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Intro to Shakespeare
Transcript of Intro to Shakespeare
Note: His head wasn't
that large. This is not a
Because record keeping was sketchy, we can't be certain of exact dates of Shakespeare's birth and death. His accepted birthdate in academic circles is April 23rd, 1564.
He grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon, about 100 miles northwest of London
THE EARLY YEARS
He came from a working class family--there was really nothing in his childhood to suggest he would one day become known as the greatest writer in the English language.
We don't hear much about young Will growing up; in fact, the next time we hear from him, it's when he's 18 years old and just "knocked up" (?) an older woman, Anne Hathaway (she's 26!). They get married six months before the child is born, because "illegitimate" children were frowned upon at the time........ #realtalk
Baby Susana is born 6 months after the wedding, followed by a set of twins Hamnet (Hamlet?) and Judith. Hamnet dies at the age of 11 from an illness. :'-(
THE LOST YEARS
The next stage of Shakespeare's life is filled with a lot of question marks. We know he left Stratford, and probably headed to London. The next recorded "reference" to Shakespeare is in 1592, when he is already in London and already writing and acting!!!
THE BIG TIME
Three big things happen:
1. His acting company, Lord Chamberlain's Men, become the leading acting company in London. They perform Shakespeare's plays and, after the death of Queen Elizabeth, they are appointed by King James to be the official acting group in London.
2. Because of the distinction of being the official acting group, Shakespeare becomes wealthy. In fact, he buys the second biggest house in Stratford (he still went back there occassionaly). #HeadingOnHome
3. The Globe Theatre is built with help from Shakespeare's funding. This becomes a place where all can enjoy plays (rich and poor alike). Sometimes the fun is stopped because of the plague and/or fire.
Retirement didn't happen during Shakespeare's time, but his output definitely slowed down. He spent time in both S-u-A and London until his death. He was buried in S-u-A, with an inscription on his grave ending with "blessed be the man that spares these stones, and curse be he that moves my bones."
Simply stated, Shakespeare was quite talented. He wrote about universal themes--things that many can still relate to 400 years later. His plays are funny, insightful, and innovative. And his characters, from tragic heroes to strong-willed heroines to notorious villains, are rich with personality and inner life.
You may have heard Shakespeare invented words in his plays (words like bloody, eyeball, and lonely), but I wonder if there's a difference between "inventing" and "being the first to write down and present to a larger audience???"
What do you think???
Did Shakespeare actually write his plays? Since record keeping was shabby, there are theories that the William Shakespeare from Stratford is different than the Shakespeare who is the actor/writer from London. The main argument is that Shakespeare, a man from a common family, could not have the knowledge he did regarding locations, foreign languages, astronomy, medicine, politics, and law. Further, he had an enormous vocabulary--more than double of the normal person during his time. To have this knowledge, one would have to had travelled Europe, gone to university, and been from a family above the rank of commoners.
The real Shakespeare?
Edward de Vere--Earl of Oxford
Sir Francis Bacon
(Theatre lingo: An "aside" is a piece of dialogue intended for the audience and supposedly not heard by the other actors on stage. This differs from a soliloquy because other characters are on-stage while an "aside" is being delivered!!!)
Back to our story
That 1592 reference? It comes from playwright and actor Robert Greene who, in one of his pamphlets, warns of an "upstart" actor gaining fame as a playwright:
"There is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his tiger's heart wrapped in a player's hide supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you, and being an absolute [jack of all trades] is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country!"
- British History Lesson in 3...2...1
In 1558, Queen Elizabeth the First is coronated as the monarch of England and Ireland.
The Elizabethan Era is marked by a Renaissance of thought, art, culture, and relative stability (there's still plague and foreign threats and all that, but generally, Elizabeth is an admired ruler).
Elizabeth reigns for the next 44 years until her death in 1603. Her death also ends the Tudor Dynasty (she sired no heirs), which had begun in 1485 under King Henry VII
Think about it: Elizabeth reigned for 44 years! That is 1-2 full generations of Britons (including Shakespeare) who ONLY knew ONE monarch.
Everyone assumed there would be a bloody war for the throne, but King James of Scotland (a relative of Elizabeth's through a mutual great-grandmother) is crowned King James the First.
The renaissance that occurred during Elizabeth's reign continues through the Jacobean Era (or James' reign).
"Not of an Age, but for ALL TIME" - Ben Jonson
"BARDOLATRY" - George Bernard Shaw
There are 38 plays attributed to Shakespeare, from tragedies to comedies to histories. 38 plays. Over 20 years (The Tempest was written in 1611 and is considered to be his last).
"The Scottish Play"
Macbeth is the Thane of Glamis who is appointed Thane of Cawdor (#movingonup) due to his valor on the battlefield.
Macbeth meets some witches and they tell him he will be King of Scotland. Trouble is, there's already a King of Scotland. His name is Duncan.
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth concoct a plan for Macbeth to become king. It's not pretty.
Hilarity ensues. And by hilarity, I mean intense psychological deconstruction and degradation and ambiguous morality. Oh and blood. Lots of blood.
Inspired by the story of King Macbeth of Scotland (IRL) captured in the historical "Holinshed Chronicles" (1587) which explored the shared history of England, Scotland, and Ireland.
Also INCREDIBLY relevant due to the political intrigue surrounding the Gunpowder Plot and the assassination attempts on King James.
Oh yeah, and did I mention that King James was SCOTTISH?????????
Big Ideas & Essential (Essay?) Questions:
The Psychology of Evil (?)
"Absolute Power Corrupts"
The Cost of "Order"--Is life just a cycle of violence and calm, violence and calm?
Writing Atmosphere--How does Shakespeare's imagery match the inner minds of his characters???
Fate versus Choice
"The Last Play"
Prospero, a magician and the rightful Duke of Milan, has lived in exile on an island with his daughter, Miranda. They are helped by Caliban and Ariel.
The play opens with "THUNDER AND LIGHTNING" as Prospero "summons" a storm to shipwreck his brother, Antonio, King Alonso of Naples, Alonso's son (Ferdinand), Alonso's advisor (Gonzalo), and several others.
Three storylines then alternate in the play:
Caliban meets two drunkards from the ship, Trinculo and Stephano, and together they try to start a revolution
Prospero tries to create a romantic relationship between Miranda and Ferdinand
Sebastian (the King's brother) teams up with Antonio to kill the King and Gonzalo.
Shakespeare & Prospero?
Both are "magicians" in that they create "illusions" in order to control their world
Both operate on an "uninhabited island" (i.e. - the bare stage)
Pay careful attention to the last speech; is it Shakespeare's farewell???
Themes & Essential Questions
As a metaphor for theatre (metatheatre)
How do can we lead valuable, worthy life?
"The Tragedy of Othello, the MOOR of Venice"
Othello, a "Moor" (of North African Descent), is a trusted and admired general in the Venetian Army. He is in love with Desdemona, the daughter of Venetian senator, barbantio. Racism abounds.
Meanwhile, iago, Othello's former right-hand man in the army, feels slighted that Othello has promoted Cassio ahead of him. iago recruits the wealthy Roderigo, who is also in love with Desdemona, to aid him in a systematic destruction of Othello and everything Othello holds dear.
During this period, Shakespeare embarks on a series of great Tragedies (Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, Antony & Cleopatra).
In Tragedy, people, often those in power, fall considerably out of prosperity. There is some sort of internal flaw--hubris or pride, jealousy, insecurity, etc.--that leads to immense suffering.
Tragedy is the most serious form of literature because its subject matter--mortality, suffering, love, fear, etc.--is often made up of the things that we have the hardest time confronting.
Othello can be seen as a Tragic Hero in this sense--he begins the play in a position of power, but he is manipulated and his fatal flaw emerges as he plummets further.
Key Ideas, Themes, and Questions:
Relationship Drama--The intricacies of human interaction: male/male, female/female, and male/female.
Jealousy, Rage, and Insecurity
The nature and origin of evil
Racism & Fear of the Other
Othello as Tragic Hero
Self-Identification in the face of hardship and tribulation.
Regarding the language:
Fæder ūre þū þe eart on heofonum,
Sī þīn nama ġehālgod.
Tōbecume þīn rīċe,
ġewurþe þīn willa, on eorðan swā swā on heofonum.
Ūre ġedæġhwāmlīcan hlāf syle ūs tō dæġ,
and forġyf ūs ūre gyltas, swā swā wē forġyfað ūrum gyltendum.
And ne ġelaed þū ūs on costnunge, ac ālȳs ūs of yfele.
Father of ours, thou who art in heavens,
Be thy name hallowed.
Come thy riche (kingdom),
Worth (manifest) thy will, on earth as also in heaven.
Our daily loaf do sell (give) to us today,
And forgive us our guilts as also we forgive our guilters
And do not lead thou us into temptation, but alese (release/deliver) us of (from) evil.
Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke.
When in April the sweet showers fall
And pierce the drought of March to the root, and all
The veins are bathed in liquor of such power
As brings about the engendering of the flower,
When also Zephyrus with his sweet breath
Exhales an air in every grove and heath
Upon the tender shoots, and the young sun
His half course in the sign of the Ram has run
And the small fowl are making melody
That sleep away the night with open eye,
(So nature pricks them and their heart engages)
Then folk long to go on pilgrimages,
And palmers long to seek the stranger strands
Of far off saints, hallowed in sundry lands,
And specially from every shires’ end
Of England, down to Canterbury they wend
The holy blissful martyr, quick
To give his help to them when they were sick
Early Modern English
Thou told'st me thou didst hold him in thy hate.
I DO NOT want to hear "Is this English?" or "::whining:: I don't understandddddd blargh!!!"
I am here to help you decipher some of Shakespeare's trickier phrases, but here's an important note about his "brand" of English:
Despise me, if I do not. Three great ones of the city,
In personal suit to make me his lieutenant,
Off-capp'd to him: and, by the faith of man,
I know my price, I am worth no worse a place:
But he; as loving his own pride and purposes,
Evades them, with a bombast circumstance
Horribly stuff'd with epithets of war;
And, in conclusion,
Nonsuits my mediators; for, 'Certes,' says he,
'I have already chose my officer.'
And what was he?
Forsooth, a great arithmetician,
One Michael Cassio, a Florentine,
A fellow almost damn'd in a fair wife;
That never set a squadron in the field,
Nor the division of a battle knows
More than a spinster; unless the bookish theoric,
Wherein the toged consuls can propose
As masterly as he: mere prattle, without practise,
Is all his soldiership. But he, sir, had the election:
And I, of whom his eyes had seen the proof
At Rhodes, at Cyprus and on other grounds
Christian and heathen, must be be-lee'd and calm'd
By debitor and creditor: this counter-caster,
He, in good time, must his lieutenant be,
And I--God bless the mark!--his Moorship's ancient.