Presentation on theme: "His Life, Times, and Language"— Presentation transcript:
1 His Life, Times, and Language WILLIAM SHAKESPEAREHis Life, Times, and Language
2 Shakespeare’s LifePerhaps the most brilliant author in the English language.Incredibly well-developed characters. He was tremendously perceptive in creating complex character with a full range of emotions and internal conflicts, intensely, deeply rich in psychological reality.Exquisite use of poetic language.
3 Shakespeare’s LifePlays are phenomenally well-crafted, and structurally, nearly flawless.Thematically, Shakespeare is unmatched in his ability to touch the human soul, and to speak lucidly and profoundly to human lives.Most quoted, most translated of any author on earth.
4 Shakespeare’s LifeBorn: April 23 (?) 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. The town is about 80 miles northwest of London, on the Avon River. (His baptism is recorded on April 26th)Parents: John and Mary Arden Shakespeare. His father was a glove maker, who later served in the town government. They had eight children.He went to the Stratford Guild School, a grammar school and then to the King’s New School, where he learned Latin and studied classical literature, including the Bible and mythology.He completed the equivalent of an eighth grade education, leaving school at 14 or 15.
5 Shakespeare’s LifeShakespeare possibly worked for a while as a school teacher or tutor.He married Anne Hathaway when he was 18 and she was 26. She was three months pregnant!They had a daughter, Susanna, and later (1585) twins, Judith and Hamnet. Hamnet died at age 11, an event that undoubtedly left Shakespeare with a new depth of grief to convey in his plays.The years from 1585 to 1592 are known as the “lost years,” since not much is known about him during this time.Shakespeare moved to London, and by 1592, was writing. Due to a plague in 1593 that closed the theaters, he wrote poetry. The sonnets were likely written around this time, although they were not published until 1609.He visited Stratford, likely in the summers, when travel there was more comfortable, and invested most of his money in the town.
6 Shakespeare’s LifeHe was an actor and a playwright, and he also produced his own plays later on. (Just like Spike Lee, today!) He is known to have played the parts of old men in his own plays: The ghost of Hamlet’s father and Adam in As You Like It. There is some evidence that he also played Ulysses in Troilus and Cressida, and Desdemona's father, Brabartio, in Othello.He became a member of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, and later, The King’s Men. These were acting companies, and both performed for royalty. The Lord Chamberlain’s Men performed for Queen Elizabeth, the King’s men, for James I.They had the best actor (Richard Burbage) the best theaters (The Globe and the Blackfriars) the best clown (Robert Armin) and the best playwright!Shakespeare was very prosperous during his twenty years in London.
7 Shakespeare’s LifeHe wrote 37* plays, three long poems, and 154 sonnets. He may have had a mistress, a mysterious “dark haired” lady. He may have written some of his sonnets to her. He also likely addressed some of his sonnets to Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton. It seems he was commissioned to write sonnets to help convince this young man to marry.Two of his longer poems, Venus and Adonis, and The Rape of Lucrece, are dedicated to this young earl. Later, they seem to have had a falling out, either over the “dark haired lady,” or possibly due to Southampton’s unfortunate association with the soon-to-be executed Earl of Essex.His plays consist of tragedies, comedies, history plays, and “romance” plays, which are not necessarily romantic, but make use of elements of medieval romance.**Longer Poems: The Rape of Lucrece, The Passionate Pilgrim, Venus and Adonis, The Phoenix and the Turtle, and A Lover’s Complaint (although there has been controversy over the authorship of this one.) These were written during the closure of the theaters due to plague,Of contested authorship are: Titus Andronicus, which might have been co-authored with George Peele; The Famous History of the Life of King Henry VIII , which scholars attribute in part to John Fletcher; Timon of Athens may also have been co-written. The Two Noble Kinsmen, acknowledges John Fletcher as co-author. And it is agreed among modern editors that George Wilkins, a prose writer of the time, co-wrote Pericles. Another lost play, Cardenio, based on Cervantes’ Don Quixote, might also have been co-written by Fletcher and Shakespeare. Shakespeare likely collaborated on a play about Thomas More, and another called The Reign of Edward III—An article in Time Magazine (October 20, 2009) revealed that Brian Vickers, a literature professor at the University of London proved that this play was co-written by Thomas Kyd and William Shakespeare by using anti-plagiarism software.It was thought that perhaps the Renaissance poet Emilia Lanier was Shakespeare’s “dark lady,” and that he had another playwright as a rival for her love, but that is not a theory widely held today. She herself had a fascinating life, and is worth looking up, especially in association with Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, as she herself was a “converso” or nominally converted Italian Jew. Check out her poem, “Eve’s Apology in Defense of Women.” It is also possible that Shakespeare may have been in love with Henry Wriothesley, but all theories can only be extrapolated from the poet’s work; there is no historical documentation regarding Shakespeare’s sex life, outside of his marriage to Anne.Contenders for others as true authors of Shakespeare’s plays include not only Emilia Lanier but Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon, Queen Elizabeth, and Edward, Lord Vere (The Earl of Oxford), the Earl of Southampton…. Also Sir Walter Raleigh, AND the bastard child of Queen Elizabeth, raised by Sir Walter Raleigh!!! (No such person is know to have existed.) Paleographic evidence, however, doesn’t bear this out much, and there would not be much reason for these folks to hide their playwriting skills.Romance, or “tragicomedies” include: Cymbaline, Pericles, The Winter’s Tale, The Two Noble Kinsmen, and The Tempest.
8 Shakespeare’s LifeHe left London when he was about 50 years old, and went back to Stratford-upon-Avon, after investing in real estate, and buying the best house in town. He died in 1616, near his birthday, April 23rd, at age 52. He is buried in Stratford, in Holy Trinity Church.He did not want to be buried in Westminster’s Abbey, in London, where many of England’s famous artists are buried. On his tombstone is the following verse:*Good friend for Jesus’ sake forebearTo dig the dust enclosed hereBlest be the man who spares these stonesAnd curst be he that moves my bonesStratford is a two day horse ride from London, or, about 80 miles. This trip which would have miserable and dangerous in the winter. Other playwrights were more the outdoorsy type: Ben Jonson famously walked from London to Edinburgh!
9 Shakespeare’s LifeIn his will, he mysteriously left his wife his “second best bed.” His property largely went to his eldest daughter, Susanna.Shakespeare did not think of himself as an intellectual, and during his life didn’t go out of his way to have his plays published. Although during his life some of the plays were published as quartos, individual versions of plays that folks could buy and read.He did publish—with great success—his longer poems, and he published his sonnets in 1609; some believe they are autobiographical, although there is no concrete support for this, as Shakespeare left almost no personal correspondence or diaries.For the most part, Shakespeare felt that plays were meant to be performed rather than read. After his death, his more intellectual friends did publish his plays in folio versions—something like a modern collection.*Venus and Adonis became a very popular published poem! During the 1590’s, despite the Puritan effort to censor, erotic poetry and satire was popular.Playwright friends of Shakespeare, John Heminges and Henry Condell, (two actors in the King’s Company) collected his plays for publication after he died. This publication is now known as the First Folio.Plays and other works were subject to review by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and also by the Privy Council of Puritan leaders in London. Perhaps this was a reason Shakespeare hesitated to publish. In 1590, satire is banned in theater, and in 1606, God’s name was forbidden on stage. This might explain Shakespeare’s many settings in Italy, Denmark, Scotland, and the distant past. Venice, at least, had been a republic, as had Florence…Richard II, for political reasons, was also a popular one to read, and was published in quarto form. This was the play that supposedly alluded to Queen Elizabeth, by then old and heirless, as a weak and indulgent regent, who lavished her money on her favorites. There is rumor that the play was commissioned by Southampton, at the urgings of the Earl of Essex, who had fallen out of favor with the Queen and was likely plotting her overthrow. Queen Elizabeth was quoted to have said, ironically, to a supporter, “Don’t you know that I am Richard?” Essex was executed a day after a performance of this play. Southampton himself was imprisoned in the Tower as a suspected ally. Somehow Shakespeare and his company escaped the wrath of the Queen.
10 Elizabethan EnglandShakespeare’s life straddles the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I of England. This was England’s Renaissance.The word renaissance means “rebirth.” During this time in Europe, there was a rebirth of humanism, or the classical ideal that humans were heroic, although certainly below the gods.England, in a battle with Spain, had sunk the Spanish Armada in 1588, and had established itself as a world power. To control the seas meant control of world power, for there was an enormous economic expansion based largely on maritime trade.This was a time of prosperity in Europe. Individual countries were gaining autonomy and power. They were actively trading with each other, with Russia, the New World, and the Far East and India. It was a time of nationalism, exploration and discovery.Joint stock companies were begun around this explosion in trade. Among these were the Virginia Company, the East India Company, and the Muscovy Company.*Sir Walter Ralegh, of course, was a major stockholder in the Virginia Company—and Queen Elizabeth would come under fire for advancing him favors here. He is credited, well, mostly damned, with bringing tobacco to England. The addiction spread rapidly, and by Shakespeare’s time many were smoking this weed from clay pipes. James I particularly thought that smoking, particularly around food, was repulsive.This rising, wealthy, merchant class is of course portrayed in the play, The Merchant of Venice. The morality of risk-taking in making or losing other people’s money--and lives--in the merchant’s trade, compared to the morality of usury is examined in this play. Antonio’s claim to the higher ground doesn’t seem to, well, hold water in light of his shipwreck. Note: Most of England’s Jews had left when they were expelled by Edward I, late in the thirteenth century (1290). In Shakespeare’s time, perhaps 200 Jews, worshipping clandestinely, lived in the city of London. Cromwell, later, will not enforce this expulsion. Most references to Jews in Shakespeare and in literature from the English Renaissance are negative stereotypes; although Jews had disappeared from the country, they had not disappeared from the imagination and furnished the society with a scapegoat. This makes Shakespeare’s powerful depiction of the inner life of Shylock all the more impressive: I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?Charles Nicholl suggests in his book, The Lodger Shakespeare, that it is conceivable that Shakespeare knew Emilia Lanier, and possibly gained much insight from her experience as an Italian “convertita” from Venice. *Nicholl, Charles. The Lodger Shakespeare: His Life on Silver Street. New York: Viking Press, Print.He may well have come into contact with John (Giovanni) Florio, who was an Italian working in London at the time, and may have translated Italian novellas.It is possibly that Shakespeare was familiar with Italian plays as well, such as Curzio Gonzago’s Gl’Inganni, which may have inspired Twelfth Night. (Gonzago is referenced, of course, in Hamlet!)The East India Company, established in 1599, sets out to trade with the Far East, the ocean voyage there now much easier than the ancient Silk Road. Look both up for your visit to Renaissance London! Were there any Asian people there?In the 1560’s, 300 African slaves from West Africa were brought to London. Later, in 1600, an embassy from Morocco visits the Queen. Shakespeare deals with racism in the play Othello.The Shah of Persia visited and by most accounts, London was an extremely multinational place.Shakespeare was also aware of the notorious case of Roderigo Lopez, a Portuguese doctor and Jewish convert to Protestantism who had attended Queen Elizabeth and was falsely accused of trying to poison her. He was tortured and executed, as the mob laughed at him.
11 Elizabethan EnglandDuring this time, England became the most powerful country in the Western world, and would remain so until the end of the 19th century.England was beginning to colonize the new world. The discovery of America and the presence of inhabitants very different from themselves in other parts of the world was a wonder to Europeans.Elizabeth commissioned Sir Francis Drake ( ) to circumnavigate the world, which he does in a really tiny little boat, The Golden Hind. He reportedly landed in San Francisco, and crossed the Pacific to return to England and glory.Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest, was inspired by a shipwreck bound for Jamestown colony in 1610.This new wealth and rising merchant class fed into the intellectual pool of Elizabethan England. This rising bourgeoisie were interested purchasing tickets for plays, and sponsoring poets, musicians, and the arts.*Drake brings back a map of his voyage, and much gold and silver and jewels he pirated from Spanish ships and plundered from places he landed. Elizabeth rewards him nobly. She herself had invested heavily in this journey, and profited nicely, too. Maps were recently drawn of the Far East.In London today, you can see a replica of his ship moored near the Globe Theater in Southwark.William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, John Dowland and John Bull are some of the famous composers of the English Renaissance. They were commissioned by Queen Elizabeth herself, and others to compose music for the court, and for the pleasure of the rising merchant class.
12 Elizabethan EnglandThe discoveries were not only of new continents and new wealth.The Protestant Reformation had come about in 1517, and the authority of the Roman Catholic church was eroded. Kings and nations were making decisions on their own.Henry VIII, Elizabeth’s father, was instrumental in dismantling the control of the Church over everyday affairs in England. He established the Church of England, and placed himself at the head of it, destroying all relics of Catholicism in churches, and ending ecclesiastic courts.He seized all lands and property of the clergy, greatly increasing his own personal wealth, but also adding to the overall economy of England. Religious uprisings in Europe such as the Saint Bartholomew’s Massacre in Paris resulted in many Protestants or free-thinkers emigrating to London, creating a backlash of anti-immigration sentiment.The door was now open to question Church teachings in areas of science as well as theology.*Shakespeare was likely raised as a Catholic, although the distinction between the practice of the Catholic and Anglican religion was not very large during his lifetime. In Hamlet, the ghost of Hamlet’s father burns in Purgatory, a country whose “bourn” was erased from the metaphysical map of the Calvinists. In Measure for Measure, the moral argument of sinning to save a life goes back to Saint Paul. “Some rise by sin and some by virtue fall.”During Elizabeth’s reign, there was little tolerance for practice of Catholic rituals, and attendance to Anglican services became compulsory. Elizabeth feared a Catholic uprising supported by Spain; she was excommunicated by Pope Pius V, who issued a Bull that made it unconscionable for Catholics to view her as their Queen. While she didn’t go out of her way to persecute Catholics, she was quick to punish treason when she had some cause.Shakespeare is not believed to have been extremely religious, and in any case, radical religious expression proved to be dangerous in his lifetime.The late 16th century was a tumultuous time, for religious conflicts were raging through Europe. In Paris, there was the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre in 1572 where 2-3 thousand were killed and thrown into the Seine. In 1572, about 60 thousand Huguenots were massacred, and many fled to England for safety. There were many complaints about the “denizens” or naturalized foreigners who came to live in London.
13 Elizabethan EnglandCopernicus had questioned the belief that the earth was at the center of the universe. He recanted his Treatise on the Revolution of Heavenly Spheres (1514) when the Church threatened to imprison him for heresy. On his deathbed, he allows it to be published (1543). It isn’t banned until 1616, the year Shakespeare dies.Galileo, born the same year as Shakespeare (1564) by the end of Shakespeare’s life had used a new instrument, the telescope, to see the moons of Jupiter, and would mathematically validate Copernicus’ treatise. His “Dialogue” would be published in 1632, and despite the protestations of the Church, was widely read. (Tycho Brache and Johannes Kepler are also contemporaries.)Galileo would also suffer from the wrath of the Church, but the 17th century would also bring the birth of Isaac Newton, who is born the year after Galileo dies. He would transform science for centuries to come – and would be knighted for his discoveries.*Copernicus’ De revolutionibus orbium coelestium doesn’t make the Catholic Church’s “Index of Prohibited Books” until 1616, leading some scholars to dub it “the book that nobody read.” (Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers). Possibly, this was due to the daunting technical aspect of Copernicus’ theory—and that it is written in Latin, already a language only of intellectuals. Research has recently turned up some deeply annotated, dog-eared copies of the treatise, however, and likely there were scholars back then who were drooling over Copernicus’ rather provocative math.Galileo would come up with something much more accessible, and therefore, much more dangerous. “Dialogue on the two chief systems of the world” is exactly that. He agreed to publish his findings in the form of an argument, so that the system representing the geocentric view of Ptolemy ( AD) might be presented as an alternative argument to Galileo’s “theory.” (Similar to the way Creationism is sometimes taught side by side with Darwinism) Galileo has two scientists, who agree with Copernicus, argue with one Simplicio, who supports Ptolemy and Aristotle. Pope Urban VIII, who had been Galileo’s friend, was not amused.Galileo’s observations also acknowledged that the heavenly spheres were not, as thought by Aristotle, perfect and uncorrupted. Especially as he looked as the craters and seas of the Moon, Galileo noticed that the supposedly pure aether has its shares of foibles. Shakespeare makes much of this in many of his plays (Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear) that refer to corruption in the heavens (eclipses, comets, shooting stars) as portending tragedy. Galileo may just as well have come out and said Heaven itself was a myth.The Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica, by common consent, is the greatest scientific book ever written.
14 Elizabethan EnglandThe world was opening up to new ideas, and in Shakespeare’s plays you see some of the old concepts questioned:The Divine Right of KingsChain of BeingDivine ProvidenceMore and more, the individual human being was seen as taking a more active role in his or her own life.In theater, especially notable in Shakespeare’s plays, was a new depth of characterization, requiring a new type of acting style. Now, actors had to embody the character, rather than simply orate lines.This was reflected in Renaissance art as well as literature, where the human figure is more prominent, more realistically portrayed, and more powerfully depicted than ever before.*This difference is particularly noted in Hamlet, which contains a rather tidy little history of theater as it developed from medieval forms of mystery, miracle, and morality plays, to the more psychologically complex plays at the height of Elizabethan times. It also chronicles the development of professional acting troupes, compared with those rustic companies Shakespeare loves to lovingly mock. In Hamlet, he also comments on the lowly quality of the boys’ companies, popular at St. Paul’s in London during his time.Other plays, notably King Lear, deal with the change of the century, and the apocrypha that inevitably comes with it. Fear of the apocalypse is common at century changes, and really heightened during changes of millennia, such as the one we recently experienced, and the change of millennia between 999 and Literature of the times and paintings in churches reflect the notion that the parousia is upon us.
15 Elizabethan EnglandHenry VIII had six wives. He divorced two, executed two, one died, and one outlived him. Elizabeth I was the daughter of Anne Boleyn, whom Henry had executed. No wonder Elizabeth never married!Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558 after her half-brother Edward VI and half-sister Mary I (Bloody Mary) died, and a usurper to the throne, Lady Jane Grey (granddaughter to Henry’s sister) is executed. Elizabeth’s reign, remarkably, would be irenic.The Elizabethan Age is the time that she ruled, Elizabeth was known as “The Virgin Queen,” although she did have many admirers. The Commonwealth of Virginia is named for her.Before she reached menopause, she was pressed to marry. She refused, although there were efforts to wed her to princes of France and Spain. When these and other suitors failed to win her, and she passed the age of childbearing, the spin doctors of the time hailed her virginity. She never publicly discussed her choice of who would succeed her. *Henry had six wives: Catherine of Aragon, whom he divorced was the mother of Mary I, who took the throne fromHe married Anne Boleyn, whom he had executed for adultery and treason, who was the mother of Eliz. I ( ). Although this may bode ill for their relationship, Elizabeth was Henry’s favorite, and she truly adored her father. Nonetheless, she could see how things went for a woman, and herself refused to marry.He married Jane Seymour, who gave him his only son, Edward VI, who ruled under a Protestant regent, and died six years into his reign. ( ) Jane died of puerperal fever shortly after giving birth to him.He married Anne of Cleves as a political maneuver, but divorced her after six months when that alliance did not work out. (This is an apocryphal story, but too good to pass up: She was so ugly that he actually told her on his wedding night that he was impotent to get out of his matrimonial obligations!)He had his next wife, the young, and rumbustious Catherine Howard executed for adultery and treason.His next wife, Catherine Parr, outwitted him, and outlived him.Henry is succeeded by his young son, Edward, who is only ten when he takes the throne. His regency is brutal to Catholics, and although the regents try to convince Mary to convert, they are unsuccessful. When Edward dies at sixteen, the succession to the throne is hotly contested.Mary, his elder sister, is Catholic, and the Protestants declare her illegitimate, since Henry divorced her mother. She also married the Catholic Philip II of Spain, a scion of the Hapsburg Empire. Lady Jane Grey, a niece of Henry’s ascends to the throne for nine days, until Mary’s supporters have her executed. Mary tries, but fails, to produce an heir, and again the succession is questioned, and England left vulnerable to civil war.Elizabeth’s coronation is without fanfare: there is no one else directly in line. However she faced opposition due to her illegitimate birth and fear that she would retaliate for Mary’s excesses. She is excommunicated as illegitimate by the Catholic Church, and there is rumor that Mary, Queen of Scots, a Catholic and distant cousin, is plotting to take the throne.However, after rather tumultuous religious strife during both the regency of Edward VI and Mary I, Elizabeth I sought a middle ground between these two faiths. Her problems lay in quelling not only Catholic uprising, but the zealotry of the more radical Protestants, the Puritans, who would later be the founding force of our state, and country.The mother of James I, Mary, Queen of Scots, was once-removed cousin of Elizabeth: Mary’s grandmother was Henry VIII’s sister, Margaret. Her father, James V of Scotland and Elizabeth were first cousins. (Her second husband, Henry Stewart, James’ father, was ALSO a grandchild of Margaret, though by a different husband! Mary’s first husband was Francis II, King of France, and she herself was Queen of France for a time. Read about her—she’s another one who might have lead at least five different lives.) James VI of Scotland will become James I of England.Fearing that Mary would try to take the English throne, Elizabeth has her imprisoned, and after many years, has her executed in 1587 at Fotheringhay Castle. (Directly north of London, halfway to Scotland.) She never knew Mary, but apparently hesitated to have her own kin killed. Mary was buried at Peterborough Cathedral, some twelve miles east of Fotheringhay, but James I had her re-interred in splendor in Westminster Abbey (1612), across from Elizabeth and Mary I, in Lady’s Chapel.Elizabeth, however, acts to execute when needed: including her supposed “lover” the Earl of Essex, and the Duke of Norfolk, both for treason. Her other suitors were rumored to be the Earl of Leicester, Sir Christopher Hatton and Sir Walter Raleigh.
16 Elizabethan EnglandJames I, who succeeded her in 1603, was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, a distant cousin of Elizabeth, whom Elizabeth also had executed for treason. James had been King of Scotland, and his coronation united the two countries, ending centuries of strife between them.During his reign, he commissioned the King James Bible, which is why this translation of the Bible sounds so much like Shakespearean English. Prior to Henry VIII and the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church had forbidden translation of the Bible into the vernacular. This was why, although no longer spoken, Latin was taught at the elementary school level—in order to read the Holy Scriptures.Although James’ reign is relatively peaceful, he is not a man of the people, as was Elizabeth. He also advocates the absolute power of kings, which will not help his heir, Charles I, who will lose his head for such notions.*Although Elizabeth doesn’t announce the succession, she apparently accepted it without fanfare, for James’ ascension is completely uncontested in London.Note: The original texts of the Old and New Testament of the Bible were written in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic (the language spoken in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ). As Christianity spreads through Europe through the first millennium of the common era, and the Roman Empire becomes the Holy Roman Empire, the Catholic Bible is formed, translated completely into Latin, the language of the Roman Empire. This is called “The Vulgate,” meaning the language of the people (which at the time, anyway, was Latin). This version was attributed to Saint Jerome.At the urging of Martin Luther, the Geneva Bible is translated from the original languages, with Calvinist footnotes. Shakespeare was likely familiar with this Bible, and other translations that were from the Vulgate.James I, a prolific writer himself, likely commissioned a new translation to fulfill his own deep intellectual and philosophical interests, and possibly to quell continuing strife between Catholic and Protestant factions. James himself walked the line between his mother’s Catholic faith and the faith he politically adhered to as King of England. During his reign, he was alternately accused of favoring Protestant and Catholic factions. One thing he was clear about: He did not admire the dogmatic and austere faith of the Puritans. The translation he commissioned is notable because the scholars went back to original sources to render the text into stunningly beautiful, poetic English; to this day it is the preferred English text for biblical citations.James, oddly, also seemed to believe that witches were real. He theorized that the devil used witches to trick people into following their darker desires and committing sin. (See Macbeth!)
17 Elizabethan EnglandLife in London during Elizabethan times was pretty dirty. The city contained around 400 thousand people by Shakespeare’s time, who crowded into a very small part of the present day city. People rarely bathed, and there was no indoor plumbing.When the water supply became tainted, typhus and cholera spread mercilessly through the town.London was also hit by recurrences of the Black Plague, and when there were outbreaks, the theaters would close down. Smallpox, sexually transmitted disease, and malaria were also popular killers.People used chamber pots for toilets, and would toss the contents out the window into the streets, occasionally on top of people below!Beer was the drink of choice, for the water was far too polluted to consider drinking! Beer was very popular in Southwark, and was sold in the theaters, along with nuts and other snacks.
18 Elizabethan EnglandThere was no refrigeration, and you had to watch what you bought in the market, especially since there were chronic food shortages in London, due to a series of bad harvests and an increase in population.For a time, Shakespeare lived in London on the corner of Silver and “Muggle” (Monkwell) Streets, which was a very international and prosperous part of town north of the river, in the area known as Cripplegate.*London had its share of wealthy royal people, since the royal family lived there, but there was also a new, rising merchant class, a rising middle class of artisans, who were members of guilds, and many lower class folks who might be poor farmers or salespeople.Education was improving. Towns frequently had church run grammar schools, and upper class members of the society went to Oxford and Cambridge University.Still, literacy rates were fairly low, although this was changing. Books were published and sold to support poets and playwrights alike. St. Paul’s was a popular place to buy these small texts.*Nicholl, Charles. The Lodger Shakespeare: His Life on Silver Street. New York: Viking Press, Print.
19 Elizabethan EnglandCriminals were often tortured, homeless were whipped, and public executions were common sources of amusement: only the rich and famous had the comfort of a swift and private beheading behind the walls of the Tower of London, although often their heads would be later mounted on the London Bridge for public viewing.A soldier in Henry V laments that the wounded would go home to torture in the streets. The Poor Laws were enforced, and those who were destitute were punished severely. In those violent times, suffering was looked upon as punishment by God.During Elizabethan times, England had suffered from a series of bad harvests compounded with an expanding population. The resulting food shortage was not felt by the rising merchant class. Inflation fed into the problem: the rich were getting richer, and the poor in Shakespeare’s time were suffering more. *The less wealthy were often “drawn and quartered” at Tyburn, a hillock behind the Tower. Prisoners could also be tortured to confess on the rack, and the drowning or burning of witches was an art perfected by the Puritans. Witches, by the way, were often people who were still practicing the old Celtic rituals left over from pre-Roman times. Often these were women who did not conform to the norms of Renaissance society.
20 Elizabethan EnglandAside from attending executions, many, many people amused themselves by attending the theater.London’s famous theaters, the Globe, the Rose, and the Swan, were located in the seedy side of town, along the south bank of the Thames River, in an area known as the Liberty of the Clink.*This section of town, known as Bankside or Southwark, could be reached by crossing the London Bridge, the only bridge across the Thames, or by taking a boat across the river.The neighborhood was also the place to place bets on animal sports such as cockfighting, bear baiting and bull baiting. Other gambling, on cards and dice, was also common. There were many pubs and taverns, where people could drink strong beers, and there were many thieves and prostitutes as well. This was the wrong side of the river!*Southwark was not part of London, but under the jurisdiction of the Bishops at Winchester. “The Liberties” were regions that were not ruled directly by London’s government.The Clink was the prison attached to Winchester House, where the Bishops at Winchester lived from 1100’s to 1626.The Clink largely held Catholic and Protestant prisoners of conscience. It was a red-light district, and the Bishops licensed prostitution and kept it under strict controls. Women prisoners at the Clink were called “Winchester Geese” and were there, likely, for violating the prostitutionlicense.These were violent times: The playwright Ben Jonson was imprisoned for a time for killing a man in a sword duel. Marlowe dies in a bar fight over who will pay the tab. The rumor is that he is actually a spy….
21 Elizabethan EnglandSince there was no electricity, the Globe and Rose theaters were open air theaters. Plays were performed only during the day, and if the weather was bad, the show was cancelled. A flag at the top of the theater would indicate if a play was performing that day—different colors for different genres of plays!These theaters did operate during the winter, although the Globe closed, since in the winter Shakespeare’s company moved to the Blackfriars Theater, which was enclosed.Women wore long dresses, and covered their arms and legs. Men, on the other hand, wore leggings and short pants. Women were not allowed to perform on stage, and all of Shakespeare’s female characters were acted by young men or boys.Often, the audience who went to the theater, and stood in the “yard” in front of the stage were pretty rowdy, and would throw offal and other foul things at actors they didn’t care for. These folks were called, “groundlings” or “stinkards.”*There is some evidence that the following plays were performed at the Globe: As You Like It, Hamlet, Henry V, Julius Caesar, Othello, Twelfth Night, Troilus and Cressida, All’s Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure.Plays that seems to be written for an indoor theater, also, and were likely performed at Blackfriars include: The Tempest, Othello, King Lear, Cymbaline, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, Timon of Athens, Coriolanus, and Pericles.
22 Elizabethan EnglandShakespeare didn’t shy away from pleasing this crowd. In sword fights, the combatants would carry sacks of animal blood and guts that would add realism when a character was wounded or killed.The Blackfriars theater was an enclosed theater that was lit by candles. It had been originally part of a Dominican medieval monastery. It was located on the north side of the Thames, and its admission fees were high, the audience wealthier and better educated than the average playgoer. Shakespeare’s players performed here during the winter, and for special occasions.*Shakespeare also, notably, performed for Queen Elizabeth in the Temple Court, which was where the Knights Templar had once been housed in London. Today, you can still visit this large room where the Lord Chamberlain’s Men performed Twelfth Night for the Queen!The Lord Chamberlain’s men had originally performed at a theater called, the Theater, which was built by the famous theater family, the Burbages, on the north side of the Thames.*The story goes that the lease to the land beneath the Theater was lost; perhaps the owner of the land, Giles Allen, believed that he would profit from the building on the premises, but to his dismay, on the night of December 28th, 1597, members of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men tore down the structure and transported it across the frozen Thames River, rebuilding it on the south bank.James Burbage, father of the actor Richard, was a theatrical entrepreneur who also built the Blackfriars Theater, which was not in use as a theater during his lifetime, due to complaints from the wealthy folks who lived nearby.Blackfriars also became the setting for many of Shakespeare’s later plays, and the inside darkness of the theater created a need for other theater techniques. Plays such as Macbeth, with its witches, decapitations and hallucinations, might have made good use of the darkness to emphasize mood and allow experimentation with sound and special effects.
23 Elizabethan EnglandSome time in 1597, the company dismantled the old Theater, and moved its components to Southwark, to build the Globe. It opened with great fanfare in *Although Shakespeare is the chief playwright for the theater, it is likely others plays were also performed there, including those of Ben Jonson, John Webster, John Fletcher and John Marston. Other plays by other Elizabethan playwrights, such as Christopher Marlowe, might have also been featured there.Much of the history of this Globe theater is unknown, for in 1613, it burned to the ground during a performance of Henry VIII, when the wadding of a ceremonial cannon shot lands on the thatched roof.Within a year, a new Globe was built proudly in its spot, without thatch, supporting an image of Hercules holding up the Globe on its flag. This one would be closed (1642) and then torn down (1655) during the Commonwealth Era, when theaters were closed due to the fervor of the Puritan faith.*The Globe housed 2500 to 3000 people. It officially was closed in 1642, and was torn down in 1655.Other playwrights of Elizabethan England include: John Lyly, Christopher Marlowe, who was Shakespeare’s closest rival until he’s killed at age 29, Thomas Kyd, Robert Greene, Thomas Nashe, George Peele, Thomas Middleton, Thomas Heywood, and George Chapman, who translated Homer into English during Shakespeare’s lifetime.Other famous theater-goers include the poet John Donne, who before his conversion and his service as the Vicar of St. Paul’s, loved theater as much as he loved women. It might be possible that he and Shakespeare were acquaintances.The sister theater of the Globe, The Rose, floundered after a year alongside the Globe in Southwark, but the meticulous records of this theater survive. Its owner, Philip Henslowe (who also owned brothels and bear-baiting theaters) was the entertainment mogul of his day. His son-in-law, the famous actor Edwyn Alleyn, also kept a diary, and much of the history of the open theater of Shakespeare’s day comes from these sources: how much it cost to stage a production; what kinds of costumes and scenery was used; what was sold in the theaters; what it cost to maintain the upkeep of the buildings; fees paid to actors and playwrights; which plays were popular. These mundane accounts are now, clearly, invaluable.One Thomas Platter, a Swiss visitor in 1599, wrote a letter about the production he saw of Julius Caesar at the Globe. He comments on the jig, or dance, at the end. He also commented about the pillars, painted to look like marble, at the Swan. He, and others whose similar letters survive, notably commented that there were no toilets in these theaters.Miraculously, no one is injured in this fire, although a tragedy had occurred at the Rose theater, when an actor accidentally shot and killed a pregnant woman, who landed on a child and caused his death.
24 Conventions of Shakespearean Drama and Comedy The ideals of Renaissance humanism are evident in typical aspects of Shakespeare’s plays:The plays follow the pattern for classical (Greek) drama: Five acts, a dynamic plot structure, and a protagonist whose course is steered by fate – and by his own hamartia, or “tragic flaw.” (Note: These act and scene divisions were included in later publications. They are evident only as changes in action, time and place in Shakespeare’s original works.)In Greek and Latin tragedy, the protagonist’s fate is largely predetermined by the gods. Remember, no one, not even Zeus, can alter the plan sewn into place by the Fates.* Hamartia plays its part in how the tragic hero copes with the inevitable fate thrust upon him.While we might think of Puritans as stodgy and driven by fundamental doctrine, they were also embracing the spirit of humanism in the Renaissance. This is evident in the following Puritan religious text:All things are subject to the Mind... It measures in one thought the whole circumference of heaven and by the same line it takes the geography of the earth. The seas, the air, the fire, all things of ether, are within the comprehension of the mind. It has an influence on them all, whence it lakes all that may be useful, all that may be helpful in government. No limitation is prescribed to it, no restriction is upon it, but in a free scope it has a liberty upon all. And in this liberty is the excellence of the mind; in this power and composition of the mind is perfection of a man... Man is an absolute master of himself; his own safety, and tranquility by God... are made dependent on himself. – Puritan Text
25 Conventions of Shakespearean Drama and Comedy For Greek and Latin classical playwrights, the drama turned on how the protagonist would act, in the face of inexorable doom.In Shakespeare, there is a real balance between fate and human choices, based on character flaws: Humans being are depicted as being in control of their own destiny. (Somewhat. Fate always plays a role!)Renaissance playwrights also included many sub plots, and included scenes of comic relief in tragedies.In classical tragedy, the action is limited to one place and one day. There are limits to the numbers of characters, as well. Shakespeare freely breaks these rules in his plays, while neoclassical playwrights in France, such as Racine, adhere to them strictly.Another type of tragedy, de casibus tragedy, is a tragedy of fortune. Simple bad luck, or the will of God, gets the hero squashed. This type of tragedy is popular in the middle ages, as was a more fatalistic philosophy. The Book of Job is a example of de casibus tragedy.
26 Conventions of Shakespearean Drama and Comedy In the late 1800’s a literary critic named Gustav Freytag noted that Shakespeare’s plays were tightly structured by act into five separate plot segments.This is now called, “Freytag’s pyramid” whereby in Act One there is Exposition; in Act Two, there is Rising Action; Act Three is Turning Point; Act Four is Falling Action; and Act Five is Resolution.We will be closely examining these plot elements as we read the play.
27 Conventions of Shakespearean Drama and Comedy Of course, in tragedy, the turning point of the play is where the goals of the tragic hero seem within reach. The catastrophe at the end spells disaster for the tragic hero, who is in some ways responsible for his own demise, although his plan was noble.In Shakespeare’s comedies, the low point happens in the middle of the play—where the protagonists seem destined for failure and loss. Of course, All’s Well That Ends Well, and a marriage (or two or three!) is usually the ending.Shakespeare’s history plays usually follow the pattern of tragedy. His romance plays—those that end happily, but don’t have the problems of young lovers as a central theme—follow the pattern of comedy.**Remember! “Romance” in this sense is not the lovey-dovey type of romance. It is a reference to medieval romance stories of knights on a quest who travel to a magical place and fight demons in the name of chivalry, and courtly love. Shakespeare’s romance plays are therefore not to be confused with his romantic comedies.
28 Conventions of Shakespearean Drama and Comedy Shakespeare’s comedies are good examples of what is considered “high” comedy. However, they are really a mix of medieval low comedy, and elevated medieval romance. They are, therefore, called “romantic comedies.” The elements include:A pair of “star-crossed” lovers.A blocking agent, who stands in the way of the lovers’ love. (A jealous husband, an angry father, opposing families or countries)A “go-between” who helps the lovers.An escape to a “green world” or magical place, a distant land, or peaceful country, where the difficulties of the lovers are resolved.A huge wedding at the end, and all that stood in the way of their love is removed—at least temporarily.*Low comedy includes fabliaux and other forms of comedy that involves stereotype characters, mostly physical humor, slapstick, sight gags, a lot of low language, sexual mix ups and nasty jokes about bodily humor.High comedy, on the other hand, relies on well-developed characters, complex word-plays and repartee, clever innuendoes, irony and more sophisticated, psychological dilemmas. You could compare films of Woody Allen to films of Mel Brooks to get the idea.Shakespeare freely uses elements of both in his comedies, often having subplots for terrific “low” comedy moments. He also makes good use of the “green world” from medieval Romance, where the knights go on quests for truths, battling many magical demons and testing their inner strength, often for the love or honor of a woman.
29 Why is Shakespeare’s English So Weird? Don’t be fooled by the excellence of the language! This is Modern English! It is, however, about 400 years old, and things do change over time.The most obvious of changes is the use of distinct second person familiar pronouns. Today, we call this “you, singular.” But once this was not the same as “you, plural.” These singular pronouns are: Thou, Thee, Thy and Thine. (I, me, my, mine See pronoun handout!)Another change is obvious in the conjugation of certain verbs: hadst; wouldst; and the like.Verbs occasionally took inflected endings in the past participle: closèd, blessèd, loathèd
30 Why is Shakespeare’s English So Weird? Shakespeare often inverts the syntax of his sentences for poetic reasons, and this sometimes confuses students: “Many a morning hath he there been seen, / With tears augmenting the fresh morning’s dew.” ( ). Make sure you can tell where the subject and verb of the sentence are. Also, follow the pronouns and make sure you know which nouns they reference.Shakespeare also uses many, many words, and is credited with creating about six thousand new words, many that are now in common usage.* He is also good at making one word serve two purposes by using more than one meaning of a word at a clip! (Double entendres, or puns.) You will need a good dictionary when reading Shakespeare!Leher, Seth. Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language. New York: Columbia University Press, Print. (129)* Accommodation, Courtship, Submerged, Dwindle, Barefaced (137)See also the following website:Coined By Shakespeare by Jeffrey McQuain and Stanley Mallessone
31 Why is Shakespeare’s English So Weird? Actually, with these few variations, the basic grammatical structure of the language and the word definitions are not at all significantly different from today’s language.Before Shakespeare, however, the English language was different, and was called, respectively, Old English (Anglo-Saxon) and Middle English!Let’s look at a Brief Timeline of the English Language!5000 – 55 BCE Barbaric Tribal People. Theirs was an Indo-European language. If there was a written form, it has been lost. Some of these folks were responsible for building Stonehenge, and other standing rock circles.
32 Why is Shakespeare’s English So Weird? 55 BCE43 ACEThe tribal people grouped together are known as Celtic, some of whom practiced the Druid religion.Julius Caesar invades! Yes, THE Julius Caesar! And he writes about it. He doesn’t stay long.Claudius invades…Queen Boudicca of the Iceni…*Britain is a Roman colony. The Celts are chased to the edges of the British Islands. *Claudius, suffering heavy losses at the famous Battle of Medway, actually bring elephants with him to subdue these fierce Druids!The Romans eventually established settlements throughout Brittania, including Londinium, a settlement on the Thames. At first, they made uneasy peace with the Celtic tribes who were there. Around AD 60, after the death of the King of the Iceni, the Roman soldiers seized the land of the Iceni, sold tribal nobles into slavery and demanded tribute. Rome was now ruled by the very corrupt emperor, Nero, who had no mercy when it came to increasing his personal wealth and power. The Romans refused to acknowledge Queen Boudicca as a leader, and raped her daughters in response to protests from the tribe. The Iceni attacked Colchester and Londinium, burning both to the ground, and putting to death most of the inhabitants. However, the Romans were powerful. Rather than face ultimate defeat, Boudicca poisoned herself.The Romans had heated baths, running water, aqueducts, roads and structures, such as the wall, that are still standing, writing, learning, heated and insulated homes, glass, entertainment, wine, surgery, trade, art, music, and design. They built fortresses to keep the Celtic tribes out – including Hadrian’s Wall, separating Scotland from England. But this fortress was overrun in the 380’s, and the Roman Empire was crumbling. By 450, they were gone, leaving the lovely city to go to ruins.
33 Why is Shakespeare’s English So Weird? 450 – 600Today, the languages known as Welsh, Gaelic, and Scottish Gaelic are derived from the ancient tongue of the Celts.The Romans leave as their empire crumbles. *The Anglos, Saxons, and Jutes immigrate from mainland Europe, when their friends and relations tell them to come. The Germanic language that develops is called, Old English or Anglo-Saxon.Many of Shakespeare’s plays are set in pre-Roman, or Roman times. This may be due to the fact that the Emperor Constantine’s mother St. Helena, was reputedly from Britannia. Elizabeth apparently liked to be reminded of this saintly heritage.
34 Why is Shakespeare’s English So Weird? 600 – 1066Old English flourishes as a language. Many, many things are written in this language, including poetry, Beowulf, histories, and business and government documents. England as a nation, with this language at its base, emerges as a whole, ruled by Alfred the Great.During this time, the Vikings invade and settle. A bit of Scandinavian (Old Norse) melds into the language, and Latin is reintroduced as Christianity arrives.
35 Why is Shakespeare’s English So Weird? The Norman Invasion. This is the famous Battle of Hastings, where William the Conqueror of France comes in and beats King Harold. From this point on, there is nothing but bad blood between the French and the English.William brings all his friends and relations with him. For about three hundred years, the court of England will not speak English, but French!However….
36 Why is Shakespeare’s English So Weird? …the common people are speaking a meld of Old English and Old French…and it sounds like Franglish!Eventually, especially with the certain kind of freedom that illiteracy offers, the language of Old English changes dramatically.The language spoken during these years is a meld now of the Romance languages of Latin and French and the Germanic languages of the Anglos, Saxons and Norse.
37 Why is Shakespeare’s English So Weird? The result is that the English dictionary is perhaps the largest in Europe. The emerging language during this time is called, Middle English, and it is the language of Chaucer, Spencer, and Thomas Mallory.It is the language that Edward III will officially adopt, in 1363, as the language of the Court of England.During this time period and beyond, an event known as The Great Vowel Shift was also taking place.
38 Why is Shakespeare’s English So Weird? 1450 to Modern TimesDuring the Middle Ages, the Black Death caused many people to move to different locations, mixing up extremely different dialects. As folks became more urbanized, the pronunciation and lexicon of the language shifted, becoming more uniform .The language that derives from this solidification is now known as Modern English.In 1450, William Caxton set up a printing press in London, and begins to correct dialect differences, and fix in place spellings, word meanings, and grammar. Dictionaries and grammar books are subsequently published.
39 Why is Shakespeare’s English So Weird? 1450 to Modern TimesThis is the language of Shakespeare, and of us, here in America, in the 21st century.During Shakespeare’s life, more words entered the English language than at any other time in history (Leher 141). This can be attributed not only to Shakespeare, but to the multicultural, mercantile, ideological, educational and scientific expanses that were born with the Renaissance.I imagine that the 21st century will see a similar expansion, for OMG! language after all, is a living entity.Leher, Seth. Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language. New York: Columbia University Press, Print.
40 Example of Old English, from Beowulf Đā cōm of mōre under mist-hleoþumGrendel gongan, Godes yrre bær,mynte se mān-scaða manna cynnessumme besyrwan in sele þām hēan.Wōd under wolcnum, tō þæs þe hē wīn-reced,Gold-sele gumena gearwost wissse,fættum fāhne. Ne wæs þæt forma sīðþæt he Hrōþgāres hām gesōhte.Næfre hē on aldor–dagum ær nē siþð anheardran hæle heal-ðegnas fand.Cōm þā tō recede rinc sīðiandrēamum bedæled. Duru sōna onarnfўr-bendum fæst syþðan hē hire folmum gehrān:onbræd þā bealo-hўdig, ðā hē gebolgen wæs,recedes mūþan. Raþe æfter þonon fāgne flōr fēond treddode,ēode yrre-mōd; him of ēagum stōdligge gelīcost lēoht unfæger.(Heaney )*Beoowulf, tr. Seamus Heaney, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2000.Note the thorns and yoghs, above. (Funny p’s and d’s)
41 Example of Middle English, from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Whan that Aprill with his shoures soteThe droghte of Marche hath perced to the rote,And bathed every veyne in swich licourOf which vertu engendred is the flour;Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breethInspired hath in every holt and heethThe tendre croppes, and the yonge sonneHath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,And smale fowles maken melodye,That slepen al the night with open ye(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages):Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages.
42 Example of Modern English, from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, 1.3.11-25. Second Witch: I’ll give thee a wind.First Witch: Thou’rt kind.Third Witch: And I another.First Witch: I myself have all the other,And the very ports they blow,All the quarters that they knowI’th’shipman’s card.I’ll drain him dry as hay;Sleep shall neither night nor dayHang upon his penthouse lid;He shall live a man forbid.Weary sev’n-nights, nine times nine,Shall he dwindle, peak, and pine;Though his bark cannot be lost,Yet it shall be tempest-tossed.
Your consent to our cookies if you continue to use this website.