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An introduction to the life of william shakespeare a playwright and poet

With the partial exception of the Sonnets 1609quarried since the early 19th century for autobiographical secrets allegedly encoded in them, the nondramatic writings have traditionally been pushed to the margins of the Shakespeare industry.

He rose to be bailiff, the highest official in the town, but then in about 1575-1576 his prosperity declined markedly and he withdrew from public life. Speculation that William Shakespeare traveled, worked as a schoolmaster in the country, was a soldier and a law clerk, or embraced or left the Roman Catholic Church continues to fill the gaps left in the sparse records of the so-called lost years.

At the age of 18, in November 1582, he married Anne Hathaway, daughter of a local farmer. She was pregnant with Susanna Shakespeare, who was baptized on May 26, 1583. The twins, Hamnet and Judith Shakespeare, were baptized on February 2, 1585.

There were no further children from the union.

  • There may, of course, have been more than one young man, rival, and dark lady, or in fact the sequence may not be autobiographical at all;
  • It also appealed to a sizable slice of the reading public;
  • His wife, Mary Arden, of Wilmcote, Warwickshire, came from an ancient family and was the heiress to some land;
  • Amazingly, no original manuscripts survive reflecting the fact that many of these manuscripts were written purely for performance and were not regarded as pieces of literary work;
  • His wife, Mary Arden, of Wilmcote, Warwickshire, came from an ancient family and was the heiress to some land.

William Shakespeare had probably been working as an actor and writer on the professional stage in London for four or five years when the London theaters were closed by order of the Privy Council on June 23, 1592. The initial order suspended playing until Michaelmas and was renewed several times. Such renown as he enjoyed, however, was as transitory as the dramatic form. Play scripts, and their authors, were accorded a lowly status in the literary system, and when scripts were published, their link to the theatrical company rather than to the scriptwriter was publicized.

While the London theaters were closed, some actors tried to make a living by touring outside the capital. Shakespeare turned from the business of scriptwriting to the pursuit of art and patronage; unable to pursue his career in the theatrical marketplace, he adopted a more conventional course.

The dedication reveals a frank appeal for patronage, couched in the normal terms of such requests. Venus and Adonis was printed by Richard Field, a professionally accomplished printer who lived in Stratford.

Such lofty repudiation of the vulgar was calculated to appeal to the teenage Southampton. It also appealed to a sizable slice of the reading public. In the midst of horror, disease, and death, Shakespeare was offering access to a golden world, showing the delights of applying learning for pleasure rather than pointing out the obvious morals to be drawn from classical authors when faced with awful catastrophe.

He seems to have enjoyed a degree of success in the first of these objectives, given the more intimate tone of the dedication of Lucrece to Southampton in the following year. In the second objective, his triumph must have outstripped all expectation. It is a fine and elegantly printed book, consisting of 1,194 lines in 199 six-line stanzas rhymed ababcc.

Shakespeare's Work

Its aristocratic cachet derived from its popularity at court, being favored by several courtier poets, such as Sir Walter RaleghSir Arthur Gorgesand Sir Edward Dyer. Venus and Adonis is unquestionably a work of its age. In it a young writer courts respectability and patronage. Like so many texts of the 1590s, it features an innocent hero, Adonis, who encounters a world in which the precepts he has acquired from his education are tested in the surprising school of experience.

In his Petrarchism, for example, he adopts a mode that had become a staple of courtly discourse. Elizabethan politicians figured themselves and their personal and political conditions in Petrarchan terms. Unlike Venus and Adonis, Lucrece is not set in a mythical golden age, but in a fallen, violent world. The combination of ancient and contemporary strengthens the political elements in the poem.

Short Biography William Shakespeare

It demonstrates tyranny in its most intimate form, committing a private outrage that is inescapably public; hence the rape is figured in terms both domestic as a burglary and public as a hunt, a war, a siege. It also reveals the essential violence of many conventional erotic metaphors. Shakespeare draws on the powerful Elizabethan myth of the island nation as a woman: His attack figures a society at war with itself, and he himself is shown to be self-divided.

Brutus emerges from the shadows, reminding the reader that the poem, notwithstanding its powerful speeches and harrowing images, is also remarkable for what is unshown, untold, implicit. Until recently few commentators have taken up the interpretative challenge posed by Brutus. Prince in his 1960 edition of the poems dismisses as defective rhetoric in the treatment of an uninteresting story. The self-conscious rhetorical display and the examination an introduction to the life of william shakespeare a playwright and poet representation is daringly politicized, explicitly, if inconclusively, connecting the aesthetic and the erotic with politics both sexual and state.

In it he indirectly articulates the concerns of his generation and also, perhaps, of his young patron, who was already closely associated with the doomed earl of Essex. In 1598 or 1599 the printer William Jaggard brought out an anthology of 20 miscellaneous poems, which he eventually attributed to Shakespeare, though the authorship of all 20 is still disputed.

At least five are demonstrably Shakespearean. There is no evidence that such a division has chronological implications, though the volume is usually read in such a way. Shakespeare employs the conventional English sonnet form: Drama is conjured within individual poems, as the speaker wrestles with some problem or situation; it is generated by the juxtaposition of poems, with instant switches of tone, mood, and style; it is implied by cross-references and interrelationships within the sequence as a whole.

There remains a question, however, of how closely Shakespeare was involved in preparing the text of the sonnets for publication. The Romantic compulsion to read the sonnets as autobiography inspired attempts to rearrange them to tell their story more clearly. The sonnets were apparently composed during a period of ten or a dozen years starting in about 1592-1593. The fact of prior circulation has important implications for the sonnets.

The particular poems that were in circulation suggest that the general shape and themes of the Sonnets were established from the earliest stages.

  1. Brutus emerges from the shadows, reminding the reader that the poem, notwithstanding its powerful speeches and harrowing images, is also remarkable for what is unshown, untold, implicit. Such an apology indicates that Shakespeare was already a respected player in London with influential friends and connections.
  2. There remains a question, however, of how closely Shakespeare was involved in preparing the text of the sonnets for publication.
  3. Bentley points out in Shakespeare and the Theatre, Shakespeare had by this time become immersed in his roles as actor and writer. Namely, that the said William Underhill acknowledged the said tenements with their appurtenances to be the right of W.
  4. We know what we are, but know not what we may be.
  5. Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.

Evidence suggesting a lengthy period of composition is inconvenient for commentators seeking to unlock the autobiographical secret of the sonnets. An early date 1592-1594 argues for Southampton as the boy and Christopher Marlowe as the rival poet; a date a decade later brings George Herbert and George Chapman into the frame. There are likewise early dark ladies Lucy Negro, before she took charge of a brothel and late Emilia An introduction to the life of william shakespeare a playwright and poet, Mary Fitton.

There may, of course, have been more than one young man, rival, and dark lady, or in fact the sequence may not be autobiographical at all. No Elizabethan sonnet sequence presents an unambiguous linear narrative, a novel in verse. Yet neither are the Sonnets a random anthology, a loose gathering of scattered rhymes. While groups of sonnets are obviously linked thematically, such as the opening sequence urging the young man to marry 1-17and the dark lady sequence 127-152the ordering within those groups is not that of continuous narrative.

Sonnets 20 and 87 are connected as much by their telling use of feminine rhyme as by shared themes. Dispersed among the poems are pairs and groups that amplify or comment on each other, such as those dealing with absence 43-45, 47-48, 50-52, and 97-98. Elizabethan sonneteers, following Sir Philip Sidneyconventionally teased their readers with hints of an actuality behind the poems. There is evidence that some contemporary readers were disturbed by the transgressive and experimental features of 1590s erotic writing.

Works by Marston and Marlowe were among those banned in 1599 along with satires and other more conventional kindling. Two loves I have of comfort and despair, Which like two spirits do suggest me still: The anachronism of applying modern attitudes toward homosexuality to early modern culture is self-evident.

Where Shakespeare and his contemporaries drew their boundaries cannot be fully determined, but they were fascinated by the Platonic concept of androgyny, a concept drawn on by the queen herself almost from the moment of her accession. Sonnet 53 is addressed to an inexpressible lover, who resembles both Adonis and Helen.

Androgyny is only part of the exploration of sexuality in the sonnets, however. A humanist education could open windows onto a world very different from post-Reformation England.

In the Sonnets the relationship between the speaker and the young man both invites and resists definition, and it is clearly presented as a challenge to orthodoxy. If at times it seems to correspond to the many Elizabethan celebrations of male friendship, at others it has a raw physicality that resists such polite categorization. On the other hand, the acceptance of the traditional distinction between the young man and the dark lady sonnets obscures the fact that Shakespeare seems deliberately to render the gender of his subject uncertain in the vast majority of cases.

For some commentators the sequence also participates in the so-called birth of the author, a crucial feature of early modern writing: His sequence is remarkable for its thematic and verbal richness, for its extraordinary range of nuances and ambiguities. He often employs words in multiple senses as in the seemingly willfully indecipherable resonance, punning, polysemy, implication, and nuance of sonnet 94. His words acquire currency beyond himself and become the subject of reading and interpretation.

This linguistic richness can also be seen as an act of social aspiration: The sequence continues the process of dismantling traditional distinctions among rhetoric, philosophy, and poetry begun in the poems of 1593-1594.

The poems had dealt in reversal and inversion and had combined elements of narrative and drama. The Sonnets occupy a distinct, marginal space between social classes, between public and private, narrative and dramatic, and they proceed not through inverting categories but rather through interrogating them.

Variations are played on Elizabethan conventions of erotic discourse: It remains a meditation, however, even when it seems most decided.

The consequences of love, the pain of rejection, desertion, and loss of reputation are powerful elements in the poem that follows the sequence. It has been much investigated to establish its authenticity and its date. The poem comprises 329 lines, disposed into 47 seven-line rhyme-royal stanzas. It draws heavily on Spenser and Daniel and is the complaint of a wronged woman about the duplicity of a man.

Its connections with the narrative poems, with the plays, and with the genre of female complaint have been thoroughly explored. Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616, on what may have been his 52nd birthday.