Friendship Poems

Shakespeare Biography

ShakespeareWilliam Shakespeare, born in Stratford-upon-Avon, but his actual birth date is unknown, although it is traditionally observed on April 23, was the son of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden. He was baptized in Startford-upon-Avon on April 26, 1564.

While no attendance records exist for the period that Shakespeare was in school, it is widely believed among biographers that he was educated at the King’s new School in Stratford. This grammar school was located a quarter of a mile from his home and it was a free school chartered in 1553. Although the quality of grammar schools varied during this period, law throughout England dictated the curriculum. By law, every grammar school had to provide an intensive education in Latin grammar and the classics.

When Shakespeare was eighteen years old, he married 26-year-old Anne Hathaway on November 27, 1582. Six months after they were married, they had a daughter whom they named Susanna, who was baptized on May 26, 1583. Two years after Susanna was born, they had twins, a son, Hamnet, and, a daughter, Judith. The twins were baptized on February 2, 1585. Hamnet died of unknown causes at the age of 11 and was laid to rest on August 11, 1596.

It is unknown when Shakespeare began writing, but through records of performances, it has been shown that several of his plays were on the London stage by 1592. In 1593 and 1594, when the theatres were closed because of the plague, Shakespeare published two narrative poems on erotic themes, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets were published in 1609, and were the last of his non-dramatic work to be published. Nobody knows for sure when each of the 154 Sonnets was composed, but the evidence strongly suggests that Shakespeare wrote the Sonnets throughout his career for private readership rather than for the public. Critics praise the Sonnets as a profound reflection on the nature of love, sexual passion, procreating, death and time.

When Shakespeare first began to write, his plays were written in the conventional style of the day. He used a stylized language that did not always come naturally from the needs of the characters or the drama. His writing contained elaborate metaphors and conceits, and the language is most often rhetorical. Most of what was written in his plays was written for the actors to declaim rather than speak, the words often held up the action. Not too long after he began writing, he began to adapt the traditional styles to his own purposes.

Shakespeare’s poetic form was a blank verse and he composed his poems in iambic pentameter, which means that, in poetry terms, verse was usually unrhymed and consisted of ten syllables to a line, spoken with a stress on every second syllable. If you look at Shakespeare’s work, you will notice that his blank verse in his early days is quite different from that of his later ones. In the beginning, while his writing was beautiful, the sentences tended to start, pause and finish at the end of lines, with the risk of monotony. Soon he was able to master the traditional blank verse, which allowed him to interrupt and vary the flow. His new technique allowed him to release the power and flexibility of the poetry in plays such as Julius Caesar and Hamlet.

After Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, he decided to vary his poetic style even further, especially in the more emotional passages of the late tragedies. His later writing was described by A.C. Bradley as “more concentrated, rapid, varied, and in construction, less regular, not seldom twisted or elliptical.” During the last part of Shakespeare’s career, he adopted many techniques to achieve those effects. The techniques that he adopted included run-on lines, irregular pauses and stops, and extreme variations in sentence structure and length.

Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616; he was survived by his wife and two daughters. Two days after he died, Shakespeare was buried in the chancel of the Holy Trinity Church. Before 1623, a monument was erected in Shakespeare’s memory on the north wall of the church.

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