Shakespeare

A backround on his life and lasting legacy

Eliziabethan Culture

Queen Elizabeth I was England's third queen to rule England and reined from 1558 to 1603. During this time, England was rising as both a naval and commercial power, and defeated the Spanish Armada in 1558. Queen Elizabeth also established the Church of England in that same year and oversaw the exploration of Asia by multiple explorers. Due to numerous wars, refugees were constantly coming to England for help. Because of this, the English were exposed to new ideas and cultures that helped the country grow. During this time, London was a central hub for culture and commerce and underwent a massive growth in population, resulting in a rising merchant middle class.
Typical Elizabethan Music

Fantasia by William Mundy

The Globe Theatre

Before theatrical houses were around in England, actors and play companies used inns, private houses, college halls and inn yards for their productions. Then, in 1576, the Theater was built by James Burbage in Shoreditch, a district in London. The Theater was the first-ever playhouse in London and hosted the famous King’s Men for twenty years. However, a dispute arose about the lease of the building in 1596, and negotiations to acquire a vacant hall in a priory in Blackfriar began. In April, 1597 the lease to the Theater expired, after James Burbage had died that February. Even in spite of these events, the dispute still raged on for two years, during which The Curtain playhouse hosted the company of actors.


In 1598, a plot of land near the Rose theatre was leased by the company, and a new playhouse called the Globe was built using the timbers of the Theater. Shares in the new building were offered to members of the company in hopes of covering the cost of the new playhouse. One of the members who bought a share in the building was William Shakespeare, who would later benefit greatly from this. The theatre was completed by 1599 and ran for fourteen years until it burned down in 1613. It was quickly rebuilt, and this time featured a tile roof.

A Live Preformance of Henry VIII

Shakespeare's Backround

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, England to John Shakespeare and Mary Arden. For a living, his father was a wool merchant and a glove maker, while his mother came from the family of a wealthy landowner. Shakespeare's only education was at a local grammar school. He then married Anne Hathaway when he was eighteen on November 28th, 1582. Six months after their wedding, the first of their three children was born, named Susana. The other two children were born two years later and named Hamnet and Judith. Sadly, Hamnet only lived to be eleven years old before he died.


Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece were Shakespeare's first poems and were published in 1593 and 1594. However, Shakespeare's true playwriting career did not start until later that year, when he started writing about two plays a year until 1611. By 1597, Shakespeare had accumulated enough wealth to purchase New Place in Stratford, and pay for his father's coat of arms the year before. Many of his earlier plays consisted of comedies and histories, while a tragedy (Romeo and Juliet) was also published during this time. Shakespeare performed many of his plays before Queen Elizabeth I towards the end of her reign, seeing as he had established himself as both a well- known playwright and poet at that time. Shakespeare was living near where the Barbician sits on Silver Street when he wrote Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth in 1602. He died on April 23rd, 1616 while at New Place in Stratford at the age of 52. His property was left to his daughter Susana’s sons, and his ‘second best bed’ was given to his wife. Shakespeare was then buried sometime in 1616 at the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.

Popular Plays

Shakespeare wrote many plays during his time, but few became as popular and as praised as these:

1. Hamlet
Hamlet is a dramatization over the Prince of Denmark (Hamlet) being urged by his father's ghost to exact revenge on his uncle Claudius, who murdered him and took his spot on the throne.

2. Macbeth
Macbeth is a tragedy over a Scottish general (Macbeth) who receives a prophecy that foretells that he will become king of Scotland. After hearing this, he becomes power hungry and murders the king, taking the throne for himself.

3. A Midsummer Night's Dream

The Duke Theseus is preparing for his wedding to Hippolyta, when Egeus arrives with his daughter Hermia, and Lysander and Demetrius following behind. Lysander and Hermia both love each other, however Egeus wants her to marry Demetrius. Theseus then gives Hermia one day to decide or else be sent to a nunnery or be executed. Meanwhile, a group of actors meet to consider preforming the play Pyramus and Thisbe at Theseus' wedding. As this is happening, Oberon and Titania (the fairy king and queen) are debating over who should get a boy that Titania stole. Since Titania is unwilling to give him up, Oberon sends his servant Puck to exact revenge on her.

4. The Tempest
Prospero, who is the rightful Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter to her rightful place using magic. He then conjures a storm (the tempest) to lure his brother and the king of Naples to his island.

5. Much Ado About Nothing

Don Pedro and his men are staying at Leonato's house after their return from war, while Benedick continues a delicate relationship with Leonato's niece. Both then decide that they will never marry. Meanwhile, Claudio falls in love with Hero, Leonato's daughter and Don Pedro agrees to woo Hero for Claudio later that evening. Now, Don John, Pedro's brother, plans with his two friends Borachio and Conrade to wreak havoc.

A Modern Take on Hamlet

Hamlet Act 1 Scene 1

Other Playwrights of His Time

During his time, Shakespeare was not the only successful playwright in England. Here are a few of the other popular poets and playwrights that lived during the 1500's-1600's


1. Christopher Marlowe: Christopher Marlowe was a playwright that was born in Canterbury on February 6th, 1564. He is famous for his works such as Tamburlaine, The Jew of Malta, and Dr. Faustus.


2. Francis Beaumont: He was an English poet and playwright who collaborated with John Fletcher. He is famous for his works such as The Knight of the Burning Pestle, The Woman Hater, and The Coxcombe.


3. John Fletcher: He was a dramatist and was born in Rye, Sussex, in 1579. He entered college in 1591, but of the details of his life from this time is little known. He collaborated with Beaumont and after his withdrawel, he worked with Shakespeare, Jonson, Massinger, and others. He 1625 and is famous for his works such as The Faithfull Shepherdess, Bonduca, and The Chances.

His Time in London

After appearing on the stage, Shakespeare's Richard III, The Comedy of Errors, and his Henry VI series helped to boost his popularity immensely. Although the plague shut the theaters down in 1593, Shakespeare still wrote two poems - Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. He also wrote three more plays by 1594, The Taming of the Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Love's Labor’s Lost, which all helped to further heighten his popularity. Since becoming a well- known actor and playwright, Shakespeare became a member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men in 1594, which was based in London. Until the end of his career, Shakespeare was still an avid member of the group, and even performed for Queen Elizabeth I. Although he continued to live in London, he purchased New Place in Stratford after accumulating wealth from his plays Richard II, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, and The Merchant of Venice from about 1595 to 1597. The Globe Theatre was then established two years later by Shakespeare and other members of the Lord Chamberlain's Men in London. A royal license was issued to the Lord Chamberlain's Men in 1603 by King James, prompting Shakespeare to write many famous plays about courtly mastery.

London in the Elizabethan Era

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Lasting Influence

William Shakespeare has impacted the world in a number of ways. His many plays that were written over several hundred years ago still manage to captivate viewers and promote study to this day. Hundreds of words and phrases that we use today such as all's well that ends well and ‘eyeball’ were created by Shakespeare as well. Due to his influential work, he continues to inspire authors, directors and psychologists today. Overall, Shakespeare's work -even being over several hundred years old- still manages to influence modern society and has left a lasting impact.

An Inside Look Into King Lear, Played by Christopher Plummer

Works Cited

"Elizabethan England Life." Elizabethan Era England Life,Facts for Kids,Times,Women,Costumes,Education,Theatre,Children. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Mar. 2015.


"Elizabethan Era." ELIZABETHAN ERA. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Feb. 2015.


"The Old Globe Theater History." The OLD GLOBE THEATER History. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Feb. 2015.


"History of the Globe / Shakespeare's Globe." History of the Globe / Shakespeare's Globe. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2015.


"Here You Can Find out More about William Shakespeare and the Quartos including Information On:." Background on William Shakespeare's Life, Works and Plays. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Mar. 2015.


"Background to Shakespeare." Background to Shakespeare. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Mar. 2015.


"Top 10 Greatest Shakespeare Plays - Listverse." Listverse. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2015.


"Elizabethan Playwrights and Authors." Elizabethan Playwrights and Authors. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2015.


"William Shakespearein London." William Shakespeare in London. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Mar. 2015.


"Shakespeare's Influence on Other Writers." Shakespeare's Influence on Other Writers. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Mar. 2015.


"Why Is Shakespeare Important." Why Is Shakespeare Important. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Mar. 2015.