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Introduction to Shakespeare
Transcript of Introduction to Shakespeare
Who was Shakespeare?
What we know about "the Bard"
born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon (a quiet market town)
Went to King Edward VI Grammar School (Boys usually only went to school if their parents could afford not to send them out to work.) until age 15
Didn't go to university
married at 18 to Anne Hathaway (she was 8 years older than him & pregnant)
had three children
moved to London in 1586 to begin acting
became a successful actor/playwright by 1592
joined the Lord Chamberlain's men in 1594
died on April 23, 1616
wrote 38 plays between 1588 and 1613 (average of 1.5 per year)
He wrote comedies, histories, tragedies, and romances
wrote 154 sonnets
acted and directed his own plays
What was Shakespeare's life like in London?
used about 27,000 words in his plays
coined about 2,000 new words
Examples: fashionable, swagger, puke, leapfrog, lonely, dwindle, fretful, countless, submerged, and champion
also coined many well-known phrases like "vanish into thin air" and "foul play"
People often use Shakespeare's expressions, or idioms, without realizing it
"You'll eat us out of house and home if you're not careful" (Henry IV).
"There's a method to my madness" (Hamlet).
"Well, the world's your oyster now" (The Merry Wives of windsor).
Thriving port with an expanding population
First impressions: teeming crowds, squalor of poverty, extravagance of wealthy
highly divided social classes: nobles, knights, merchants, working class
nobles looked for many ways to keep themselves entertained such as hunting, games and going to the theater
The audience wanted excitement, humor, passion, action and gore. They also appreciated puns and poetry.
As an aspiring dramatist, Shakespeare could not have been in London at a better time
All plays were performed in open air theaters
The stage and gallery seats were protected by a roof, but the groundlings were subject to the whims of the unpredictable weather
Performances were given in the middle of the day because there was no way to light the theaters after dark
Special effects and scenery did not play a big part; props and elaborate costumes were used and audiences were expected to use their imaginations
The Globe Theater had trap doors, rigging for flying entrances, cannons, fireworks, etc.
The actors had to be good, or the audience would quickly get out of hand.
People often jeered at the actors, shouted rude remarks, and threw food at bad actors.
The theater was more like a rowdy party - the audience came early, talked with friends, met new people, walked around, and ate and drank before and during the performance.
All sorts of shady characters mingled with the crowd - including pimps and pickpockets.
Theater for all
The cheapest tickets cost one penny, which most ordinary people could afford. These people are called Groundlings because they stand on the ground in front of the stage.
Others could pay an extra penny to sit in the covered gallery, the seats surrounding the stage. It cost an extra penny for a cushion.
Rich merchants and nobles paid sixpence to have their seats placed right on the stage.
Women would often go to see plays, but disguised themselves so they wouldn't be seen.
the theater would fly a flag to let audiences know when plays would be performed.
the flags were also color-coded to let audiences know why kind of play would be performed.
plays were often included propaganda about the reigning monarch. Often arguments would erupt during a play based on how the audiences felt about the playwright's views.
no one really knows what Shakespeare really looked like, but there are many pictures that look similar to this one.
an aerial view of the reconstructed Globe Theater
a sketch of the stage of the original Globe
a modern-day audience stand where the groundlings would have
Which of Shakespeare's plays are you familiar with?
What emotions are dealt with in those plays?
Talk to a neighbor:
Shakespeare's plays are performed all over the world in hundreds of languages and he is known as one of the greatest writers of all time.
Why do you think Shakespeare's works
are so popular?
Because of all the distractions, actors had to perform with energy and verve - to hold the attention of 3,000 restless people.
It has been said that actors at the Globe theater would do "eleven performances of ten different plays" every two weeks.
There were often no scripts. Actors only received copies of their lines the day of the performance. Often there was a person backstage whispering the next line to the actor.
All parts were played by men or young boys. (Women were not allowed to act on stage until around 1660, after Shakespeare's death)
The word "bard" means poet. Bards were traveling poets in medieval times, who made a living performing and telling stories. Shakespeare is called "The Bard" because he is considered to be the greatest poet that ever lived.