William Shakespeare is one of the greatest laureates of the English language the mankind will ever experience. He was majorly categorized as a playwright, poet and an actor although many greats and myself perceive him as a more of a Real-World analyst. His actual birth date remains unknown but it’s traditionally observed on 23 April, Saint George’s Day. He was also considered as the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He is often regarded as England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon”.
His extant works, including collaborations, consist of approximately 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.
Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were primarily comedies and histories, and these are regarded as some of the best work ever produced in these genres. When it comes to romance, Shakespeare’s sonnets are known to be the most romantic to have ever been written. Evergreen plays like Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Othello and the famous Comedy of Errors are amongst the most quoted and referred works of the great playwright. In his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights.
Thus commenced the tale of the revolutionary writer of the English language who still after three centuries is worth mentioning and talk about. William at the age of 18, married a 26-year-old girl, Anne Hathaway. Six months after the marriage Anne gave birth to a daughter, Susanna. After that twins, son Hamnet and daughter Judith, followed almost two years later. Hamnet died of unknown causes at the age of 11. The death of his son, in my opinion, is an important aspect to consider when we talk Shakespeare. Since after the birth of the twins, there are seven years of William Shakespeare’s life where no records exist. Shakespeare left few historical traces until he is mentioned as part of the London theater scene in 1592. Scholars call this period the “lost years,” and there is wide speculation on what he was doing during this period. Many theories have come up but nothing for sure.
By 1592, the theatrical career of the playwright had already begun, there is evidence William Shakespeare earned a living as an actor and a playwright in London and possibly had several plays produced. London playwright Robert Greene took the liberty to write about Shakespeare in an article after watching one of the plays Shakespeare had been working on. By the early 1590s, documents show William Shakespeare was a managing partner in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, an acting company in London which later changed its name to King’s Men. King’s Men company became very popular, and records show that Shakespeare had works published and sold as popular literature. In 1599, a partnership of members of the company built their own theater on the south bank of the River Thames, which they named the Globe. Extant records of Shakespeare’s property purchases and investments indicate that his association with the company made him a wealthy man and they bought several other theaters together over the span of the next few years.
The early works by Shakespeare were primarily written in the conventional style with elaborate metaphors and rhetorical phrases that didn’t always align naturally with the story’s plot or characters. At the time William Shakespeare was writing his plays, the English language was going through a major change. Words from the traditional Greek and Roman languages were being added to the English vocabulary, as were words from other countries and regions, brought to England through colonization, wars, exploration, and diplomacy. Shakespeare and other writers were adopting these words —and making up new ones — incorporating them into their writings. Hundreds of words and phrases originated with or were popularized by Shakespeare, such as “Wear your heart on your sleeve” (Othello), “Full circle” (King Lear), “Bedazzled” (Taming of the Shrew), and “There’s the Rub” (Hamlet). Shakespeare wrote in blank verse using iambic pentameter. The lines consist of 10 syllables and are spoken with a stress on the second syllable. Shakespeare was familiar with seven foreign languages and often quoted them directly in his plays. His vocabulary was the largest of any writer, at over twenty-four thousand words. Shakespeare refined this style of writing into more complex sentences in dialogues and narrations as his play writing matured. However, Shakespeare was very innovative, adapting the traditional style to his own purposes and creating a freer flow of words. With only small degrees of variation, Shakespeare primarily used a metrical pattern consisting of lines of unrhymed iambic pentameter, or blank verse, to compose his plays. At the same time, there are passages in all the plays that deviate from this and use forms of poetry or simple prose.
With the exception of Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare’s first plays were mostly histories written in the early 1590s. Richard II, Henry VI (parts 1, 2 and 3) and Henry V. Shakespeare also wrote several comedies during his early period: the witty romance- A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the romantic- Merchant of Venice, the wit and wordplay of- Much Ado About Nothing, the charming- As You Like It and Twelfth Night. Other plays which he wrote having specific time identified, included Titus Andronicus, The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew and The Two Gentlemen of Verona. The focus on histories and portraying the destructive results of weak or corrupt rulers is one of the reasons that Shakespeare is still considered to be one the most realistic writers of all times. The other point being the wit and the humour that he introduced in even the most tragic of plays was the sole reason that Shakespeare became popular among the mass public.
Out of economic necessity, Shakespeare turned to poetry in the early 1590s after the plague closed many of the London theaters. In his over 150 sonnets and narrative poems, he delved into themes of love, beauty, morality, and truth. The poems seem to parody many of the traditional topics of classical poems by switching gender roles, speaking openly about sex, and making fun of classical beauty.
The universe was now well known with the legend that is Shakespeare but the best of Shakespeare was yet to be discovered. The most popular plays which are still enacted and are considered to be absolute classics were yet to come. It was in William Shakespeare’s later period, after 1600, that he wrote the tragedies Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth. Plays that clearly reflected the emotional aspect of his work. In these, Shakespeare’s character’s present vivid impressions of human temperament that are timeless and universal. Possibly the best known of these plays is Hamlet, which explores betrayal, retribution, incest and moral failure. These moral failures often drive the twists and turns of Shakespeare’s plots, destroying the hero and those he loves. Such plays are considered to be the benchmarks of English literature even now. The intense portrayal of emotion and its relation to the real life makes its effect last even longer.
In William Shakespeare’s final period, he wrote several tragicomedies. Among these are Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest. Though graver in tone than the comedies, they are not the dark tragedies of King Lear or Macbeth because they end with reconciliation and forgiveness. Exactly the way it should’ve been! Shakespeare was a genius in his own ways. He started his writing with history, went on to write comedies, then wrote tragedies and finally reconciliation. The depiction of the complete life cycle of an individual. Everyone emerges from a history, experiences both joy and sorrow and finally end their life reconciling with the ultimate truth.
Hence, Shakespeare quite brilliantly showed that he was much more than a literary genius…. HE WAS A REALIST!!