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Short Biography of William Shakespeare

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William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was a famous English dramatist and poet. Established in London by 1589 as an actor and a playwright, he was England's unrivalled dramatist until his death, and is considered the greatest English playwright.

His plays, written in blank verse, can be broadly divided into lyric plays, including Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Nights Dream; comedies, including The Comedy of Errors, As You Like it, Much Ado About Nothing, and Measure For Measure; historical plays, such as Henry VI (in three parts), Richard III, and Henry IV (in two parts), which often showed cynical political wisdom; and tragedies, such as Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear. He also wrote numerous sonnets.

Born in Stratford-on-Avon, the son of a wool dealer, he was educated at the grammar sch ool, and in 1582 married Anne Hathaway. They had a daughter, Susanna, in 1583, and twins Hamnet (died 1596) and Judith in 1595. Early plays, written around 1589-1593, were the tragedy Titus Arutronicus; the comedies The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew, and The Two Gentlemen of Verona; the three parts of Henry VI; and Richard III.

About 1593 he came under the patronage of the Earl of Southampton, to whom he dedicated his Long poems Venus and Adonis 1593 and The Rape of Lucrece 1594; he also wrote for him the comedy Love's Labour's Lost, satirizing Raleigh's circle, and seems to have dedicated to him his sonnets written around 1593-1596, in which the mysterious "Dark Lady" appears.

From 1594 Shakespeare was a member of the Chamberlain's (later the King's) company of players, and had no rival as a dramatist, writing, for example, the lyric plays Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Richard II 1594-1595, followed by King John and The Merchant of Venice in 1596. The Falstaff plays of 1597-1599 - Henry TV (parts I and II), Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor (said to have been written at the request of Elizabeth - brought his fame to its height. About the same time he wrote Julius Caesar. The period ended with the lyrically witty Much Ado about Nothing, As You Like It, and Twelfth Night about 1598-1601.

With Hamlet begins the period of the great tragedies, 1601-1608: Othello, Macbeth, King Lear, Timon of Athens, Antony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus. This 'darker' period is also reflected in the comedies Troilus and Cressida, All's Well that Ends Well, and Measure for Measure around 1601-1604.

It is thought that Shakespeare was only part author of Pericles, which is grouped with the other plays of around 1608-1611 - Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, and The Tempest - as the mature romance or 'reconciliation' plays of the end of his career. During 1613 it is thought that Shakespeare collaborated with Fletcher on Henry VIII and Two Noble Kinsmen. He had already retired to Stratford in about 1610, where he died on 23 April 1616.

For the first 200 years after his death, Shakespeare's plays were frequently performed in cut or revised form (Nahum Tate's King Lear was given a happy ending), and it was not until the 19th century, with the critical assessment of Coleridge and DHazlitt, that the original texts were restored.

Tags: dramatist, poet, lyric, tragedy, author

Category: Others  - ( Others Archive)

Date Added: 18 June '12

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