William Shakespeare was an English writer, theater actor, and director, in general, considered the greatest English writer and the world's most famous and performed playwright. His works have been translated into all languages of the world. So little is known of any other writer as of William Shakespeare. The personality of the writer, whose works are known throughout the educated world is still a mystery.
Early Life and Education
William Shakespeare was born in the small town of Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564, in the county of Warwickshire (at the same time as Michelangelo died in Rome), as the third and oldest male child of eight children. He was baptized on April 26, 1564, so he is considered to have been born on April 23, 1564.
His father was John Shakespeare, a respectable and wealthy merchant-craftsman, and a member of the Municipal Council. The fact that in 1596 John Shakespeare could pay for him and his family’s coat of arms depicting falcons and spears and has a French inscription: Non sanz droict (Not without rights) speaks of his good property status. In addition, John Shakespeare was elected mayor of Stratford-upon-Avon in 1571.
William Shakespeare's mother's name was Mary, and her maiden name was Arden. Shakespeare attended school in his hometown; all that is known is that he studied Latin and enjoyed reading Ovid, Cicero, Publius Vergilius Maro - Virgil, Titus Maccius Plautus, and Terence.
There are speculations that William Shakespeare left school in 1578 when his father’s affairs went uphill, and the presence of a 14-year-old son in the house became necessary. From then, until his 18th birthday, there is no written information about him. It is not until September 18, 1582, that there is a document that tells of William Shakespeare's marriage to Ann Hathaway of the nearby hamlet of Shottery, who was eight years older than him. He was most likely not happy in his marriage, as he often wrote against early marriages.
In 1583 his daughter Susan was born, and in 1585 twins - daughter Judith and son Hamnet. Then again until 1592 nothing is known about Shakespeare, and in that year he is first mentioned as an actor and playwright.
In 1596 his son Hamnet died. The following year he bought an estate in Stanford called New Place and became a co-owner of the Globe Theater. Shortly afterward, in 1601, Shakespeare's father died.
In 1607, his daughter Susan married the famous London physician John Hall. A year later his mother died, and in the same year Shakespeare withdrew from London to his hometown, although he occasionally came to London (e.g. in 1612 as a witness in a lawsuit).
In the same year (1612) his brother Gilbert died, and the following year in 1613 his last brother Richard; that year the Globe Theater also disappeared in a fire. In 1616 his daughter Judith married.
Shakespeare's wife Ann died in 1623, seven years after the death of her husband. In the same year, the first edition of all Shakespeare's works saw the light of day in London. Shakespeare's last immediate descendant, his granddaughter Elizabeth, daughter of Susan and Dr. John Hall, died in 1670 and the lineage died out.
There is a presumption about Shakespeare's homosexuality due to the dedication of some works to a beautiful blonde young man who was similar to Francesco Petrarch's Laura. The assumption is even more probable because of the realization of the period in which Shakespeare lived - the Renaissance, the period of experimentation.
Shakespeare was a prolific writer. It is assumed (because the authorship of all his plays cannot be determined with certainty) that he wrote 34 plays, 154 sonnets, and several poems.
The writer's work is mainly divided into several categories:
- Early dramas - mainly comedies and histories, ie dramas with contents from the English and ancient past and initial attempts at writing tragedies
- Mature age - great tragedies
- Later period of creation - so-called dark comedies or problematic dramas and "romances"
In addition to his dramatic oeuvre, Shakespeare is also the author of poems and perhaps has the best collections of love poetry in English and world literature.
The characteristics of Shakespeare's early work are as follows: juicy, "Renaissance" humor, often interwoven with obscenities created on the soil of medieval farces, which is the main feature of comedies; a lavish language (Shakespeare himself coined hundreds of words - by comparison, his entire opus has, according to various sources, about 30,000 different words, while that of the French playwright Jean Racine about 4,000) in which high rhetoric and vulgar expression are mixed; and a focus on the issue of power and political machinations (in historical dramas) or love plots and unfoldings (in comedies).
During this period, which lasted until about 1600, Shakespeare realized some of the audience's favorite dramas:
- Romeo and Juliet - a burlesque that grows into a tragedy, very popular due to the motives of unhappy adolescent lovers;
- The Merchant of Venice - a hybrid piece in which the author oscillates between a caricature of a Jewish greengrocer and the tragic dimension that Shylock, a Venetian merchant, assumes during the plot almost despite the writer’s will
- Henry IV - in which he gave one of the most memorable characters of world literature, the earthly and realistic vitalist Falstaff - a person of sparkling wit and wisdom, the true embodiment of the Renaissance abundance of life
- Richard III - a forerunner of great tragedies, a hero-criminal or anti-hero who fascinates with Machiavellian political and personal bravado
During that time, the writer laid the foundations for his great tragedies, and with joy, the vitality of playful eros, and anthemic atmosphere in which he celebrates youth, health, and freedom, he gave lasting valuable achievements of Renaissance comedy.
At the turn of the 17th century began a great "tragic period" of Shakespeare's work. Absorbing and overcoming his original influences, Geoffry Chaucer and Christopher Marlowe, Shakespeare in this age gives unique achievements with which he revived European and world literature, and whose reach was realized only by later generations. Since the following plays represent, in a way, the spiritual birth of the modern Western man, it is necessary to say something about the author's worldview that shines through these works.
Shakespeare’s genius is often characterized as neo-pagan and quasi-shamanic. His, almost supernatural, ability to create personalities of tragic aura that can be said to be "bigger than life"; a tendency to portray states of psychic dissociation and schism, obsession and immensity in passions, from jealousy to greed for power; a focus on the human cosmos without theological and spiritual breakdowns - all of which point to a strong secular and anti-dogmatic current in the writer's character.
But a closer reading of his plays, as well as discoveries from the bard's biography that have accumulated over the past 100 years or so, leave little doubt that Shakespeare was, not only formally, a Catholic - though not a Catholic playwright.
Shakespeare’s originality lies primarily in the diversity of his invention: no one before him had created such fascinating depictions of personality, nor given a convincing picture of a growing and changing self. No one has given such an abundance of unforgettable scenes of sexuality and love, of passions circulating in the fundamental circle of human society, the family. No one portrayed the prophets of nihilism like Edmund ("King Lear") or Jaga ("Othello"), let alone the greatest charismatic of world literature, "Hamlet".
In addition to the above, Shakespeare's central themes are the destructive force of time; an ambivalent attitude toward corporeality and sexuality, ranging from celebration to fierce denial; blindness and self-deception as an essential feature of human life; the absence of God or any transcendent principle in his "Theatrum Mundi"; instability and deceitfulness of both destiny and people - towards others and themselves.
Shakespeare's greatest originality lies in the discovery of the mutability of the human personality and the apotheosis of the mystery that is the hidden center of human existence - his characters elude psychological and social reductions, as well as theological or spiritual interpretations.
Remaining a poet, not an analyst or philosopher to the end, William Shakespeare remains a universal mythographer of the enduring excitement of human destiny that cannot be reduced to any patterns.
Among the great tragedies, "Hamlet" stands out, a work that he reworked several times, which by portraying the intellectual as a heroic charismatic, and the abundance of themes in the text and subtext remains one of the foundations of Western spiritual culture; "Othello", in which a jealous warrior of heroic proportions was overshadowed by the incarnate Satan, Iago; "Antony and Cleopatra", with the archetype of the fatal woman Cleopatra, who surpassed her historical role model; "Macbeth", dominated by the hero-criminal King Macbeth and his even more memorable wife, Lady Macbeth; "King Lear", a work of extreme effort, which is said to, with several other works of the Western corps, from Plato and the Bible to Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Marcel Proust - reveals the beginning and end of human nature and destiny.
Along with these tragic climaxes, there are also the so-called dark comedies or problem dramas ("problem plays"), among which "Troilus and Cressida" and "Measure for Measure" stand out. There is no tragic catharsis or great, unforgettable characters in these dramas. The dominant tone is cynicism and disgust at human capriciousness and meanness, bodily aspects of existence, political machinations, and the compromising nature of social life in general. Full of caustic irony, these dramas are, in a way, forerunners of the existentialist vision that prevailed in the 20th century.
Shakespeare completed his dramatic opus in a spirit of calm. His last plays, "Cymbeline", "The Winter's Tale", and "The Tempest" were evaluated differently (although it should be said that chronologically the last plays of the writer are "Henry VIII" and "The Two Noble Kinsmen", but because they are patchwork Shakespeare, at best, only one of the authors, his late "romances" are usually taken as recent works). These dramas, called "romances" are about a fantasy world full of ghosts and unusual events. Plots and conflicts of a potentially tragic nature are resolved in a miraculous and fairy-tale way. Personalities do not have a realistic dimension but are more like characters from fairy tales or folk tales.
The end of Shakespeare's work was assessed differently: according to some, the author became resigned and exhausted his creative energy, and resorted to cheap solutions and a happy fairytale nature - no longer having the strength to deal with the reality of life.
According to others, the last romances represent the wisdom uttered at the end of life (although Shakespeare died only in his fifties, there is noticeable satiety and desire for rest, expressed on several occasions in later works). This view could be reduced to the following statement: after the lush and devastating vitality, comedy, and optimism that characterized the early works, there came a difficult tragic period in which the writer walked on the brink of madness (great tragedies), at the same time followed anti-existentialist torturous ironic problem pieces, to welcome Shakespeare's end of life in reconciliation and forgiveness and a visionary depiction of life as a dream (the famous verses from "The Tempest").
Either way, the writer’s latest plays have remained permanently popular with audiences, and they have also established a tradition of fairy-tale-surreal works in English and American literature.
William Shakespeare is one of the world’s few greatest imaginative writers, an author who is without a doubt one of the narrowest elite of top writers. Not only an author for a narrow and conceited elite, Shakespeare is perhaps the world’s most popular writer. His works are the backbone of world theaters and have found a strong echo in other arts, from music to painting and film.
He has had an invaluable influence on world literature, and in summary, it can be said that he will probably continue to enjoy popularity and sympathy, both among lay audiences and among experts and writers - due to several factors, most likely his secular and free spirit unchained by the dogmas of the time, as well as diversity in the depiction of human experience ranging from tragedy to comedy, from pessimism to optimism, from naturalistic existentialism to visionary fantasy romance.
On April 23d, 1616, according to the Julian calendar (the same date he was born) - Shakespeare died at the age of 52 in Stratford-upon-Avon, where he was buried in St. Mary's Church, near the altar.
Above the tomb was erected in 1623 a memorial bust with the Latin inscription:
IVDICIO PYLIUM, GENIO SOCRATEM, ARTE MARONEM.
TERRA TEGIT, POPULUS MAERET, OLYMPUS HABET.
A Pylian in judgment, a Socrates in genius, a Maro in art.
The earth buries him, the people mourn him, Olympus possesses him.
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