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William Shakespeare

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Author Biography & Production History

In 1564 William Shakespeare was born to his parents John Shakespeare and Mary Arden in the town Stratford upon-Avon. William’s father did a number of things in his lifetime including obtaining real estate and holding positions in local government. This did not last long. When William was about six years old, his father’s political and economic wealth plummeted when he applied for the coat of arms that was kept from him until he was able to pay the remainder of the costs. It is assumed that William went to the grammar school in Stratford, where he would have been taught Latin. Years later at the age of eighteen, William married Anne Hathaway, a woman known to be eight years older than him. In May of 1583 their first daughter, Susanna was born. Then, two years later, Anne gave birth to twins – Judith and Hamnet.

After this point in his life, it is unclear how Shakespeare spent his time. There are many rumors including stories about him being a sailor, a lawyer’s aide, a schoolmaster, and even a soldier. By 1592 Shakespeare was a working playwright in London. In 1594, Shakespeare joined the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. The Lord Chamberlain’s Men were the owners of the Theatre, the first perpetual theatre in London, and since he had involvement with the group, Shakespeare débuted many of his works here including Twelfth Night; or, What You Will and The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. During this time of his life William Shakespeare has 15 of the 37 plays written by him published. Then, in 1599 the Theater was moved and renamed to the Globe after the group had difficulties with their landlord.

William continued working in London as an actor until 1608. But in 1609 the bubonic plague stormed through London, resulting in the closing of London public playhouses for over 60 months. There was no acting work from May 1603 to February 1610. Though he no longer lived there, Shakespeare visited London often from 1611–1614. By this time Shakespeare had been writing fewer plays, and after 1613 there are no more recognized under his name. It is said that his last plays were collaborations with the house playwright of the King's Men after him, John Fletcher.

On 23 April 1616, Shakespeare died at the ripe age of 52. There is no precise explanation of how or why William Shakespeare died, but there is speculation that the cause could have been a fever. Two days after his death, Shakespeare was buried at the Holy Trinity Church. Since his death, William Shakespeare has lived on for centuries, with each play being frequently performed all around the world and being translated in every language around the world.

In 1600, when Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, he was widely successful as a writer. He had created and published many sonnets and a number of extremely popular plays. There isn’t a whole lot of concrete data on the first production of Hamlet, but it is known that the play spread like wild fire, with many performances of drolls inspired by Hamlet during the Interregnum, and a tour in Germany within five years of Shakespeare's death. Centuries later, Hamlet continues to be staged regularly, from big stages like the Globe, to a high school auditorium in Omaha, Nebraska. Just as his rival Ben Jonson wrote in the first assembled compilation of all of Shakespeare’s plays, Shakespeare is “not of an age, but for all time.” (Norton 715)

Dramaturgical/Structural Analysis of Hamlet

The ghost of Old Hamlet, the former King of Denmark who has recently died has been seen by the guards and Hamlet’s best friend Horatio. Claudius, Old Hamlet's brother, has taken Old Hamlet's widow, Gertrude, as his wife and has been crowned the new King. Horatio tells Hamlet of the presence of the ghost and Hamlet decides to seek out his ghostly father. The ghost exposes that Claudius assassinated him so that he could steal his crown and his wife. The ghost makes Hamlet vow to take revenge on Claudius. Hamlet starts acting crazy, this worries everyone.

In Act Three, Ophelia, the daughter of the court advisor and Hamlet’s girlfriend, visits Hamlet, but Hamlet acts awfully unkind toward Ophelia. Next, Hamlet prepares to put on his play, where the players will act out what he knows Claudius has done to his father. Both Gertrude and Claudius become extremely upset by the play and Claudius decides that he must get rid of Hamlet by sending him to England. Gertrude demands Hamlet to her room so she can scold him for his ghastly suggestions. Polonius hides behind a tapestry, eavesdropping once again; he makes a noise and Hamlet stabs him through the tapestry. Hamlet exits her room, dragging the body of Polonius behind him.

Claudius then makes preparations for Hamlet to go to England and writes a letter to the English court asking them to kill Hamlet

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