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William Shakespeare was born in April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon in Henley street to the
family of John Shakespeare - the glover and wool dealer and Mary Arden - daughter of a
prosperous local farmer.Shakespeare attended local grammar school there and after he
finished the school he married Anne Hathaway. They had three children.
Shakespeare’s interest in the theatre probably started in his early years when Stratford was
often visited by the groups of professional actors and through contacts with them he made
his was to the London and when he was 26, he established himself as a leading actor and
dramatics, becoming a member of the Lord Chamberlain’s company,which owned its own
theatre in which many of his plays were given. After the fire of Globe theatre, the group had
to move into another theatre, the Blackfriars. Although he spent his professional career in
London he kept connection with his family and Stratford.
When Shakespeare became successful in London he bought the biggest house in Stratford
called New Place and spent there his retirement and he died there in 1616 at the same day he
was born at the age of 52. William Shakespeare is burried in Trinity Church in Stratfordupon-Avon.
During a period of 20 years he wrote 37 plays and beautiful sonnets. His works can be divided
into the 4 periods:
in first period there are
 mainly historical plays:
o Henry VI. (3 volumes)
o Richard III.
 and early comedies:
o Comedy of Errors
o The Taming of the Shrew
o Two Gentlemen of Verona
o Love’s Labour Lost
- In the second period he wrote the
 only one tragedy:
Romeo and Juliet – Romeo fell in love with Juliet. They got married in secret because
their families hated one another and did not want to allow them to become husband and wife.
In a quarrel, Romeo killed one of Juliet’s cousins and as ordered to leave Verona. Juliet’s
parents, not knowing that she was already married wished her to marry a rich wobleman. To
escape this, she took a drug whoch made her fall into such a deep sleep that people thought
her to be dead. Meanwhile Romeo was told to come secretly to Verona and take Juliet away
with him. Unlcky chance preveted him from learning the full thruth. He found Juliet in her
sleeps and believing and saw dead he poisoned himself. When Juliet awoke and saw Romeo’s
dead body, she killed herself too.
 and historical plays:
o Richard II.
o Henry IV. and Henry V.
 and optimistic comedies:
o A Midsummer Night’s Dream
o The Merchant of Venice
o As You Like It
o Much Ado About Nothing
o Twelth Night
o The Merry Wives of Windsor
o Hamlet - is based on the Danish legend. Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle, murdered
Hamlet’s father, the king of Denmark. By marrying Hamlet’s mother, Queen
Gertrude, he succeeds the throne. The ghost of death king appears to Hamlet and
asks for revenge. Hamlet, typical Renaissance hero, is not able to kill without
having a clear proof of guilt. In order to find some proof of guilt against Claudius,
he pretends madness. He tests the story of the murder with a theatrical
performance and carefully watches Claudius. Thinking that Claudius is hidden
behind the curtain in Getrude’s room, he kills Polonius, Ophelia’s father. Laertes,
Ophelia’s brother and Polonius’s son comes to revenge Ophelia and Polonius.
Claudius provokes Laertes to challenge Hamlet to a fencing match. The last scene
of the play is most dramatic. In case Hamlet wins the match, Claudius prepares a
glass of poisoned wine for him. He also poisons Laertes’s sword. During the dual,
both Laertes and Hamlet are wounded by the poisoned wine, Hamlet does not
hesitate any more and also stabs Claudius with the poisoned sword. After death of
Hamlet, Gertrude, Laertes and Claudius, King Fortinbras comes to lead the
country in justice and wisdom.
in the third period = period of tragedies = it is the top of his work:
 tragedies:
o Othello - Othello is black, a military leader. His wife is white and nice, her name is
Desdemona. The action takes place in Venice. Iago whispers to Othello that his
wife is unfaithful to him. In a fit of jealously, he kills her. When he learns the truth
he stabs himself to death. This play was treated by G. Verdi.
o Macbeth
o King Lear
o Troilus and Cressida
In the last forth period the plays:
o Pericles
o Cymbeline
o The Winter’s Tale
o The Tempest
o Henry VIII.
Many artists were from our country were inspired by him. Shakespeare’s plays were staged
after the beginning of the 19th century. The most important translator here was Josef Václav
Sládek who translated nearly all work of Shakespeare. Among other translators belongs
Saudek, Topol, Žantovský.
Lots of painters, poets and other artists here draw from Shakespeare’s motives, e.g. Karel
Purkyně, Voskovec and Werich, Jiří Trnka, Jan Zrazavý etc.
Also musicians were inspired by Shakespeare’s work,e.g. Zdeněk Fibich, Antonín Dvořák
and others.