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Shakespeare William
(1564–1616)

Shakespeare William(1564–1616)

English dramatist and poet, b. Stratford-on-Avon. He is considered the greatest playwright who ever lived.
His father, John Shakespeare, was successful in the leather business during Shakespeare’s early childhood but later met with financial difficulties. During his prosperous years his father was also involved in municipal affairs, holding the offices of alderman and bailiff during the 1560s. While little is known of Shakespeare’s boyhood, he probably attended the grammar school in Stratford, where he would have been educated in the classics, particularly Latin grammar and literature. Whatever the veracity of Ben Jonson’s famous comment that Shakespeare had “small Latine, and less Greeke,” much of his work clearly depends on a knowledge of Roman comedy, ancient history, and classical mythology.
In 1582 Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, eight years his senior and pregnant at the time of the marriage. They had three children: Susanna, born in 1583, and twins, Hamnet and Judith, born in 1585. Nothing is known of the period between the birth of the twins and Shakespeare’s emergence as a playwright in London (c.1592). However, various suggestions have been made regarding this time, including those that he fled Stratford to avoid prosecution for stealing deer, that he joined a group of traveling players, and that he was a country schoolteacher. The last suggestion is given some credence by the academic style of his early plays; The Comedy of Errors, for example, is an adaptation of two plays by Plautus.
In 1594 Shakespeare became an actor and playwright for the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, the company that later became the King’s Men under James I. Until the end of his London career Shakespeare remained with the company; it is thought that as an actor he played old men’s roles, such as the ghost in Hamlet and Old Adam in As You Like It. In 1596 he obtained a coat of arms, and by 1597 he was prosperous enough to buy New Place in Stratford, which later was the home of his retirement years. In 1599 he became a partner in the ownership of the Globe theatre, and in 1608 he was part owner of the Blackfriars theatre. Shakespeare retired and returned to Stratford c.1613. He undoubtedly enjoyed a comfortable living throughout his career and in retirement, although he was never a wealthy man.
The chronology of Shakespeare’s plays is uncertain, but a reasonable approximation of their order can be inferred from dates of publication, references in contemporary writings, allusions in the plays to contemporary events, thematic relationships, and metrical and stylistic comparisons. His first plays are believed to be the three parts of Henry VI; it is uncertain whether Part I was written before or after Parts II and III. Richard III is related to these plays and is usually grouped with them as the final part of a first tetralogy of historical plays.
After these come The Comedy of Errors, Titus Andronicus (almost a third of which may have been written by George Peele), The Taming of the Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love’s Labour’s Lost, and Romeo and Juliet. Some of the comedies of this early period are classical imitations with a strong element of farce. The two tragedies, Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet, were both popular in Shakespeare’s own lifetime. In Romeo and Juliet the main plot, in which the new love between Romeo and Juliet comes into conflict with the longstanding hatred between their families, is skillfully advanced, while the substantial development of minor characters supports and enriches it.
After these early plays, and before his great tragedies, Shakespeare wrote Richard II, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, King John, The Merchant of Venice, Parts I and II of Henry IV, Much Ado about Nothing, Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and Twelfth Night. The comedies of this period partake less of farce and more of idyllic romance, while the history plays successfully integrate political elements with individual characterization. Taken together, Richard II, each part of Henry IV, and Henry V form a second tetralogy of historical plays, although each can stand alone, and they are usually performed separately. The two parts of Henry IV feature Falstaff, a vividly depicted character who from the beginning has enjoyed immense popularity.
The period of Shakespeare’s great tragedies and the “problem plays” begins in 1600 with Hamlet. Following this are The Merry Wives of Windsor (written to meet Queen Elizabeth’s request for another play including Falstaff, it is not thematically typical of the period), Troilus and Cressida, All’s Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, and Timon of Athens (the last may have been partially written by Thomas Middleton).
On familial, state, and cosmic levels, Othello, Lear, and Macbeth present clear oppositions of order and chaos, good and evil, and spirituality and animality. Stylistically the plays of this period become increasingly compressed and symbolic. Through the portrayal of political leaders as tragic heroes, Coriolanus and Antony and Cleopatra involve the study of politics and social history as well as the psychology of individuals.
The last two plays in the Shakespearean corpus, Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen, may be collaborations with John Fletcher. The remaining four plays—Pericles (two acts of which may have been written by George Wilkins), Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest—are tragicomedies. They feature characters of tragic potential, but resemble comedy in that their conclusions are marked by a harmonious resolution achieved through magic, with all its divine, humanistic, and artistic implications.
Since his death Shakespeare’s plays have been almost continually performed, in non-English-speaking nations as well as those where English is the native tongue; they are quoted more than the works of any other single author. The plays have been subject to ongoing examination and evaluation by critics attempting to explain their perennial appeal, which does not appear to derive from any set of profound or explicitly formulated ideas. Indeed, Shakespeare has sometimes been criticized for not consistently holding to any particular philosophy, religion, or ideology; for example, the subplot of A Midsummer Night’s Dream includes a burlesque of the kind of tragic love that he idealizes in Romeo and Juliet.
The strength of Shakespeare’s plays lies in the absorbing stories they tell, in their wealth of complex characters, and in the eloquent speech—vivid, forceful, and at the same time lyric—that the playwright puts on his characters’ lips. It has often been noted that Shakespeare’s characters are neither wholly good nor wholly evil, and that it is their flawed, inconsistent nature that makes them memorable. Hamlet fascinates audiences with his ambivalence about revenge and the uncertainty over how much of his madness is feigned and how much genuine. Falstaff would not be beloved if, in addition to being genial, openhearted, and witty, he were not also boisterous, cowardly, and, ultimately, poignant. Finally, the plays are distinguished by an unparalleled use of language. Shakespeare had a tremendous vocabulary and a corresponding sensitivity to nuance, as well as a singular aptitude for coining neologisms and punning.
The first collected edition of Shakespeare is the First Folio, published in 1623 and including all the plays except Pericles and The Two Noble Kinsmen (the latter play also generally not appearing in modern editions). Eighteen of the plays exist in earlier quarto editions, eight of which are extremely corrupt, possibly having been reconstructed from an actor’s memory. The first edition of Shakespeare to divide the plays into acts and scenes and to mark exits and entrances is that of Nicholas Rowe in 1709. Other important early editions include those of Alexander Pope (1725), Lewis Theobald (1733), and Samuel Johnson (1765).
Among Shakespeare’s most important sources, Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1587) is significant for the English history plays, although Shakespeare did not hesitate to transform a character when it suited his dramatic purposes. For his Roman tragedies he used Sir Thomas North’s translation (1579) of Plutarch’s Lives. Many times he rewrote old plays, and twice he turned English prose romances into drama (As You Like It and The Winter’s Tale). He also used the works of contemporary European authors. For further information on Shakespeare’s sources, see the table entitled Shakespeare’s Play.
Shakespeare’s first published works were two narrative poems, Venus and Adonis (1593) and The Rape of Lucrece (1594). In 1599 a volume of poetry entitled The Passionate Pilgrim was published and attributed entirely to Shakespeare. However, only five of the poems are definitely considered his, two appearing in other versions in the Sonnets and three in Love’s Labour’s Lost. A love elegy, The Phoenix and the Turtle, was published in 1601. In the 1980s and 90s many Elizabethan scholars concluded that a poem published in 1612 entitled A Funeral Elegy and signed “W.S.” exhibits many Shakespearean characteristics; it has not yet been definitely included in the canon.
Shakespeare’s sonnets are by far his most important nondramatic poetry. They were first published in 1609, although many of them had certainly been circulated privately before this, and it is generally agreed that the poems were written sometime in the 1590s. Scholars have long debated the order of the poems and the degree of autobiographical content.
The first 126 of the 154 sonnets are addressed to a young man whose identity has long intrigued scholars. The publisher, Thomas Thorpe, wrote a dedication to the first edition in which he claimed that a person with the initials W. H. had inspired the sonnets. Some have thought these letters to be the transposed initials of Henry Wriothesley, 3d earl of Southampton, to whom Shakespeare dedicated Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece; or they are possibly the initials of William Herbert, 3d earl of Pembroke, whose connection with Shakespeare is more tenuous. The identity of the dark lady addressed in sonnets 127–152 has also been the object of much conjecture but no proof. The sonnets are marked by the recurring themes of beauty, youthful beauty ravaged by time, and the ability of love and art to transcend time and even death.


Antigua, 1964, William Shakespeare; The Memorial Theatre

Australia, 1988, Shakespeare, John Lennon and Sydney Opera House

Bahamas, 1964, William Shakespeare; The Memorial Theatre

Bechuanaland, 1964, William Shakespeare; The Memorial Theatre

Belgium, 2013, Operas

Bhutan, 1987, Romeo and Juliet

Bulgaria, 1969, Krustin Safarov as Falstaff (Dechko Uzunov)

Bulgaria, 1997, Konstantin Kisimov in different roles

Bulgaria, 2007, Ivan Dimov as Hamlet

Burundi, 2010, Marlon Bramdo in «Julius Caesar»

Canada, 1999, Midsummer Night's Dream

Cayman Islands, 1964, William Shakespeare; The Memorial Theatre

Chili, 1997, Ramon Vinay in Othello

Cuba, 2008, Romeo and Juliette

Cyprus, 1964, Theatre Soli

Cyprus, 1964, Theatre Curium, play of Euripides

Cyprus, 1964, Theatre Salamis

Cyprus, 1964, Othello tower

Cyprus (Turkish), 1999, Scene from «Othello»

Czech Republic, 2010, Theatrical posters of Sarah Bernardt

Czech Republic, 2012, Jiří Trnka and Puk

Czech Republic, 2012, Juri Trnka, Puk (puppet from «A Midsummer Night's Dream»)

Czechoslovakia, 1964, A Midsummer Night's Dream

Czechoslovakia, 1972, Midsummer Night's Dream (Lesier)

Czechoslovakia, 1980, Bratislava Opera House and Bakovazena as King Lear

DDR, 1964, William Shakespeare

DDR, 1973, King Lear

DDR, 1973, A Midsummer Night's Dream

Dominica, 1964, William Shakespeare; The Memorial Theatre

Dominica, 2001, Macbeth of Verdi

Equatorial Guinea, 1993, Ballet Romeo and Juliet

Falkland Islands, 1964, William Shakespeare; The Memorial Theatre

Finland, 2013, Esko Salminen as King Lear

France, 1976, Mounet-Sully as Hamlet

Fujeira, 1969, A Midsummer Night's Dream

Fujeira, 1969, Othello

Fujeira, 1969, Hamlet

Fujeira, 1969, Macbeth

Fujeira, 1969, Merry Wives of Windsor

Fujeira, 1969, Romeo and Juliet

Fujeira, 1969, All's Well That Ends Well

Fujeira, 1969, The Merchant of Venice

Fujeira, 1969, The Taming of the Shrew

Gambia, 1964, William Shakespeare; The Memorial Theatre

Gambia, 2000, Richard III (1955)

Gambia, 2001, William Shakespeare

Gambia, 2001, John Barrymore as Hamlet

Georgia, 2005, Vera Tsignadze as Dezdemona

Georgia, 2005, Vakhtang Chabukiany as Othello

German Federal Republic, 1976, Hermine Hörner as Lady Macbeth

Ghana, 1989, A Midsummer Night's Dream

Gibraltar, 1964, William Shakespeare; The Memorial Theatre

Gibraltar, 1998, William Shakespeare

Great Britain, 1964, Shakespeare, Puck and Bottom

Great Britain, 1964, Shakespeare and Feste

Great Britain, 1964, Shakespeare and Balcony Scene

Great Britain, 1964, Shakespeare and Henry V

Great Britain, 1964, Hamlet

Great Britain, 1982, Hamlet

Great Britain, 1988, Shakespeare, John Lennon and Sydney Opera House

Great Britain, 1995, Decorating from «All the Love Poems of Shakespeare»

Great Britain, 1995, The Swan, 1595

Great Britain, 1995, The Rose

Great Britain, 1995, The Globe

Great Britain, 1995, The Hope

Great Britain, 1995, The Globe

Great Britain, 2006, William Shakespeare

Great Britain, 2011, Return to the Forbidden Planet

Great Britain, 2011, Hamlet

Great Britain, 2011, The Tempest

Great Britain, 2011, Henry VI

Great Britain, 2011, King Lear

Great Britain, 2011, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Great Britain, 2011, Romeo and Juliet

Great Britain, 2011, Plays of Shakespeare

Great Britain. Bernera, 1979, William Shakespeare

Grenada, 1989, William Shakespeare and his house

Grenada, 1998, The Death of Ophelia

Grenada Grenadines, 1989, Ethel Barrymore

Grenada Grenadines, 1989, Richard Burton

Grenada Grenadines, 1989, John Barrymore

Grenada Grenadines, 1989, Paul Robeson

Grenada Grenadines, 1989, Bando Tamasaburo and Nakamuro Kanzaburo

Grenada Grenadines, 1990, Ann Hathaway;s Cottage, Hottery

Grenada Grenadines, 1990, House of Shakespeare's mother

Grenada Grenadines, 1990, Shakespeare's Birthplace

Grenada Grenadines, 1990, New place, Stratford

Grenada Grenadines, 1990, The Great Garden

Grenada Grenadines, 1990, The Guild Chapel

Grenada Grenadines, 1990, Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Grenada Grenadines, 1990, Stratford Grammar School

Grenada Grenadines, 1990, Mickey as William Shakespeare

Grenada Grenadines, 1990, Holy Trinity Church

Guinea Bissau, 2010, Orson Welles, «Macbeth»

Guyana, 1993, Lady Macbeth (Fussli)

Guyana, 1998, Hamlet and Horatio

Hungary, 1948, William Shakespeare

Hungary, 1964, William Shakespeare

Irland, 2000, William Shakespeare and Beckett

Irland, 2010, Ballet «Romeo and Juliet»

Liberia, 1987, Plays of Shakespeare

Liberia, 2001, Ballete «Othello»

Liberia, 2001, The Moor’s Pavane

Liberia, 2001, Ballete «Othello»

Liechtenstein, 2006, Midsummer Night's Dream (Mendelson)

Liechtenstein, 2012, Hamlet

Maldives, 1989, William Shakespeare

Marshall Islands, 2013, William Shakespeare and Federation Stars

Moldova, 2001, Lidia Lipkovski as Juliette

Montserrat, 1964, William Shakespeare; The Memorial Theatre

Netherlands, 1978, Scene from «Hamlet»

Nicaragua, 1975, Givanni Martinelli as Othello

Nicaragua, 1976, Shakespeare plays chess with Ben Jonson

Niger, 1998, Hamlet and Horatio

Panama, 1966, William Shakespeare

Paraguay, 1966, William Shakespeare and his house

Paraguay, 1966, William Shakespeare and his house

Paraguay, 1966, Dante Alighieri

Paraguay, 1966, William Shakespeare

Paraguay, 1966, William Shakespeare

Paraguay, 1966, Dante Alighieri

Poland, 1969, Polish Hamlet (Jacek Malczewski)

Poland, 1992, «10th Theatrical Summer in Zamosc»

Portugal, 2013, Falstaff

Ras al-Khaima, 1969, Scene from «Othello»

Rumania, 1964, William Shakespeare

Rumania, 1983, Grigore Manolescu as Hamlet

Rumania, 1997, Romanian actors in Shakespeare's plays

Russia, 1998, Dramatic scenes, Shakespeare

Russia, 2000, Galina Ulanova in Romeo and Juliet

San-Marino, 1990, Laurence Olivier as Hamlet

San-Marino, 1990, Laurence Olivier as Richard III

San-Marino, 2001, Scene from «Othello»

San-Marino, 2001, Scene from «Falstaff»

San-Marino, 2010, «Ran», «Dersu Uzala»

Sao Tome e Principe, 2010, Writers and poets

Senegal, 1972, The Merchant of Venice

Senegal, 1972, Daniel Sorano as Shylock

Serbia and Montenegro, 2003, Milotinovic as King Lear

Serbia and Montenegro, 2003, Plaovic as Henry IV

Sierra Leone, 1989, Plays of Shakespeare

Sierra Leone, 1989, Plays of Shakespeare

Sierra Leone, 1989, William Shakespeare

Sierra Leone, 1989, William Shakespeare

Sierra Leone, 1990, Laurence Olivier as Antony

Sierra Leone, 1990, Laurence Olivier as Henry V

Sierra Leone, 1990, Laurence Olivier as Othello

Sierra Leone, 1990, Laurence Olivier as Richard III

Sierra Leone, 1990, Laurence Olivier as Hamlet

Sierra Leone, 1996, Akira Kurosawa, «Ran»

Sierra Leone, 2000, William Shakespeare

Sierra Leone, 2001, Hector on Galathe

St. Helena Island, 2005, William Shakespeare; The Old Globe Theatre

St. Kitts-Nevis, 1970, Scene from «A Midsummer Night's Dream»

St. Lucia, 1964, William Shakespeare; The Memorial Theatre

St. Vincent, 2000, Lord Olivier in «Richard III»

St. Vincent, 2001, Scenes from «Othello», Verdi

St. Vincent, 2009, A Midsummer Night's Dream (David Scott)

St. Vincent, 2010, «Throne of Blood» («Kumonosu jî»)

St. Vincent (Grenadines), 1990, Goofy as Mark Antony

St. Vincent (Grenadines), 1990, Clarabella Cow as the Nurse

St. Vincent (Grenadines), 1990, Pit as Falstaff

St. Vincent (Grenadines), 1990, Minnie as Portia

St. Vincent (Grenadines), 1990, Donald as Hamlet

St. Vincent (Grenadines), 1990, Daisy as Ophelia

St. Vincent (Grenadines), 1990, Donald and Daisy as Benedick and Beatrice

St. Vincent (Grenadines), 1990, Minnie and Donald as Katherine and Petruchio

St. Vincent (Grenadines), 1990, Mickey and Minnie as Romeo and Juliet

St. Vincent (Grenadines), 1990, Clarabella Cow as Titania

Sweden, 1975, Ballet «Romeo and Juliet»

Sweden, 2010, Ballet «Romeo and Juliet»

Tanzania, 1999, Romeo and Juliette

Turks & Caicos, 1964, William Shakespeare; The Memorial Theatre

USA, 1964, William Shakespeare

USSR, 1961, Ballet Romeo and Juliet

USSR, 1964, William Shakespeare

USSR, 1966, Scene from film «Hamlet»

Vatican, 2001, Verdi and Othello

Virgin Islands, 1964, William Shakespeare; The Memorial Theatre

YAR, 1971, Scene from «Othello» (by Verdi)

YAR, 1971, Scene from «Othello» (by Verdi)

Zambia, 2001, Scenes from «Falstaff», Verdi

Zambia, 2001, 19-century poster for Falstaff

France, 1976.08.28, Bergerc. Mounet-Sully as Hamlet

German Federal Republic, 1995.09.19, Berlin. Shakespeare and Rock'n'roll

Great Britain, 1964.04.23, Stratford-upon-Avon. Shakespeare Anniversary Year

Great Britain, 1964.04.23, Stratford-upon-Avon. Shakespeare's 400th Anniversary

Great Britain, 1968.04.23, Stratford upon Avon. Shakespeare's Birthday

Great Britain, 1969.04.23, Stratford upon Avon. Shakespeare's Birthday

Great Britain, 1982.04.28, Stratford-upon-Avon. Swan

Great Britain, 1982.06.30, London. William Shakespeare

Great Britain, 1984.09.25, Stratford upon Avon. Shakespeare

Great Britain, 1987.08.06, Stratford upon Avon. Shakespeare's Birthplace

Great Britain, 1995.08.08, Edinburgh. William Shakespeare

Great Britain, 1995.08.08, London. Theatrical Masks

Great Britain, 1995.08.08, Stratford upon Avon. Donkey

Great Britain, 1995.08.08, Stratford upon Avon. Shakespeare

Great Britain, 1995.08.08, Stratford upon Avon. Shakespeare

Great Britain, 1995.08.08, Stratford upon Avon. Shakespeare

Great Britain, 1995.08.08, Stratford upon Avon. Swan

Great Britain, 1999.03.09, Stratford upon Avon. Shakespeare

Great Britain, 2006.07.18, London. Names

Great Britain, 2006.07.18, Southwark, London SE1. Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Hungary, 1964.05.31, Budapest. Swan

Rumania, 2000.06.17, Craiova. Shakespeare Festival

USA, 1963.08.15, San Rafael. Shakespeare Festival

USSR, 1989.04.23, Moskow. 425th Birth anniv of Shakespeare

Yugoslavia, 1964.07.26, Maribor. Centenary of first translate of Shakespeare

Great Britain, 1964, Shakespeare festival

Great Britain, 1964, William Shakespeare

Rumania, 2006, William Shakespeare

Russia, 2005, Scenes from films «Hamlet» and «Kings Lear»

Russia, 2009, Birth Centenary of actor Bruno Freindlikh

USSR, 1965, Scenes from film «Hamlet»

Belarus, 2002, P. Molchanov as Hamlet

Belarus, 2003, A. Kistov as King Lear

Canada, 1972/1975, Shakespeare Feestival Theatre, Stradford (Ontario)

Italy, 1983, Opera «Jiulietta and Romeo» by Zandonai

Russia, 1998, Alla Tarasova and her roles

Russia, 2002, Birth Centenary of Yanshin

USSR, 1989, 425th Birth anniv of Shakespeare

© 2003-2019 Dmitry Karasyuk. Idea, preparation, drawing up
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