In the literary world, if there ever has been a man who has gained unprecedented millennial fame, a man who is revered as one of the greatest in the English literary world, then that man is none other than William Shakespeare. Though much is not known about William Shakespeare’s life and his literary work but his name, Shakespeare, is known to almost everyone around the globe either he/she is or is not familiar with English Literature.
This article will endeavor to illustrate a simple but wholesome knowledge about Shakespeare that might suffice every lay person’s need to know about the said literati.
William Shakespeare, the English poet and playwright who is also considered as the greatest dramatist in the English literary world, was born on April 23rd, 1564 in Stratford-Upon-Avon, London, England.
Coming from a financially well-off family, Shakespeare’s father, John Shakespeare was a leather merchant and held successful official positions too. Being a government official’s child, Shakespeare’s educational life would certainly have been sponsored by the government but still it is highly uncertain that he got educated with a well-recognized degree.
Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway at the age of eighteen and they both had three children namely, Susana Shakespeare, Hamnet Shakespeare and Judith Shakespeare. The latter two are twins.
According to available authentic data, none from the Shakespeare family who are explicitly related to him, are alive today. All the grandchildren of Shakespeare and Anne are dead. Though it is seemingly possible that some implicit relationship from Shakespeare’s genealogy might still be among the world of the living. His sister, Joan and her husband, William Hart left many descendants on the face of this world but little is known about them.
There were almost seven years in the short life span of Shakespeare that critics and literary analysts regard as “the lost years”. These years commenced after the birth of his twins and no record exists as to what Shakespeare did during this time period. Some might suggest that Shakespeare had hid himself on account of a poaching game from the local landlord, Sir Thomas Lucy. Another account propounds that he might be busy as an assistant schoolmaster in Lancashire.
Some official documents suggest that Shakespeare had associated himself with an acting company in London, the Lord Chamberlain’s men and from here the heights of his career as an actor, as a dramatist, as a playwright and as a poet, instigated on a steady but progressive pace.
Though there were other literary figures too at the time Shakespeare was gaining fame such as Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, Edward Alleyn, John Lyly and William Kempe, none could surpass him in style, diction, imaginative prowess and relatability.
Shakespeare’s unique writing style that dictates his deep understanding of character, use of supernaturalism, metaphors, personification, imaginative prowess and negative capability differentiate him from other contemporaries of his age.
Shakespeare had command on 7 different languages which he employed in his works. His diction and use of words was very wide. He had the most extensive vocabulary of any writer, topping over twenty-four thousand words in the poetic genre.
Shakespeare has written a hefty 38 plays and over 150 short and long poems, most of which are considered to be the most refined ever written in English. He is also credited with gifting the English language with a whole set of new vocabulary. Almost 1700 new words and old words with a novel use were introduced by Shakespeare through his works.
His famous literary works are divided into plays, dramas and poetry. His most famous plays are;
- Romeo and Juliet
- The Tempest
- Julius Caesar
- 1 Henry 4
- King Lear
- King John
- Much Ado About Nothing
- The Winter’s Tale
His famous poems and sonnets are;
- The rape of Lucrece
- Sonnet 20
- The Phoenix and the Turtle
- Sonnet 73
- Sonnet 1
- Venus and Adonis
- Sonnet 104
- Sonnet 116
- Sonnet 130
- A lover’s complaint
In the final years of his life, Shakespeare retired to Stratford whilst still working as an actor. It is claimed that friends such as Ben Jonson and Drayton held a meeting with Shakespeare in which he allegedly drank too hard and later died owing to severe fever. Others hint upon Shakespeare’s sudden death by quoting Shakespeare himself who had signed his will a month before he departed from this earthly realm. Shakespeare disclosed in his will that he was in perfect health.
Upon his death on 23rd April, 1616, one of the fellow authors and friends of Shakespeare commented that
“thou went’st so soon
From the world’s stage to the grave’s tiring room
Shakespeare left behind him his wife, Anne Hathaway and his two daughters, Susana and Judith. In his will, Shakespeare bequeathed the major part of his enormous estate and wealth to his most beloved and eldest daughter, Susanna. He further wrote in his will that this share be passed down to the first born-boy of his daughter.
He also mentioned his wife in his will by referring to her as his second-best bed. Whilst some critics suggest that this point was an insult towards his wife, other imply that this was meant as an appreciative remark towards her. The point being that one’s bed is the most comfort providing substance in hours of tiredness and since he referred to his wife as his second-best bed, he might be suggesting that his wife is his second-best place to provide him solace and comfort in times of fretful stir.
Last to mention, Shakespeare has been commemorated in various places around the world that revere him as not the greatest writer in English Literature but the greatest writer in history who has ever step foot on his earthly plane. Owing to this, the following words are inscribed on his grave stone
Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones