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The town of Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare was born in 1564, is only a hundred miles from London. This proximity explains the fact that this village, whose name means "the road through the ford", was the site of thriving markets, trade fairs and exchanges, and therefore also of the plague, from which epidemics was decimated; on the other hand came from capital companies itinerant actors protected by the Queen or by the nobility. Stratford was therefore the place of a changing fortune, that marked the childhood and adolescence of Shakespeare.

A respectable family

William was the third son of John and Mary Shakespeare. Five of their eight children survived, and two of them became actors: William same and also the younger brother Edmund (born in 1580), who followed him to London. When his father was installed in Stratford, he was a glover, and we bought the house in Henley Street, the birthplace of the poet. Craftsman respected, scale levels of fame to become bailiff (mayor) of the city, in 1568.

Shakespeare's family was marked by religious confusion that occurred when Queen Elizabeth succeeded the Catholic Mary Tudor in 1558. The elder sister of fact Shakespeare was baptized in the Catholic faith, while William it was according to the rites of the Anglican Church. John Shakespeare had in fact joined the new church. Among his responsibilities, he had to ensure that the ceiling frescoes of the Guildhall, judged too papists, were whitened with lime. Choosing a new teacher for the school, which, following the Reformation, had become the king's grammar school. William probably he was admitted to the age of four years, and we learned to read the prayer book Anglican (Prayer Book). It is only to seven years that could benefit from the humanist culture of schoolmasters out, for the most part, from Oxford, a center for spreading the classical studies.

Reversals of fortune

Around 1578, the esteemed John Shakespeare did not dare to set foot in church for fear of be arrested for debt. What had been one of the most esteemed Stratford had to give up the honors (it was desired to look for the causes of this decline in its Catholic past but, though a profession of Catholic faith has been found in the roof of his house, never could prove that John was persecuted for religious reasons). We are not sure if he left the school, William followed one of his teachers in Lancashire as to become a tutor. What we do know is that, at seventeen, was to return to Stratford and engaged to the daughter of a farmer of Shottery, Anne Hathaway, eight years older, whom he married in 1582. The couple had three children: Susan, born six months after marriage (married in 1607 a doctor appreciated, John Hall), and, in 1585, the twins Hamnet and Judith.

The "lost years"

It ignores almost all of Shakespeare since the birth of twins to one where we know in London. He was apprenticed to his father's workshop, or in Lancashire? He met the actors of the Earl of Derby, Lord Strange? The idea is not far-fetched, because these actors belong later, as Shakespeare himself, to the company of the Lord Chamberlain. It was thought a trip to France and Italy. Would it be broken down to London with the actors of the company of the Queen, who had gone to Stratford in 1587? Shakespeare had a family to support, and the actors could hope to get rich by investing in the construction of new theaters. So I was born The Theatre in 1576, the Courtine in 1577 and in 1587. The Rose Shakespeare would initially made a living guarding the horses of the gentlemen at the entrance of these theaters. What is certain, is that it starts to write.

From Stratford to London

Shakespeare divided his time between London and Stratford, where he chooses his residences according to their proximity to this or that theater. Legend has it that has stopped in the street to Oxford in an inn kept by the family Davenant, and Sir William Davenant is his son.

The Earl of Southampton. The Sonnets

In 1592, Shakespeare was twenty-eight. Already beginning to make a name thanks to the performances of Henry VI. The first comedies are in gestation, but the plague rages, and theaters are closed for two years. Here it is busy writing poems, Venus and Adonis, erotic poem, and, in a more general teaching, The Rape of Lucrece, the theme of which will inspire his first tragedy, Titus Andronicus. These great narrative poems are worth to Shakespeare's friendship and support of Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, whose initials WH suggest that it is the dedicatee of the Sonnets, published in 1609, but compounds in recent years. The identity of the "dark lady" of the sonnets remains mysterious. The presence at the Earl of Southampton John Florio, translator of Montaigne, will certainly its influences.

At the end of 1594, Shakespeare lives in the area of ​​Bishopsgate, not far from the "Theatre"; He writes in this same period at least two comedies, The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew and, certainly, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, variation on the theme of the Sonnets. Ends its first historical tetralogy, the three parts of Henry VI, Richard III with their following and King John. The first tragedy, describing the invasion of Rome by the Goths, Titus Andronicus, blend the theatrical violence to Seneca with a poetic inspired by Ovid.

The shareholder in the company of the Lord Chamberlain

The money earned from the poems dedicated to Southampton allowed Shakespeare to buy a stake in the company of actors of Lord Chamberlain, who had just formed in 1594, the year of the reopening of the theaters. The creative activity of the playwright then takes a new impetus. Recent experience opera is felt in the play of this period: Love's Labour's Lost, A Midsummer Night's Dream, which, like Romeo and Juliet, sing the theme of separation of lovers. Poetry enters history with Richard II, while the two parts of Henry IV are alternate comic scenes and tragic scenes. The divisions in genres fade under the influence of poetry.

Mourning and success

In 1596, he dies at the age of eleven Hamnet, Shakespeare's son, whose male line is now extinct. By a cruel irony of fortune, some months later, the playwright receives the title of gentleman and the blazon previously coveted without success by his father. Buy a house in New Place, Stratford, in 1597. The following year, Francis Meres wrote that Shakespeare is to be put on the same level of Plautus and Seneca. Famous at thirty-four, has not yet written but almost none of the works with which posterity recognized the genius. The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, comedy of maturity, can be traced back to this period. The plays of Shakespeare are recited in the court, in the royal palaces of Greenwich and Whitehall, in the colleges of lawyers, Inns of Court, in the new theater of the left bank and right bank of the Thames and whose architecture is inspired by the structures of the inns where They were performing above the actors. Recently, Shakespeare has moved on the right bank of the Thames. Missing a theater owned by the company of the Lord Chamberlain.

The theater of the "Globe"

Following a discussion between the owner of the land of "Theatre" and Burbage - actors who had built - the theater was dismantled, and its timber is transported to the south of the Thames. These tables will be used in the construction of the "Globe", of which Shakespeare is one of the shareholders. The three rows of bleachers are covered and the parterre can accommodate up to 3,000 people. Shakespeare is now on the way personal gain. Queen Elizabeth commissioned a sequel comic for Henry IV with Falstaff as a central character. Will The Merry Wives of Windsor. Shakespeare ends the second tetralogy of history plays with Henry V, where mention is made of this "wooden O", this "Globe" that symbolizes the whole new world. Julius Caesar is one of the first play that is recited, and As You Like It is written with the idea of ​​attracting the "Globe" the refined public of private theaters.

A theatrical controversy

In 1600 the theaters are in war: between the private theaters, such as "Blackfriars", where they performed the company of children, which is mentioned in Hamlet, and public theaters, popular as the "Globe", defended by Shakespeare, a fight breaks out that affects the writing of the works of this period. Ridicule Ajax Troilus and Cressida would perhaps Ben Jonson? The comic characters are thinner since armain replaced Kempe in the role of crazy: Feste, the fool of The Night of the Kings, is designed to meet a changing audience. In 1601, the "Globe" is the place of a political drama: the partisans of Essex pay the company the Lord Chamberlain because it gave Richard II, in order that the Queen is recognized in the image of this defeated king. The actors of Shakespeare come free of the test. The rebel Essex is executed and imprisoned Southampton. The same year, the Shakespeare's father dies. It is the year of Hamlet's dead father and drama theater of truth detector.

Shakespeare and James I

In 1603, when James first ascends the throne, the company Chamberlain becomes that of the king. But, again, the plague devastates London theaters closed, players again become wanderers. However, in 1604, Shakespeare is located in London, staying at a French Protestant refugees. His comedies darken: All's Well Ends Well and Measure for Measure Othello approach with the theme of the abandoned spouse or slandered. Soon, it's time the wasteland of King Lear. And for James I, absolutist and superstitious, friend of the artists, however, Shakespeare writes Macbeth. The honest Banquo is represented as the ancestor of the Stuarts. The latest tragedies greek-Roman - Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus and Timon of Athens - denouncing a political pessimism and a tragic sense of isolation of the individual. In 1608, the year of his mother's death, Shakespeare created the character of Volumnia, mother of Coriolanus.

"Blackfriars" another theater

In 1609, the company acquires the King "Blackfriars", covered theater installed in a monastery desecrated. Shakespeare he retired to Stratford, and now writes for these two theaters. "Blackfriars" theater is covered with artificial lights. It can recite winter. This new theatrical place has certainly helped change the style of the last six plays of the Bard's career, including four plays, Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale and The Tempest, a play written in collaboration with Fletcher, The Two Noble Kinsmen , and a last historical drama, Henry VIII.
Shakespeare died in 1616. He is buried in the church of Trinity Church in Stratford. You can read on his grave the following verses, probably epitaph dictated by himself: "Caring, sweet friend in the love of Jesus / to shake the dust contained here / Blessed is he who keeps these stones / and cursed be he that disturbs my bones . "

The first publication

In 1623, Friends of Shakespeare actors, Heminges and Condell, they publish a folio of his dramatic works (three of the thirty-eight play there appear: Troilus and Cressida, Pericles, The Two Noble Kinsmen). "

The battle of words

The severity of the most poetic Shakespearean comedy obliged to seek their sources in the tradition of "romantic" medieval satire rather than in the antiquarian taste typical of Ben Jonson. But the comedies are however tax of Latin sources (The Comedy of Errors owes much to Plautus), as well as sources of Italian (The Taming of the Shrew is inspired Ariosto). Prose, quite a novelty of the theater scene, the actors closer to their audience than to face the solemn and elegant aristocrat intended for an audience. The plays may make a reflection on the power of language, whose artificiality and extreme scarcity is clearly addressed to the souls elected (as the bloody action or comic wink pushed to an audience not too refined palate). Life and death are delivered in a battle of words (Penis lost love). Women, loving master of rhetoric, will play a major role: Rosalind (As You Like It), Portia (Merchant of Venice), Isabella (Measure for Measure), Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing). They win the victories of life and love against the puritanical hypocrisy and Machiavellian traps: Portia and Isabella save the condemned, Rosalind and Beatrice denounce the melancholy love.

The play, staged language

The play puts the world upside down to make reappear harmony. Women men in camouflage. On the model of the comedies of Plautus, replacement and run through the duality of Shakespeare: the Twins (The Comedy of Errors, The Night of the king), doubles (Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Two Noble Kinsmen), the woman who replaces another in bed Lover (All's Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure). Under the filter effect of Oberon and the metamorphoses of Ovid, one becomes the other in A Midsummer Night's Dream. The magic turns out to be a classic ploy of the theater. The lie serves the truth, is to denounce jovial Falstaff (Merry Wives of Windsor) or left Malvolio (Night of the king). Death is fake, and the heroine slandered resurrects (Much Ado About Nothing). Since stages the language, comedy, while feeding on the tragic, it avoids the torments. Find its expansion in historical dramas.

The legitimation of power

Shakespeare did not follow the historical chronology writing his plays. With Henry VI and Richard III, it begins from the end, as if to initially tell the arrival in power of the Tudor and later analyze the causes. Situating his works of historical character between 1199 (arrival of King John) and 1547 (death of Henry VIII), it brings to life the story of Plantagenti and Tudor, from King John to Henry VIII.
The outline of the fall of the medieval principles structure his historical dramas. This kind controversial since Aristotle - the truth is poetry or history? - And soon banished, serving the propaganda of the Tudors, allows the poet - that is inspired by the Historia regum Britanniae, Geoffrey of Monmouth (1100 ca -1155) and the Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland (1577), Raphael Holinshed - connecting the medieval treatises on the political reflection of the Renaissance. When Shakespeare depicts the War of the Roses (1455 -1485), Machiavelli wrote The Prince has already. The central issue is that of morality in politics. The first tetralogy (the three parts of Henry VI and Richard III) try to explain the birth of the tyrant, while the second (Richard II, and the two parts of Henry IV and Henry V) describes the arrival of the national hero. Each tetralogy ends with a wedding to mark the return of harmony. Fascinated by the idea of ​​the double, Shakespeare exploits poetizzandola the theory of the two bodies of the king, making these historic frescoes reflect on the power and legitimacy to be encountered in the tragedies that follow.

Tragedies and dramas

You can not reduce the tragic opera to the schemes of the tragedy at the Seneca or the tradition of De casibus virorum illustrium Boccaccio. With the breadth of his vision and his thematic coherence, renews Shakespeare tragedy.
You can contrast the six tragedies greek-Roman - inspired mostly to Plutarch's Lives (Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Timon of Athens) - at five tragedies that draw their narrative substance from the stories Italian (Romeo and Juliet , Othello) or historical chronicles or legendary Nordic environment (Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth).
From dark forests of Titus Andronicus, where Lavinia, violated, the tongue torn, reinvents means of expression, loquacious oratory and tribune of Julius Caesar and Coriolanus, whose heroes refuse easy shortcuts, to the fields of war where the acts are first words (Troilus and Cressida, Antony and Cleopatra) to the silent shore where he died the misanthrope Timon, and its tragedies greek-Roman study the connections of language with the body, with the power, with the war. The five great tragedies they stage their heroes are facing a fate that assumes a form more ambiguous - ghost (Hamlet), lying words (Othello, Macbeth), melancholy misleading (Romeo and Juliet), silence ambivalent (King Lear).
The dramas seem to be a happy ending for all his work. Certainly, there are flashes of madness that rammemorano the wastelands of Lear in The Tempest, in which Caliban seems a poor Tom in the New World. But if, in the last works, Shakespeare always courting death, it integrates the new currents of thought, purifies the magic from any superstition, and seems to believe in the hope of a European peace embodied by the marriage of Elizabeth Stuart with the Elector Palatine. The love is put to the test, which both Ferdinand (The storm) or Posthumus (Cymbeline); As heroes of Pericles and The Winter's Tale, find love only after years. The stratagems conversion trends take supernatural, as the living statue of Loss (The Winter's Tale). When Taisa awakens the sleep of death (Pericles), despair Juliet is forgotten. At the dawn of the Thirty Years' War, these works bring to life the Renaissance Elizabethan through a new language.

The four centuries that separate us from Shakespeare have fed his work. At the dawn of the Modern Age, the scene of his popular theater-like wood buildings of Elizabeth Tudor and Stuart James, Shakespeare made accessible to England antiquity, and, as Puck's A Midsummer Night's Dream , he surrounded the universe of his time with the magic circle of his poetry, renewing poetic language and its rhetorical figures and proposing new and immortal myths.
No work was most read and recited. Rewritten, censored or even not attributed to its author, sometimes judged too uneducated to have written, attributed to twenty different authors, recited the great scenes in the world, now returns to its rightful author. After the misunderstanding era classicist who could understand a little uneven author and "Asian" as Shakespeare, he touched to romance, consentaneo with many issues "Baroque", to revalue. Voltaire bowed before the genius of the man who "created the theater", but found "the slightest spark of good taste" in "its huge farce" and in a letter to La Harpe said the find in his works the "pearls in a enormous dunghill. " Manzoni, who loved her, corrected the judgment of the same Voltaire who had also called "barbaric" by the words "that barbarian of genius." Goethe was subdued and Victor Hugo pointed to him as "a man ocean" (and oceanic mind speak ST Coleridge) height of Aeschylus or Dante. Flaubert worshiped him for a lifetime. Huge was the influence of Shakespeare outside the territories literary inspired Marx (the verses of Timon of Athens on money were discussed in the Capital), fascinated Freud and his work still serves as a reference for the great currents of modern literary criticism .

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