William Shakespeare is considered to be the greatest of all dramatists all over the world. He was born on 23rd April 1564, at Stratford-upon-Avon in Henley Street as the oldest son of glove maker John Shakespeare and his wife Mary Arden. He had one sister and one brother. William attended the local grammar school. When he was 18, he married Anne Hathaway from a nearby village Shottery. She was eight years older when he and already pregnant. They had two daughters - Susan and Judith and a son Hamnet. Hamnet and Judith were twins, but Hamnet died at the age of eleven. There are nearly no records of Shakespeare's life during the seven years than followed except one mention that they probably still stayed at Stratford-upon-Avon. But in 1592 he came to London and joined a group of actors known as the Lord Chamberlain's Man. Eight years later he bought his own theatre and named it the Globe Theatre, which was out door and actors played in the open air. It is also important to remind that in Shakespeare's time here were no actresses and also women's roles were played by men and one actor played more roles than one. First Shakespeare helped adapt or re-write older plays but later he started to write his own plays and he was very successful. Both the Queen Elizabeth I. and James I. liked him very much. One day, during a performance off Henry VIII was the Globe destroyed by fire. The Lord Chamberlain's Men the King's Men under the patronage of James I. His plays were first published in 1623. After his son's death he went back to Stratford-upon-Avon and lived a quiet life with his family. Now he was a wealthy man and he bought a handsome house, the second largest in the town. The strange thing is that the died on the same day as he was born in the age of 52. The legend says that he died after a louder and noisier birthday celebration with his friends. He is buried at local Trinity Church. Here is buried also his wife and other members of this family. There are only two portraits of Shakespeare, which are authentic and one of them is the bust in Stratford-upon-Avon at Trinity Church. Today there is the Royal Shakespeare (or Swan) Theatre, which is visited by tourists from all over the world.
Shakespeare was a big poet and wrote some nice sonnets, but the best know are his plays. He wrote 37 plays, tragedies, comedies, historical plays and romances, which is something between tragedy and comedy:
Tragedies: Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth and plays which are something between tragedy and a historical play - Julius Caesar, Anthony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus.
Comedies: The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, The Merry Wives of Windsor, As You Like It, Twelfth Night.
Romances: Pericles, The Winter's Tale, The Tempest.
Historical plays: Richard II, Richard III, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI.
Romeo and Juliet:
I think that this is the best known tragedy all over the world. It is about the unhappy love and death. The main character are Romeo Montague and Julie Capulet the only children of two powerful houses of Verona. These two houses hate each other. Romeo meets Juliet at the ball and fells in love with her although he knows she is Capulet. They love each other very much and ask Pastor Friar Laurence to marry them. Their love and marriage are secret. However, by unfortunate coincidence Romeo kills Tybalt, who is Juliet's cousin. Prince of Verona sends Romeo to the exile and young Juliet stayed in Verona. She was forced to marry a young nobleman called Paris. She asks Friar Laurence for help again and he gives her magic drops after which she fells asleep for several hours and looks as if she was dead. Romeo learns about Juliet's death and he doesn't know about the trick, so he boughs himself poison. He hurried to the churchyard and when he sees Juliet, he commits a suicide. Soon after Juliet wakes up and when she sees Romeo dead, she kills herself with his sword. Both Montague and Capulet Houses reconcile only after the death of their beloved children.
This is also a tragedy. Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark. His mother, a Queen, is a widow and marries Hamlet's uncle Claudius. However the ghost of dead king appears and tells him, that it was the Queen and Claudius who killed him. He wants revenge. Hamlet writes a theatre play based on this story. But Claudius recognises that the play is about him and sends Hamlet to England to be killed. Later Hamlet comes back to Denmark, Claudius is alarmed and wants to destroy Hamlet. Finally Hamlet kills the whole family and he is also killed. I don't like this end because it seems to me like modern action films with rows of dead. But I love Hamlets monologue:
To be, or not to be - that is the question: -
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? - To die, - to sleep, -
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, - 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, - to sleep; -
To sleep! perchance to dream: - ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
Žít, nebo nežít - to je, oč tu běží:
zda je to duch důstojnější snášet
střely a šípy rozkácené sudby,
či proti moři běd se chopit zbraně
a skoncovat je vzpourou. Zemřít - spát -
nic ví - a vědět, že tím spánkem skončí
to srdcebolení, ta stará strast,
jež patří k těl, to by byla met
žádoucí nade všechno. Zemřít - spát -
Spát! Snad i snít? Á, v tom je právě háček!
To, jaké sny vy se nám mohly zdát
v tom spánku smrti, až se těla zbudem,
to, to nás zaráží. To je ten ohled,
jenž dává bídě s nouzí sto let žít.
King Lear asks his three daughters how much they love him. Tow older daughters say that they love him very, very much but the youngest daughter Cordelia says that she loves him according to her duty. He punishes her by giving her no property and banishes her out of his kingdom. A kind Prince marries her, although she is poor. Old king divides his kingdom and all his property between his two daughters. Now he has nothing and one daughter sends him to the other because he is old and makes troubles. Finally they order to him not to visit their houses again. He is left in a cruel storm alone and he becomes a fool. Cordelia learns about that and with her army she comes to help him. But she is put to the prison and handed a day later. King Lear dies of a big grief.
Theatre - see q. 16.
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