William Shakespeare

Shakespeare's Life And Times

Born: April 26, 1564, Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom

Died: April 23, 1616, Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom

Married at age 18 to Anne Hathaway

Became popular for acting before writing

Referred to as the “Bard of Avon”

His early plays were comedies and histories, but later on in life, (1608) he leaned more towards tragedies. The time in which he began writing is unknown, however most of his plays were on the London stage by 1592. Sometime’s considered a “ghost” writer/producer, meaning his works were written and created by others, but he took the credit. This is a large issue nowadays as well in the music and film industry.

As discussed earlier, Shakespeare is widely considered the greatest writer and playwright of all time. The excellence of his work combined with not a wide understanding of his personal life lead many to believe Shakespeare is not fully responsible for all of his work, but it is magnificent none the less; as we continue to study and analyze the texts today. Much of his early life is interpreted by historians through his poems, plays and sonnets because no concrete records of his early life exist as far as we know. What we do know, is that his early life as a playwright and actor began in 1592 in London with his wife Anne Hathaway, whom he married at the young age of 18. Most of his early plays revolved around famous rulers of the time, such as Henry VI and Richard II. Today, his plays are extremely popular and are constantly studied and analyzed and interpreted in many different ways in performances with cultural and political contexts. Shakespeare truly established an idea of life in England at the time through his many well-known plays.

Shakespeare's Work

1. Shakespeare always used a wide variety of themes in all his works. He wrote comedies, dramas, love stories, and tragedies all beautifully, as well as a ability to create many diverse characters. He also has a very strong use of language and writes poetry very well, making him an ideal example in English classes for well done poetry. From teen lovers to royal kings, Shakespeare doesn’t have one direct area of focus, which makes people studying him so much more fascinating because they are able to slightly relate to his stories most of the time, or at least find them interesting.

2. Shakespeare’s sonnets only contain the initials “W.H.”, which lead to massive controversy regarding who the proper recipient was. Some say it could be one of Shakespeare’s patrons at one point in time, while others say they were written for the “Dark lady”, a mysterious woman with black hair mentioned in many of his works. In addition to his sonnets, there is still controversy today over whom the true author of Shakespeare’s plays are, considering there is little personal life and early life information on him.

3. The renaissance period was a rebirth in Italy from the 14th century through the middle of the 17th century. Early Renaissance also represents the art period during the 15th century, between the middle ages and the high renaissance in Italy. The Renaissance revolved around 3 major things: commerce, interest in the Classical world, and belief in the potential of human achievement. Shakespeare implicated these 3 things in ALL of his works, including the human achievement of love in Romeo and Juliet, the significance of the classical world in Macbeth, as well as The Merchant Of Venice involving commerce.

4. The majority of Shakespeare’s audiences were Groundlings (poorer people) who would pay a penny for admission, while the richer people sat in covered galleries, paying up to half a crowd each per seat. Shakespeare would call out poor behavior in the crowd when he drew attention to it. It was interactive atmosphere where the audience booed and cheered constantly, how fans would act at a sports event today.

5. For women in 16th century England, times were rough. Not many legal rights, poor jobs, not great educations, and no right to vote. However, in many of Shakespeare’s works, women are shown with true value; shown with respect, worth and more potential than the stereotypical duties of housework. In Hamlet, Osphelia is portrayed with great respect and dignity, as the main character Hamlet is deeply in love with her. Despite the reputation and status of women at the time of the play, Shakespeare portrayed women with great potential.

6. In my opinion, I believe reading Shakespeare slow is the easiest way to obtain the info. Also, there is quite an extensive vocabulary in his works, so learning the words in the text as they are introduced will give me a better understanding of the message being portrayed, as well as what is actually going on in the story.

Hamlet: The Plot

King Hamlet is first introduced in ghost form since we already know he is dead, after being discovered by watchmen of the Elsinore Castle in Denmark. Early on, we are informed that his brother Claudius has already claimed the throne soon after his death and married the King’s widow, Queen Gertrude. Once approached by his son, Prince Hamlet, King Hamlet begins to speak and announces that his killer is indeed Claudius, the man who claimed his thrown and married his wife. The main plot of the story revolves around Prince Hamlet attempting to avenge his father’s death, however he is naturally thoughtful and contemplative of his actions, resulting in delay of the avengement and Hamlet begins to go mad, concerning Claudius and Gertrude. One major theme seen in Hamlet is the mystery of death, since Hamlet is so immediately fixated with the idea of death and the spiritual truth and perspective of having his father pass away. He also gets into the self debate wondering if suicide is an aid to such problems in a world filled with such awful things. I believe that this theme could relate most to kids my age, since they feel their lives are unfortunate right now and that they can’t bear the experiences they’re going through or what they’re dealing with. Suicide is never the answer to anything In my opinion, I believe everything can be resolved through other coping methods than ending a life, innocent or not.

Tell Me Something About Hamlet

1. The real Elsinore is located between Sweden and Denmark by the name of Kronborg Castle.

2. A revenge tragedy was a style of drama that was popular in England through Shakespeare’s works in the late 16th and 17th centuries. The basic plot involved a quest for vengeance as well as scenes of carnage and mutilation. As far as I’m concerned so far, Hamlet appears to be an ideal storyline that would classify as a revenge tragedy.

3. Shakespeare most likely got his idea for Hamlet from the classic Danish tale involving vikings, the Saga of Feng and Amleth, featuring a vaguely familiar plotline as Hamlet. I also read that the general story of a figure dying, having the uncle take over, and marry the wife, can be somehow correlated with the story of Antigone, the latest text we read in class. I agree completely with this proposition because given what I know so far about the play, I can tell that similar to Antigone, the context and plotline involves a family conflict as well as a slight variation of how the family situations ended up.


1. Recently deceased father whom we are introduced to early on. Father of Hamlet, brother of Claudius, and husband of Gertrude.

2. The main character in the play who’s goal is to avenge his father’s death. He is melancholy, bitter, and cynical. He is the son of Hamlet’s ghost, the nephew of Claudius, and the son of Gertrude

3. The villain of the people who is also Hamlet’s uncle. He is calculating, political and doesn’t understand Hamlet’s motives at all. New husband of Gertrude, even though he lacks human emotions sometime

4. Hamlet’s mother, queen of Denmark. She truly loves Hamlet, even though he views her as weak and depraved. She is Claudius’s new wife, but is actually the original wife of Hamlet’s ghost

5. She is the daughter of Polonius, who is the lord chamberlain of Claudius’ court. Hamlet is strongly in love with Ophelia, even though Claudius used her against him.

6. One of Hamlet’s closest friends whom he trusts with everything, which is rare for Hamlet to do. After his death, Horatio lives at the end of the play to respectfully tell his story.

7. He is the Lord Chamberlain of Claudius’s court, and the father of Laertes and Ophelia.

8. He is Polonius’ son and Osphelia’s brother. He spends most of his time in France and is quick and hasty with his actions.

9. And 10… 2 courtiers who were former friends of Hamlet from Wittenberg. Although they were past friend, Claudius and Gertrude still convinced them to observe Hamlet and find out the reason for his strange behaviors