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
  • Married at an unusually early age--18, in November of 1582; his wife, Anne Hathaway was 26, the norm for women of the day
  • 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