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He was one of the greatest dramatists the world has ever seen. He is famous worldwide, not
only in his native England. He was born in April 1564 at Stratford-upon-Avon as the third child of
Mary and John Shakespeare. His father worked as a glove-maker. The whole family lived quite
happily in a house on Henley Street. He attended the local grammar school, where he learnt Latin and
When William was 18 years old, he married Ann Hathaway, who came from the nearby
village of Shottery. She was 8 years older than William. They had two daughters (Susan and Judith)
and a son, Judith’s twin brother Hamnet, who died when he was 11 years old. Four years after
marrying Ann, William left his wife and children and moved to the London.
In London he became an actor and co-owner of a theatrical company. Soon thereafter his
talent was recognised. At first he rewrote and edited older plays. Later he started to write his own
He was very successful. After his arrival in London he joined the King’s Men troup of actors.
In 1599 he bought the Globe Theatre.
During the 20 years that he lived in London, he wrote many tragedies, comedies,
tragicomedies and historical plays. Somewhat less well known are his sonnets.
After acting in the theatre and writing plays he returned to his family in Stratford. Since he had
earned a lot of money, he could afford to buy a new house in his native city. There he lived with his
family in peace and contentment.
He died on the same date he was born – on April 23rd. The Cause of his death was excessive
celebration of his birthday.
Altogether William wrote 37 theatre plays and one hundred and 54 sonnets. He was also a
As distinct from ancient tragedies there is no trace of any subordination to fate in his tragedies.
The plays have renaissance features, meaning that the theme is a secular one, the heroes are masters of
their fate, they assert their own will and their actions are the consequence of their character. His plays
reflect the problems of his time. Shakespeare didn’t adhere to unity of place, time and action. He used
blank verse.
1st period (1591- 1600)
Up to 1600 he wrote primarily comedies. Fairness and love triumphs. Females roles are very
important: The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much
Ado About Nothing, The Merry Wives of Windsor, As You Like It, Twelfth Night. He also wrote
historical plays, on the basis of chronicles and the reigns of kings: Richard II., Richard III., Henry IV.,
Henry V. and Henry VI.. The best-known tragedy from early period is Romeo and Juliet. At that time
he also wrote the play Julius Caesar and the comedy The Merchant of Venice.
2nd period (1601- 1608)
A certain pessimism and the conviction that it is not possible to realise Renaissance ideals
made their appearance. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark – the ambivalence of Hamlet, as to whether or not
he should reveal his father’s murder. He wants to force the murderer to confess. To punish evil or to
fulfil ideals?
Othello, Macbeth…
3rd period
The plays and opinions of William inspired many artists of later times- for example Verdi,
Beethoven and Tchaikovsky.
The Tempest, A Winter’s Tale and Henry VIII.
Romeo and Juliet
Romeo fell in love with Juliet. They married in secrecy because their families hated each
other. Romeo was descended from the Capulet clan and Juliet from the Montague clan. These were the
two most powerful families in Verona. Romeo murdered Tybalt, who was Juliet’s cousin, and was
banished from Verona. Juliet’s parents wanted Juliet to marry a wealthy Parisian. Therefore Juliet
drank a potion which made her look as if she were dead. Unfortunately, Romeo came to Juliet before
she awoke. Thinking that she was dead, he poisoned himself. When Juliet found her lover dead beside
her, she stabbed herself to death. The death of Romeo and Juliet brought about a reconciliation
between the two clans.