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WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE • He was born on 23rd April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon. • He went to Stratford Grammar School where he received a good education, but he did not go to university There’s a legend about Shakespeare’s life. He had to leave Stratford because he was caught stealing a deer. He went to London where his career with theatre really began. Maybe he was an actor before becoming a playwright. He joined the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (a company of actors) who often played before Queen Elizabeth I Shakespeare was greatly appreciated and popular as a writer. He became a shareholder in the Globe Theatre In 1597 he bought New Place the finest house in Stratford where he retired in 1611 and where he died in 1616. Works Shakespeare earliest works were long poems and sonnets. His plays were collected by two friends of his, John Hennings and Henry Condell, and were published in a single book, now known as the “First Folio”, in 1623 • They can be grouped into: • Histories ( Henry VI – Richard III – Julius Ceasar, etc) • Comedies / Romances ( The Comedy of Errors – The Two Gentlemen of Verona – A Midsummer Night’s Dream – The Merchant of Venice, etc) • Tragedies ( Romeo and Juliet – Hamlet – Othello –Macbeth, etc) General features of a Shakespearan play • Characters Shakespeare’s characters belong to different social classes: there is always a man of royal or aristocratic blood, nurses, servants, etc. The emphasis, however, is on aristocracy. • Another important feature is the importance of family ties: Father and children Mother and children Brothers and sisters These relationships often suggest conflict between the older and younger generations • Finally there are symmetrical correspondences: Three lords and three ladies Two lovers, two princes, two brothers • Stage directions They were added by editors, especially in 18th century. Actually it is the text that provides information about the atmosphere of a scene, about the way in which the characters enter and leave the scene. These directions are often given indirectly,so Shakespeare asks for the active co- operation of the reader in making the play come alive in his/her imagination • Structure Shakespeare didn’t give importance to the division between the acts; sometimes the division was imposed later. In the Elizabethan theatre there was no curtain fall between the acts and the play were performed without any interval • Soliloquies, asides, introductory passages spoken by prologue or chorus, funeral orations and death-bed speeches were some of the conventions used by Shakespeare • Variety of style Shakespeare used different levels of speech and action to portray his characters from different angles. His language is characterised by a wide variety of rethorical figures: similes, metaphors, puns, assonance, alliterations.
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