William Shakespeare

By Ashley/Nikki H. and Adia C.

Background Information

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-Avon in 1564. He lived for fifty-two years, dying on April 2, 1616. He was born into wealthy parents who came from money. When he was eighteen he married Anne Hathaway who at the time was twenty-six. Shakespeare had three children: Susana, Hamnet (who died at the young age of eleven), and Judith.


William Shakespeare is one of the most known playwrights of all time; even our very own President Lincoln enjoyed reading his work! His work has, and will continue to, inspire people for generations. He wrote poetry after an outbreak of plague in Europe, causing London to close down play houses. Shakespeare had an astonishingly vast and expansive vocabulary. The average American has a vocabulary containing around ten thousand words, if you're extremely intellectual you can have around fifteen thousand, however he had over twenty-nine thousand words in his vocabulary! Which is fascinating and impressive, even a bit surprising despite his literature achievements. He even invented words we use today such as assassination, puke, bedroom, and bump! This status makes him well-known and studied by not only people who are involved in the art of theater, but also people who are involved in literature and writing of all kinds. Shakespeare wrote at least thirty-six plays, a hundred fifty four sonnets, and also acted a bit in his plays. His some of his most distinguished tragedies included Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth (AKA The Scottish Play), and Othello. A Midsummer Nights Dream, The Comedy of Errors, and Alls Well that Ends Well, are his most famed comedies. Histories are another genre he wrote. Those included Henry IV, Julius Caesar, and Antony & Cleopatra. However comedies and tragedies are his most common genres. Shakespeare also was a joint owner of the Famous Globe Theater; one of the most prominent theaters to exists, it has a intriguing story of it's own.

How Plays Were Created

For lightning plays took place during a time where the sun's light was angled towards the stage or wherever it was needed. Sometimes candles were used as an additional light source.

Sound effects were mostly created from pots and pans, simplicity at its finest. However there were chambers that have musicians to help convey emotions and sound effects

The thrust stage was invented so the audience could hear and see the stage better. Therefore Shakespeare had to tell the actors not to "mouth the words" or "saw the air", meaning not to over exaggerating like they used to have to. They could now act more natural.

There were limited props. Often the normal clothing was what they actors wear as costumes, but it depended on the characters "class" (Upper or Lower). This included jerkins (embroidered shirts that resemble a vest), corsets, bright colors, tights, and dresses. They were extravagant and decorated.

A tiring house was a permanent structure that serves as a background. The theatres are designed based off of inn yards.

Queen ELizabeth I, King James I, and the Elizabeathan Era

The era in which Shakespeare lived. This era was the high peak of achievement for theater and was an important part of their culture. It was the beginning of a true entertainment industry that mirrored the whole society. This was the Renaissance of Arts and Sciences. Two other important people from this era were Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. From 1558 to 1603 Queen Elizabeth I lived. She reigned for forty-five years and during this tie the economy weakened for many reasons: inflation, food shortage, high ret, outbreak of black plague, food riots, and threats of invasion. People were convicted as witches and executed; the number of victims are in the hundreds. King James I, who lived from 1603 to 1625, was interested in witchcraft and believed in the supernatural. He commissioned translation from Latin to English (KJV or King James Version).

The Globe Theatre

On June 29, 1613 the first Globe Theatre was burned from a fire. The second one, built in 1614 from the timbers of the first theatre, was made by entrepreneur James Burbage. The Globe Theatre has been talked about for centuries. Shakespeare was a shareholder for the acting company. His plays and plays written by Christopher Marlow, Francis Beaumont, John Fletcher, Thomas Middleton, and Thomas Kyd were performed there. Famous actors Richard Burbage, Will Kempe, and Edward Alleyn were in some of the productions.

The design of this theatre was based off of old roman amphitheaters. The sun’s natural light filled the theatre and torches were used for night scenes so you could always see the show! It had a scenery hut that could lower and raise actors making it seem as they were ghost or supernatural creatures! Performances were in summer, because it wasn't heated. Theatres in those days were octagonal, or circular just like the Globe Theatre.

Facinating Flabergasting Fun Facts

*Only males could act in his plays, some just played female roles.

*Shakespeare's death is a mystery as no one is sure exactly how he died.

*"Laugh it off," is a Shakespeare quote

*There were Upper and Lower Classes

*Actors were the only exception to the law prohibiting people from dressing in clothes above their rank.

*On his grave the words "cursed be he that moves my bones" are engraved into it!

*Many boy actors died of lead poisoning due to the lead in their make-up.

* Mazipan, also called marchpane, was a snack food made from almond paste

*Pounds were, and still are, the currency

*There were many horrible consequences for committing crimes, one form punishment was hanging.

*People sold plays to acting companies, because plays weren't published a lot due to low printing quality.

*Blank verse, a type of poetry was invented by Christopher Marlowe

*Another type of poetry is called iambic pentameter and has five beats per line

*Due to a Civil War in 1642 theater went into a sort of hibernation.

More Information

There are many things to learn about this era in history. You can learn more about their:


*Crime and Punishments

*Money and Currency


*The Globe Theatre

*Elizabethan Plays and Playwrights

This was a marveling period of history which inspired many. It can be awed and admired for it's continual and rapid growth in the arts and in science.