Shakespeare's Life, Times and Works

Shakespeare's Life:

  • April 23rd, 1564-April 23rd, 1616
  • Baptised April 26th, 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, a small market town about 90 miles northwest of London. It isn't confirmed that he was born on April 23rd, but typically babies were baptised around 3 days after birth.
  • One of eight children; two of his siblings did not survive their first year; one died at age 8
  • Attended grammar school where he learned Latin, grammar, Bible, Roman history, Greek mythology and mathematics. Schools were mostly for boys, and girls were only taught to read to appreciate the Bible. Classes began at 6am and finished for lunch at 11am. Then, they resumed at 1pm and finished at 5pm. Rote memorization was the norm. Students might leave grammar school at the age of 14 or 15. Children could then proceed to the university. Education in Elizabethan England was provided for the children of the wealthy. Shakespeare probably attended Stratford Grammar School at age of 6 or 7, though there is no record of his attendance. It's believed that Shakespeare left grammar school around age 13 due to his father's financial and social difficulties. There are Shakespeare's lost years in the 1580's where he may have honed his acting skills.
  • Married at an unusually early age--18, in November of 1582; his wife, Anne Hathaway was 26, the norm for women of the day. It's believed that she was pregnant when they married.
  • Firstborn child was Susanna, born in May 1583; Two years later, twins were born, Hamnet (died in his 11th year) and Judith

    Shakespeare's Time Period:

  • High Infant Mortality
  • No more than 60% of those born lived past their mid-teens
  • Epidemic Disease was rampant; sanitation was poor and insects and rats spread disease at high rates, especially in people's homes in their thatched roofs
  • In 1563 (one year before Shakespeare's birth), a plague outbreak killed over 1/3 of the population of London; a few months after his birth, another deadly outbreak of plague
  • Fire was a constant threat; roofs of houses were highly flammable
  • Serious crop failures created food shortages, which led to starvation of the elderly and the sick
  • Protestant Queen Elizabeth assumed the crown upon the death of her Catholic half-sister, Mary's reign; Queen Mary led public burnings of Protestant heretics; Queen Elizabeth ruled a peaceful and hopeful Protestant England
  • Religious tension in England--Catholicism vs. Protestantism; Protestantism was trying to establish itself as the national religion
  • Queen Elizabeth kept England unified and mostly peaceful
  • Faith was not voluntary; no separation of church and state; obedience was mandated by law

    Shakespeare's Works:

  • 38 plays and 154 sonnets
  • Words were difficult to comprehend for even Shakespeare's audiences
  • He multiplied words for emphasis
  • No sets and few props, so he needed his words to create images and have greater depth
  • Shakespeare coined many words himself or he was the first person to use the words in written form that has survived to this day; Words like assassination, bedroom, countless, fashionable, laughable, lonely, successful
  • Pattern of Iambic Pentameter helped the actors remember their lines and shows actors and audiences which syllables/words should be stressed, which alerts us to what's important
  • Poetry dominates his plays
  • Prose (paragraphs and sentences) used for comedy and low-class characters; prose is used for common/casual language and less serious conversation