different levels of intelligence according to the historical periods that the heroes are living.
As far as S’s style is concerned, it is important to note that it consists of rhythmical speeches set up as prose and prose as verse. This is a cohesive feature which permits to emphasize the memorable phases of his great tragedies. In his early comedies it seems, sometimes, that the problem of language intoxicated him. This is particularly true in his early and ingenuous comedy Love’s Labour lost where he speaks of :” taffeta phases, silken terms precise…” but the gradually worked out words more comprehensively and to increase the dramatic purpose. The wide range of imagery remains a proof of the universality of his interest in the elaboration of language use. For example in King Lear the use of imagery is designed partly to show man’s place in the chain of being and to brig out to subhuman nature of the evil characters, partly to show man’s weakness compared with the animals and partly to compare human existence with the life of the jungle. Shakespeare makes use of imagery though metaphors, figures of speech, which convey semantic important meanings for the understanding of the range of emotions. For example in this tragedy, Lear speaks of “….and unfed sides” imagining beggars in the storm.
Here he associates “clothing” with another image “housing”. These cluster together association of feeling and ideas. The most obvious instance is the opposition of “sight” to “blindness”, metaphorical when applied to Lear struggling with mental blindness, literal in putting out of Gloucester ‘s eyes. Shakespeare shows also a great ability in the use of onomatopoeic words which sound like their referent and of symbolic language. For instance in King Lear gloves and hat are symbols of dependency and of dignity. Language is mainly symbolic in that the relation between words and their meanings are conventional in one of S’s last tragedies, the tempest, several passages are written in rhythmical speeches which convert into pentameter verse, but with some adjustments: omission of a word, and emistaces. Additionally from a stylistic study, Caliban’s name itself is regarded as a development of some form of the world. Calib meaning a savage inhabitant of the new world and it can also be a simple anagram of the word cannibal. In this play, Caliban itself reveals the glossiness of his temper and the malignity of his purposes through the language learnt from prosperous and Miranda. Another contribution Shakespeare made to English drama is the characterization of the protagonists of his play and the implicit meaning which he wanted to convey through them. For instance is this last play, that I have mentioned, Caliban seems to be a representative Indian, and Prospero a planter. But this is merely an example of a characteristically ethical attitude to politic faction. This play reflects the philosophical attitude of the old world to the new, attempt to read the natural life of the new world and the morality of voyaging. In this light Caliban is a savage man like the west Indians, hence the Indian element in this natural man, his natural powers on devils, his mental powers on devils in contrast to Prospero’s powers, whose art is to achieve supremacy over the natural world by holy magic. As it results, prospero belongs to the world of civility and learning since his art is the ordination of civility and the control of appetites. In S’s plays historical events always find a place. For instance news of the storm happened to an English ship forced towards the coast of the Bermudas in 1609 is reported in the tempest and also the historical cyclical conception of political attempts to the throne is developed in hamlet, king Lear , the tempest and in other tragedies, in fact the date of king Lear’s birth fits in with the political situation for between 1604 1607 king James was trying to set a parliament to approve of the union of England and Scotland and s. worked on this play to illustrate the evils of disunion, to debate on justice and authority and parent-child relationship. So s. is not only capable to see his historical period with a detached view, but he is also capable to suggest and give moral judgments. This is a particularly true of king Lear where justice is merely an instrument of the powerful to oppress the poor and weak, but since all are equally guilty, and sinners, none does offend and all have the equal right to be forgiven. Lear is portrayed as the royal Lear, but stripped of his powerful means he remains an abandoned father, his two daughters Goneril and Regan are represented as animals since their rational minds are instruments of animal body. Their utilitarian moral code is in contrast to Cordelia’s moral values. In conclusion, S’s works made an immense contribution to English drama of that period, but his works may be studied from a contemporary point of view and considered universal works. In fact, it may be found in S’s work, a reflection of the 20th century experience of violence and horror, of political cynicism and social breakdown. For example the grotesque element pr4esent in King Lear when Gloucester tries to commit suicide which doesn’t prove anything since God’s do not exist for him. It is grotesque like waiting for Godot who will not come and so it is useless to try to escape suffering as Gloucester realizes: “I’ll be afflict till it do cry out itself enough, enough and die.” The grotesque element is nearly present in all S’s tragedies since it allows to show the absurdity of apparent reality and of the absolute, by making it absolutely absurd; for this reason some of S’s tragedies are tragicomedies at the same time.
Then, to give a satisfactory account o S’s contribution to drama is not possible since his contribution may be verified at all only in its universality.

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