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William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616), the Great Writer of English Literature

    William Shakespeare was born in 1564, at Stratford-upon-Avon as the oldest son Of John Shakespeare, a well-to-do merchant. T the age of seven - when his father was the Chief Alderman - he started attending the local grammar school and was educated there. At eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway from a nearby village Shottery. She was eight years older than he and already pregnant. Six months after the wedding their daughter Susanna was born. They had twins, a boy Hamnet and a girl Judith, two years later. There are nearly no records of Shakesoeare's life during the seven years than followed - except one mention from 1588 which shows that he probably still stayed at Stratford. But by 1592 he was already an established actor and playwright in London.

    He joined the Lord Chamberlain's Men in 1594, working as a leading actor and dramatist. By 1599 this all-male company of experienced and talented players - no women appeared on the stage until the Restoration - had built their own theatre, the Globe. Its owners were seven members of the company, including Shakespeare, who shared in its profits. For the next decade the Globe, on the Thames at Bankside, was to be London's chief theatre, and the home of Shakespeare's work. Many of his greatest plays were written during those ten years, and were acted there. Both Queen Elizabeth I., and after her James I., showed the company many favours.

    In 1613, during a performance of Henry VIII, the Globe was destroyed by fire. But the former Lord Chamberlain's Men, by now called the King's Men, had leased a second, smaller playhouse, the Blackfriars, four years earlier. This was an indoor theatre, unlike the Globe which was open to the sky, and it had the technical facilities for scenic effects.

    In 1612, Shakespeare, it seems, went home. His son Hamnet had died when only eleven, but his two daughters were in Stratford with his wife Anne. He was now a wealthy man and had, before 1597, bought a handsome house, New Place, the second largest in Stratford. Here, with his family, he spent the last years of his life. He remained friends with actors and poets, worked sometimes, and visited London. He bought a house in Blackfriars in 1613. He died in 1616 and is buried at Trinity Church in Stratford. William Shakespeare wrote 37 plays which are commonly divided into tragedies (Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth), comedies (The Taming of the Shrew), historical plays (Richard III., Henry VI., Julius Caesar) and romances (Pericles, The Winter's Tale, The Tempest). Besides the plays written mostly in blank-verse, Shakespeare wrote also other forms of poetry - sonnets (in his own special form) and longer poems including The Rape of Lucrece.

Romeo and Juliet

    The story tells about the long vendetta between the families of Montaque and Capulet in Verona. Romeo, a Montaque, falls in love with Juliet, a Capulet, and secretly marries her. Juliet's cousin Tybalt challenges Romeo to a duel. Romeo refuses, but his friend Mercutio fights in his place and is killed. In anger and revenge, Romeo slays Tybalt, and is banished. Juliet is commanded by her father to marry Paris, a nobleman, and the Friar who had secretly married Juliet to Romeo now helps her by giving her a potion which makes her seem dead. She is put into the family vault from where, when she wakes, she is to escape to Mantua with Romeo. But he mistakenly believes her really dead, goes to the Verona, kills Paris at his graveside, and then himself takes poison. Juliet wakes, finds her young husband's body beside her and stabs herself. The warring families, in grief, are reconciled.


    In Hamlet Claudius, Hamlet's uncle, has succeeded Hamlet's father and marries the Queen. The ghost of the dead king appears to Hamlet at Elsinor Castle and tells him about his murder (Claudius and the Queen killed him). Hamlet wants to revenge his Father's death. He pretends to be mad because he does not know how to find some proof against. He tries to test the story of the murder with a theatrical performance during which the murder is re-enacted and, by seeing the story, King Claudius betrays himself. He sends Hamlet to England to be killed. Later Hamlet returns to Denmark. Claudius is alarmed and wants to destroy Hamlet. When Hamlet kills only by mistake Polonius, Ophelia's father, Claudius sends Laertes, Ophelia's brother, to a fencing match with Hamlet. Hamlet is wounded by Laertes's poisoned sword. He manages to stab Claudius and Laertes is dying too. Hamlet's mother drinks poisoned wine destined for Hamlet. This is a tragedy of the sufferings and hesitation of an honest, strong and responsible man who is not able to kill or punish without having a clear proof of guilt.


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