Essay, Research Paper: College Paper On Shakespeare


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William Shakespeare was a family man; he was a poet and a lasting literary
figure. He is considered to be the most fascinating Elizabethan dramatist due to
his writings and versatile life. Shakespeare’s career has endured for
centuries. He is one of the most studied authors of all time (Zender 22).
Shakespeare did not attend a university, yet he created 144 poems and many
plays, which are considered to be literary works of art. His writings in
comedies and tragedies show his talent is unbounded. William Shakespear’s
popularity must have extended beyond his own expectations as it touches people
even today (Zender 23). William Shakespeare was born in the year of 1564 and
died in 1616. His education consisted mostly of Latin studies- learning to read,
write, and speak the language fairly well and studying some of the classical
historians and poets. A bond, dated November 28, 1582, was executed by two men
of Stratford as a security to the bishop for the issue of a license for marriage
between Williams Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway of Stratford. One year later, a
daughter named Susanna was born on May 26, 1583. On February 2, 1585 twins were
born Hamlet and Judith. Shakespeare’s only son-died eleven years later (Groiler
1991). How Shakespeare spent the next eight years or so science 1585, until his
name begins to appear in London Theater records, is not known. There are stories
of stealing deer and getting into trouble with a local magistrate, of earning a
living as a school master in the country, of going to London and gaining entry
into the world of theater by minding horses of theater- goers. In the light of
evidence, exploits of Shakespeare’s life cannot be proved or dismissed.
Shakespeare has often been viewed from the internal evidence of his writings.
However, this method is unsatisfactory. One cannot conclude, for example from
allusions to the law that Shakespeare was a lawyer, although he clearly was a
writer who without difficulty could get whatever legal knowledge needed for the
composition of his works. It is not clear how his career in the theater began;
but from about 1594 onward, he was an important member of Lord Chamberlain’s
company of players, called the King’s Men after the accession of King James I
in 1603. The company had the best actor, Richard Burbage; they had the best
theater, the Globe; and the best dramatist, Shakespeare. It is no wonder that
the company prospered. Shakespeare became a full-time professional man of this
own theatre, sharing in a cooperative enterprise and intimately concerned with
the financial success of the plays he wrote (Groiler 1991). Shakespeare’s
will, made on March 25, 1616, is a long and detailed document. It included quite
extensive properties to the male heirs of his elder daughter, Susanna. As an
afterthought, Shakespeare bequeathed his second best bed to his wife, but no one
can be certain what this notorious legacy means. The signature to the will was
apparently in shaky hands. Perhaps Shakespeare was already ill. He died on April
23, 1616. No name was inscribed on his gravestone. Within a few years a monument
was erected. Its epitaph, written in Latin and inscribed immediately below the
bust, attributes to Shakespeare the worldly wisdom of Nestor, the genius of
Socrates, and the poetic art of Virgil (Groiler 1991). Shakespeare lived in a
time when ideas and social structures established in the Middle Ages still
influenced man’s thoughts and behavior. Queen Elizabeth was a firm believer in
divine power of the crown. She thought herself God’s deputy on earth, lords
and commoners had their due place in society under her, with responsibilities up
through her to God and down to those of more humble rank. The order of things
did not go unquestioned. Atheism was still considered a challenge to beliefs and
way of life of a majority of Elizabethans, but the Christian faith was no longer
the single religion, with expansion of the Anglican Church and the growing power
of the Puritans. Commoners were becoming more literate and could read the
scriptures for themselves. In philosophical inquiry, the question how became the
impulse for advance, rather than traditional why of Aristotle (Davidow 42).
Beginning in the summer of 1592, the theaters were closed almost continuously
for two years. This was the result of the bubonic plague. At this point,
Shakespeare turned his attention to writing narrative poetry. Fellow
Elizabethans considered this style of writing to be serious literature in
contrast with the popular drama entertainment of the day (Davidow 43).
Shakespeare’s manuscript of Venus and Adonis was printed and published by a
Stratford friend, Richard Field, in 1593. Shakespeare dedicated this poem to a
young nobleman, Henry Wriothesley, The Earl of Southampton. As was customary of
the time period, Shakespeare would have been rewarded with a gift. However,
there is no record to reflect the value of the poem for that time period (Davidow
45). Venus and Adonis met with instantaneous success. Davidow states, “In fact
this poem’s immense popularity led Shakespeare to write The Rape of Lucrece in
the following year.” This poem was also printed by his friend Field in 1594,
but was also published by another gentleman by the name of John Harrison. Again
the poem was dedicated to his friend The Earl of Southhampton (Davidow 60).
About this time Shakespeare wrote a series of 154 poems; all but three were
14-line sonnets. The formulation of these sonnets was spread over a number of
years. Some sonnets are thought to go as far back as 1588, the same time the
Spanish Armada attempted the invasion of England. According to Davidow, “The
entire collection of sonnets were not published until 1609; probably without
Shakespeare’s knowledge” (Davidow 65). Consequently, the last group of
English history plays Shakespeare chose to write about was Julius Caesar, who
held particular fascination for the Elizabethans. Julius Caesar was a solider,
scholar, and politician. Caesar’s greatest friend had killed him and Caesar
was seen as the first Roman to perceive and, in part, to achieve the benefits of
monarchial state. Caesar appears in three scenes and then is murdered before the
play is half finished. A variety of characters respond to and reflect upon the
central fact of the great man. This is the dramatic strategy of an ironist, a
writer such as Shakespeare, who wishes to question human behavior and to observe
interactions and consequences. In Northrop a point of fact is made; Caesar
influences the whole play, for he appears after his death as a blood stained
corpse and as a ghost before battle (Northrop 28). Both Brutes and Cassias dying
are conscious of Caesar; both men even speak to Caesar as if he were present. In
other ways Julius Caesar is shaped differently from the histories and tragedies
that precede, as if in manner as in subject matter Shakespeare was making
decisive changes (Northrop 33). The scene moves only from Rome to the
battlefield, and with this new setting, language becomes more restrained, firmer
and sharper. Extensive descriptive images are few, and single words such as
Roman, humor, love, friend, and proper names are repeated as if to enforce
contrasts and ironies (Northrop 33). This sharp verbal edge linked with
commanding performances holds attention. For example, exciting debates,
conspiracies and crises, which include mob violence and as well as personal
antagonisms lead to battle and many times death holds the reader’s attention
(Northrop 34). In contrast to Shakespeare’s tragedies are his comedic
writings. Comedies written between 1596 and 1602 have much in common. With the
exception of The Merry Wives of Windsor all comedies are set in some imaginary
country. A lioness, snakes, magic caskets, fairy spells, identical twins,
concealment of sex, and the sudden conversion of a tyrannous duke or the defeat
(off stage) of a treacherous brother can all change the course of the plot and
bring the characters to a conclusion in which almost all are very happy and
justice is found. Goddard states, “Lovers are young and witty and almost
always rich” (Northrop 105). The action concerns wooing and its conclusion is
marriage, beyond which the audience is scarcely concerned. In some ways these
are intellectual plays with each comedy having a multiple plot and moves from
one set of characters to another set. Shakespeare invites his audience to seek
connections and explanations. Despite very different classes of people in
different parts of the narrative, the plays are unified by Shakespear’s
idealistic vision and by his implicit judgment of human relationships.
Shakespeare’s characters are brought together with certain exceptions near the
end of his writings. Perhaps the most extraordinary achievement of these
comedies is the rapid changes in moods of his characters, from funny, then to
dangerous, then sad and then a return to humor. Recurrent moments of lifelike
feelings are expressed both eloquently in words and in actions that the audience
shares. The idea that Shakespeare’s plays and poems were not actually written
by William Shakespeare of Stratford has been the subject of many books and
scholars, and this theory is widely regarded as at least an interesting
possibility. Davidow said, “The source of all doubts about the authorship of
the plays rests in the disparity between the greatest Shakespeare’s literary
achievement and his comparatively humble origin, the supposed inadequacy of his
education, and the obscurity of his life” (Davidow 57). In Shakespeare’s
writings, readers have claimed to discover a familiarity with language and
literature, with such subjects as law, history, politics, and geography, include
the manners and speech of courts. Opponents to the one-man theory of
Shakespeare’s writings is regarded as inconceivable in a common player, the
son of a provincial tradesman. The range of knowledge expected at that time
period should have been created by a man with an extensive education, one
familiar with royalty and nobles, as largely figure in Shakespeare’s works.
Contemporary records have been regarded as incompatible with Shakespeare’s
prominence and suggestive of a mystery (Zender 72), in that none of
Shakespeare’s manuscripts has been evidential; they were destroyed to conceal
the identity of the author. The first suggestion, that the author of
Shakespeare’s plays might be Francis Bacon, Viscount of St. Albans, seems to
have been made in the middle of the 19th Century, inquiry at first centering on
textual comparison between Bacon’s known writings and plays. Zender states,
“In the later 19th Century a search was made for ciphered messages embedded
into the dramatic texts (Zender 74). Professional cryptographers of the 20th
Century, however, have examined all the Baconian ciphers, have rejected them as
invalid, and interest in the Shakespeare--Bacon controversy has diminished (Zender
76). Shakespeare’s popularity can be vividly noticed by his marked career as
one of The King’s Men, and his gigantic success with dramas, comedies, and
poetry. Let us not forget Shakespeare’s accomplished relationships as a
husband, father, and friend. Shakespeare’s writings were meant for all to
enjoy. However, if one lived during Shakespeare’s time and in that social
structure, one might ask oneself about socially superior, inferior, or equal,
since every aspect of one’s behavior would be dependent upon social status.
Nevertheless, there are all kinds of nuances in Shakespeare’s plays, tuning in
on social distinctions that would take special effort to notice (Zender 23). A
safe assumption is that William Shakespeare was the most fascinating of
Elizabethan authors whose works have graced and mesmerized stage and cinema
throughout the centuries. Like most of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, he
borrowed much from novels, older plays, history, mythology, and sources familiar
surrounding this worldly writer. Shakespeare’s plays have been divided into
three groups. His comedies represent a wide range of types, and time periods
vary throughout individual plays. It was in tragedy that Shakespeare displayed
must be ranked among the greatest tragedies ever written. For Shakespeare’s
works have been read and played out for Kings and commoners alike. Yes, William
Shakespeare was one of the most fascinating writers ever to be read throughout
time (Davidow 26).BibliographyDavidow, S Leonard. The Comedies of Shakespeare. III: Chicago, 1955. Davidow,
S Leonard. The Histories of Shakespeare. III: Chicago, 1955. Davidow, S Leonard.
The Tragedies of Shakespeare. III: Chicago, 1955. Goddard, C Harold. The Meaning
of Shakespeare. III: Chicago, 1951. Groiler INC. Encyclopedia America. 1991 Ed.
Northrop, Frye. Shakespeare. Ontario: Markham, 1986. Zender, Thomas. Williams
Shakespeare; the Facts. NY: New York 1966.
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