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William Shakespeare

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Essay title: William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare has stood the test of time so well that even now we study and speak of him. More than four hundred years after his birth, he is held in the highest regard as the world’s greatest poet and playwright. Even the prominent society was respectful of him in his own time. “Over the span of his fifty two years, from a relatively obscure background, he achieved fame, wealth and status without ever losing touch with his roots in his native home of Warwickshire.”1

William Shakespeare was born to John Shakespeare and Mary Arden sometime in late April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon. He was baptized on the 26th of April; therefore, it is assumed that he was born around April 23rd due to the fact that the infant mortality rate was not very good at that particular time. His father was a prominent and prosperous alderman in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, and was later granted a coat of arms by the College of Heralds. It is presumed that young William attended the Stratford Grammar School. William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway in 1582. One year later Anne had a daughter named Susanna, followed by the twins Judith and Hamlet two years later.

Seven years later, William Shakespeare was recognized as an actor, poet, and playwright, when a rival playwright named Robert Greene referred to him as “an upstart crow” in “A Groatsworth of Wit.” A few years later he joined up with one of the most successful acting troupes in London called “The Lord Chamberlain’s Men.” When, in 1599, the troupe lost the lease of the theatre where they performed, they were wealthy enough to build their own theatre across the Thames, south of London, which they called


“The Globe.” The new theatre opened in July of 1599. “The Letters Patent of the company specifically charged William Shakespeare and eight others to freely use and exercise the art and faculty of playing Comedies, Tragedies, Histories, Interludes, Morals, Pastorals, stage plays… as well for recreation of our loving subjects as for our solace and pleasure.”2

William Shakespeare entertained King James I and the people for another ten years until a fire broke out after a canon fired from the roof of the theatre during a performance of Henry VIII on June 19, 1613. Although William Shakespeare invested in the rebuilding, he retired from the stage to the Great House of New Place in Statford that he had purchased in 1597, and some considerable land holdings, where he continued to write until his death in 1616 on the day of his 52nd birthday.

One of William Shakespeare’s greatest works was a play called The Tragedy of Hamlet. The play starts on a dark winter night at Elsinore Castle in Denmark. Two guards see a ghost walk the halls of the haunted castle. A scholar by the name of Horatio recognizes the ghost as the recently deceased King Hamlet. Horatio brings the ghost’s son, Prince Hamlet, to see the spirit. The ghost tells Prince Hamlet that he is indeed the ghost of King Hamlet, and has been killed by his own brother Claudius who has taken the throne and married King Hamlet’s wife, Queen Gertrude. “Ordering Prince Hamlet to seek revenge on the man who usurped his throne and married his wife, the ghost


Disappears with the dawn.”3 Prince Hamlet devotes his life to avenging his father’s death. In order to assassinate Claudius, Hamlet decides to appear mad to all those

around him. Claudius and Gertrude start to worry about Prince Hamlet, so they send Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy on Hamlet to discover the reason for his recent actions.

During a play, Prince Hamlet pays the actors to relive the murder plot executed by Claudius. When Claudius witnesses the account so closely related to his own actions, he excuses himself and leaves immediately. Claudius, plagued by guilt, privately starts to pray. Prince Hamlet decides not to kill Claudius in prayer, because he felt it would be an unjust revenge. He then decides to keep up his act of apparent madness and find another to pay retribution.

The old Polonius suggests that Prince Hamlet might be in love with his daughter, Ophelia. When Prince Hamlet tells Ophelia to get herself to a nunnery, it becomes apparent that he is not in love with her. When Prince Hamlet rebukes his mother for marrying Claudius, he sees Polonius behind a curtain. Thinking that it was none other than the evil king, Prince Hamlet runs him through with his knife, only to find the old, wise Polonius dead in his place. Prince Hamlet is immediately exiled to England. Meanwhile, Ophelia goes mad and drowns herself. Her brother Laertes returns from his journey to France to find both his father and sister dead with Prince Hamlet to

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