LIFE AND WORKS
Shakespeare is the most famous writer in the world, but relatively little is known about his life. Shakespeare’s birth is traditionally celebrated on 23 April and he was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon. He was probably educated at the local grammar school. He married Anna Hathaway and London became the centre of Shakespeare’s professional life, but his family continued to live in Stratford. By 1592 he was a well-known playwright. When the plague closed London theatres Shakespeare started to write his famous sonnets. After the plague, Shakespeare became a leading member of the theatre company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, with whom he worked as actor, playwright and administrator. He later became a member of the syndacate which built the Globe Theatre. As a poet he wrote 154 sonnets and two long poems and as playwright he wrote 37 plays.
Shakespeare used many different sources for his plays as Holinshed’s Chronicles, Plutarch’s Lives
And the works of the Italian writers. Only half of Shakespeare’s plays appeared in print in his lifetime, some in text transcribed by the actors known as a “Bad Quartos”, because of their textual inaccuracies. Seven years after Shakespeare’s death two former actors and Shakespeare’s friends decided to publish a collection of his plays in the so called “First Folio”. In this collection the plays were grouped as Comedies, Histories and Tragedies. For this reason the dates and order of composition are generally difficult to establish. Editors and critics used a method based on three types of evidence:
• EXTERANAL EVIDENCE: references to Shakespeare’s plays in other writers’ works;
• INTERNAL EVIDENCE: references to contemporary events quoted in the plays;
• STYLISTIC EVIDENCE: Style, plot, characters, language and metrics presented in the plays.
So Shakespeare’s plays may be divided into 5 periods:
• APPRENTICESHIP: 1590-5
• MATURITY: 1595-9
• EXPERIMENT: 1600-4
• TRAGEDY: 1604-8
• LAST PLAYS: 1608-13
Themes of Shakespeare’s plays are power, love, ambition, the conflict between different generation, war, death and so on. These themes are embadied by his characters. The plot often included sings, music, and dances. All Shakespeare’s plays have come to us in a standard form divided into 5 acts.