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Transcript of William Shakespeare
The performances were exciting. They had elaborate costumes props, sound effects, and visual effects.
In the theatres there were smoke effects, the firing of real canons, fireworks and spectacular ‘flying’ entrances from the rigging in the top of the theatre called the ‘heavens.’
Music also accompanied many productions at the Globe Theater.
Summer performances would be held in the open air theatres like the Globe and winter performances would be produced in the indoor playhouses.
There was not time for many rehearsals. It was important to put on new plays to generate revenue. Several different plays might show at one theatre in one week.
Lines were not memorized. The actors performed by “cue scripting.”
Actors had poor reputations as many acting troupes consisted of rogues and vagabonds.
Acting troupes were considered such a threat that regulations were imposed and licenses were granted to the aristocracy for the maintenance of acting troupes.
Plays were regulated and were subject to censorship.
The content of plays was checked to ensure that they did not contain political or religious elements which might threaten the state.
Elizabethan plays were often bawdy and the audiences were often rowdy.
In 1594 he was both acting and writing for the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, an acting troupe in London which later became known as the King’s Men when James I succeeded Queen Elizabeth after her death in 1603.
By 1595 Shakespeare was a senior member and shareholder in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men and began to accrue some wealth and success as a result.
When the Globe Theatre was built in 1599 he became the joint owner, adding significantly to his wealth.
The Rise of the Bard
1585-1592 are known as Shakespeare’s “Lost Years” since there is little surviving information about his activities during that time.
The earliest reference to him in London is from 1592, but it is widely accepted that he was in the city some time before that since by 1592 he had multiple plays running.
In 1592 Robert Greene referred to Shakespeare when he said, “there is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers.”
Shakespeare Comes to London
William died on his birthday in 1616.
He was buried 2 days after his death at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-Upon-Avon.
The engraving on the stone slab above his grave reads, “Good frend for Iesvs sake forbeare,
To digg the dvst encloased heare.
Blest be ye man yt spares thes stones,
And cvrst be he yt moves my bones.”
The Death of Shakespeare
At 18 William married Anne Hathaway in 1582.
Together they had 3 children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith.
Tragically, Hamnet died of the Black Plague at age 11. (It was after Hamnet’s death that William began writing his most famous tragedies).
William and Anne
William was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England on April 23, 1564 (also his date of death 52 years later), the 3rd of 8 children of John and Mary.
He was born into a middle class lifestyle provided by his father who owned a leather shop. John Shakespeare was a well-respected man in town who held a variety of important positions, including Mayor in 1568.
The England of Elizabeth was very structured, and had a rather complicated system of government.
Three bodies would work together to rule the country, make laws, raise money, and decide upon matters of religion and national defense. They were the Monarch, the Privy Council, and Parliament.
Also of great influence in Tudor and Elizabethan times were the nobility and gentry.
Land was power in the early modern period. Those who possessed it were wealthy, and masters of the tenants on the land as well as those who worked for them.
Power & Government
Elizabethan playhouses were open to the public eye at every turn, they were not hidden behind a curtained main stage, like modern theatres.
Scenery could not be changed in between scenes because there was no curtain to drop.
Since theatre goers could not be dazzled by backgrounds, the costumes of Shakespeare’s plays were famously extravagant and each playhouse had an expansive and costly wardrobe.
There were no theatres in England until 1576.
Until this time the courtyards of inns (called inn-yards) were generally used for productions.
The inn-yards were successful, leading to the construction of permanent structures for shows.
The first theatres were similar to the design of the Roman amphitheatres, like the Coliseum.
Theatres in that day did not just show plays but were used as bear pits and gambling houses, lending a bad reputation to actors both actors and theatres.
By 1610 William had accrued enough wealth to move back to Stratford and purchase one of the largest houses in town.
Even after moving out of London he still frequented the city and continued to write plays until 1613.
During his lifetime his plays were never published, but in 1623 two members of his acting company gathered together a collection of them known as the First Folio.
Shakespeare’s Later Years
Shakespeare attended a local grammar school, a right reserved for young boys of some social standing.
The school day lasted from sunrise to sunset, without meal breaks, 6 days a week.
It was during his schooling that Shakespeare learned Latin, encountering the writings of men like Cicero, Caesar and Virgil.
Church was also required for middle-class Elizabethans so Shakespeare was also exposed to the Bible from an early age.
His training in both Latin and the Bible greatly contributed to his later writings.
The age of Shakespeare was a great time in English history known as the Elizabethan Age.
The reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) saw England emerge as the leading naval and commercial power of the western world during England’s “Golden Age.”
At this time, London was the heart of England, reflecting all the vibrant qualities of the Elizabethan Age. This atmosphere made London a leading center of culture as well as commerce.
The Elizabethan Age
It was a hexagonal structure (6-sided) with an inner court in the middle.
It was 3 stories high and could hold 1,500 people.
Underneath the floors of the outer and inner stages was a large cellar called “hell,” allowing for the dramatic appearance of ghosts.
It was one of four major theaters in London’s Bankside district along with the Swan, the Rose, and the Hope.
The Globe Theater
Built in 1599 it was the most elaborate and attractive theatre built in London at the time.
It was designed and constructed for the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, Shakespeare’s acting company.
In 1613, during a performance of Henry VIII, a misfired cannonball set the roof on fire and the theatre burned. It reopened within a year.
The Globe Theatre