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William Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Age
Transcript of William Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Age
Who Was William Shakespeare?
Unfortunately, very little is known about the life of William Shakespeare. A playwright in Shakespeare's time was not considered special and no one took pains to document his career the way a famous writer's life would be studied and recorded today.
1592 - 1598
1611 - 1616
1582 - 1592
At 28 years of age, Shakespeare is gaining some recognition
In 1598 Shakespeare was a member and part owner of the repertory group Lord Chamberlain's Men, the best acting troupe in London.
Shakespeare retired from the Theatre and moved back to Stratford sometime between 1611 and 1613.
Born April 23, 1564 in Stratford, England.
Married Anne Hathaway in 1582. The groom was 18 and the bride was 26 and three months pregnant.
His father, John, was a glove maker, landowner, and baliff. His mother, Mary, inherited land which was bequeathed to William.
He had probably already written:
King Henry VI (three plays)
King Richard III
The Taming of the Shrew
The Comedy of Errors
Two Gentlemen of Verona
He probably attended a free grammar school until age 15 studying Latin.
Daughter Susanna born 1583 and twins, Hamnet and Judith were born 18 months later.
Little is known about Shakespear's life from 1585 to 1592; these are referred to as "the lost years" . It is assumed that he he moved to London and spent time making a name for himself as an actor, playwright, and producer.
Othello 1603- 1604
Julius Caesar 1599
Hamlet 1599 - 1601
In 1603 on the death of Queen Elizabeth I and the accession of King James I, the Lord Chamberlain's Men became the King's Men.
These were great years of artistic and financial success; Shakespeare was managing, acting in, and writing for a great company.
Things at home in Stratford were difficult however beginning with the death of his son in 1596 at age 11, the death of his father in 1601 and him mother in 1608
He died on his 52 birthday having left the majority of his estate to his daughter Susanna and his "second best bed" to his wife.
Why Study Shakespeare?
Well, in the words of James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise...
... also known on earth as William Shatner.
Shakespeare was a brillant wordsmith!
Surprise! You Quote Shakespeare Everyday.
Into Thin Air
In a Pickle
Played Fast and Loose
Seen Better Days
Without Rhyme or Reason
Flesh and Blood
Elizabethan Way of Life
To fully understand Shakespeare's rationale and his characters' behaviour, it is important to understand the Elizabethan way of life. What was London like in the late 1500's?
London was a busy city, enclosed by a wall, in the midst of a Renaissance. Neverthless, the Elizabethans had inherited a particular view of life from the medieval world:
a set pattern to the universe;
man must keep to the established order;
to tamper with the order was to invite chaos;
earth was the centre of the universe;
the order of the planets were reflected in the order of the state;
the ruler was the head as ordained by God;
any attempt to get rid of even a bad king was to upset the divine order of the universe;
if the head of the county was killed, all of nature becomes upset and chaotic;
order must exist not only in the heavens and country, but within each individual;
man was to stay in his rightful place in the social order. If he was too ambitious, he would destroy himself and the external world around him.
Witchcraft was still regarded as a real threat to innocent people (such as in Macbeth) and would have been very real to the audience.
Likewise, a ghost (see Hamlet) could have been the devil in disguise, attempting to trick mortals into evil deeds.
Typical Structure of a Shakespearean Play.
Each play consists of five acts, each containing a varying number of scenes. Each act has a specific function.
Act I Exposition: setting time, place, background of action and major characters;
Act II Rising Action: begins the growth of the action, introduces secondary characters, and sometimes, a secondary plot;
Act III Climax: turing point of the plot is reached. Characters are in a state of equilibrium or balance. Typically occurs in the mechanical centre of the play (middle scene of the middle act);
Act IV Falling Action: the equilibrium established is upset and the balance of the play begins to tilt. In comedy, it tilts in favour of the hero, while in tragedy, it tilts away, thus accomplishing the ruin of the hero;
Act V Catastrophe / Conclusion: the action of the play is wound up. It leaves the audience satisfied that the various characters have been suitably rewarded or punished.
The Tragic Hero
A tragedy is a play with an ending in which the hero is overcome by forces and perishes because of some defect of character. Characteristics of the tragedy can be summed up as follows:
involves a change in fortune for the protagonist from a state of happiness to a state of misery;
invokes pity or fear in the audience;
in simple terms, means the protagonist dies.
Shakespearean tragic heros are noteworthy - a king, noble, or famous soldier, a person of position or power. The tragic hero:
has a weakness of fault (the tragic flaw);
is virtuous and just. Misfortune is brought about be an error in judgement;
downfall often contains an element of fate;
meets his shortcomings with dignity, he suffers with dignity.
The downfall of the tragic hero is meant to move us to pity and to warn us that even those destine for greatness can fall.
An Elizabethan Actor had to be an expert in...
Fencing: audiences loved duels, battles, and contests;
Tumbling: as Gods or ghosts they had to disappear through holes in the stage;
Dancing: Most plays ended with the whole company dancing;
Elocution: words were often more important than actions;
Music: actors had to learn to play some instrument.
Named after Queen Elizabeth I. A liberal minded monarch who enjoyed the theatre and wrote plays for special performances. Shakespeare gave 32 performances at her court during her reign.
The Globe Theatre
A play lasted about 2.5 hours;
There were no Acts, but frequent intermissions;
End of Scenes were indicated by a rhyming couplet;
No scenery, but elaborate props and costumes;
No actresses - men or boys took the parts of women or witches.
His Stories are Still Being Told Today
Taming of the Shrew
Romeo & Juliet
Henry IV & Henry V
...and if you're not intrigued yet...
More than 410 feature-length film and TV versions of William Shakespeare's plays have been produced, making Shakespeare the most filmed author ever in any language. Some are faithful to the original story and text, while others are adaptations that use only the plots rather than his dialogue.
"He was not of an age, but for all time"
What's Up With the Soliloquy?
The Soliloquay allows a character to speak his thoughts aloud, but not directly to the audience. This involves introspection, revealing the character's personal thoughts and feelings that would otherwise remain unvoiced.
The Functions of the Soliloquay are:
reveals mood of the speaker and the reason for it;
creates suspense, often by foreshadowing events;
reveals motives of the speaker
advances the plot.