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William Shakespeare (
bapt.
bapt.
 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English playwright, poet, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and one of the world's greatest dramatists. He is often called England's
national poet File:Adam Mickiewicz według dagerotypu paryskiego z 1842 roku.jpg, upAdam Mickiewicz A national poet or national bard is a poet held by tradition and popular acclaim to represent the identity, beliefs and principles of ...
and the "
Bard In Celtic cultures, a bard was a professional story teller, verse-maker, music composer, oral historian and genealogist, employed by a patron (such as a monarch or noble) to commemorate one or more of the patron's ancestors and to praise the pa ...
of Avon" (or simply "the Bard"). His extant works, including
collaborations Collaboration is the process of two or more people, entities or organizations working together to complete a task or achieve a goal. Collaboration is similar to cooperation. Most collaboration requires leadership, although the form of leadership ...
, consist of some 39 plays, 154 sonnets, three long
narrative poem Narrative poetry is a form of poetry that tells a story, often making the voices of a narrator and characters as well; the entire story is usually written in metered verse. Narrative poems do not need rhyme. The poems that make up this genre may be ...
s, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been
translated Translation is the communication of the meaning of a source-language text by means of an equivalent target-language text. The English language draws a terminological distinction (which does not exist in every language) between ''translating' ...
into every major
living language A modern language is any human language that is currently in use. The term is used in language education to distinguish between languages which are used for day-to-day communication (such as French and German) and dead classical languages such as ...
and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. They also continue to be studied and reinterpreted. Shakespeare was born and raised in
Stratford-upon-Avon Stratford-upon-Avon (), commonly known as just Stratford, is a market town and civil parish in the Stratford-on-Avon district, in the county of Warwickshire, England. It is situated on the River Avon, north-west of London, south-east of Birmi ...
,
Warwickshire Warwickshire (; abbreviated Warks) is a county in the West Midlands region of England. The county town is Warwick, and the largest town is Nuneaton. The county is famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare at Stratford-upon-Avon. Ot ...
. At the age of 18, he married
Anne Hathaway Anne Jacqueline Hathaway (born November 12, 1982) is an American actress. She is the recipient of many awards, including an Academy Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and a Golden Globe Award. She was one of the highest-paid actresses in the world ...
, with whom he had three children: Susanna and twins Hamnet and Judith. Sometime between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part-owner of a
playing companyIn Renaissance London, playing company was the usual term for a company of actors. These companies were organized around a group of ten or so shareholders (or "sharers"), who performed in the plays but were also responsible for management. The sharer ...
called the
Lord Chamberlain's Men The Lord Chamberlain's Men was a company of actors, or a "playing company" (as it then would likely have been described), for which Shakespeare wrote during most of his career. Richard Burbage played most of the lead roles, including Hamlet, Othell ...
, later known as the King's Men. At age 49 (around 1613), he appears to have retired to Stratford, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare's private life survive; this has stimulated considerable speculation about such matters as his physical appearance, his sexuality, his religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others. Shakespeare produced most of his known works between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were primarily
comedies Comedy (from the el, κωμῳδία, ''kōmōdía'') is a genre of fiction consisting of discourses or works intended to be humorous or amusing by inducing laughter, especially in theatre, film, stand-up comedy, television, radio, books, or any ...
and
histories Histories or, in Latin, Historiae may refer to: * the plural of history * ''Histories'' (Herodotus), by Herodotus * ''The Histories'', by Timaeus * ''The Histories'' (Polybius), by Polybius * ''Histories'' by Gaius Sallustius Crispus (Sallust), of ...
and are regarded as some of the best work produced in these genres. He then wrote mainly
tragedies Tragedy (from the grc-gre, τραγῳδία, ''tragōidia'', ''tragōidia'') is a form of drama based on human suffering and, mainly, the terrible or sorrowful events that befall a main character. Traditionally, the intention of tragedy is to ...
until 1608, among them ''
Hamlet ''The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark'', often shortened to ''Hamlet'' (), is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare sometime between 1599 and 1601. It is Shakespeare's longest play, with 29,551 words. Set in Denmark, the play depicts ...

Hamlet
'', ''
Romeo and Juliet ''Romeo and Juliet'' is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare early in his career about two young Italian star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately reconcile their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare's most popular plays during ...
'', ''
Othello ''Othello'' (''The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice'') is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, probably written in 1603. The story revolves around two characters, Othello and Iago. Othello is a Moorish general in the Venetian army charged w ...
'', ''
King Lear ''King Lear'' is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare. There are two versions, but modern editors usually conflate these to produce a single play. Both versions are based on the mythological Leir of Britain. King Lear relinquishes his pow ...
'', and ''
Macbeth ''Macbeth'' (; full title ''The Tragedy of Macbeth'') is a tragedy by William Shakespeare; it is thought to have been first performed in 1606. It dramatises the damaging physical and psychological effects of political ambition on those who se ...
'', all considered to be among the finest works in the English language. In the last phase of his life, he wrote tragicomedies (also known as romances) and collaborated with other playwrights. Many of Shakespeare's plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy in his lifetime. However, in 1623, two fellow actors and friends of Shakespeare's,
John Heminges John Heminges (spelled Heming, Hemynges and — in both the First Folio, which he edited, and also on the monument in the graveyard where he is buried — it is spelled Heminge) (bapt. 25 November 1566 – 10 October 1630) was an actor in the Kin ...
and
Henry Condell Henry Condell (5 September 1576 (baptised) – December 1627) was an actor in the King's Men, the playing company for which William Shakespeare wrote. With John Heminges, he was instrumental in preparing and editing the First Folio, the collecte ...
, published a more definitive text known as the
First Folio#REDIRECT First Folio#REDIRECT First Folio {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{R from other capitalisation ...

First Folio
, a posthumous collected edition of Shakespeare's dramatic works that included all but two of his plays. The volume was prefaced with a poem by
Ben Jonson Benjamin Jonson (c. 11 June 1572 – c. 16 August 1637) was an English playwright and poet. Jonson's artistry exerted a lasting influence upon English poetry and stage comedy. He popularised the comedy of humours; he is best known for the satir ...
, in which Jonson presciently hailed Shakespeare in a now-famous quote as "not of an age, but for all time".


Life


Early life

William Shakespeare was the son of
John Shakespeare John Shakespeare (c. 1531 – 7 September 1601) was an English businessman in Stratford-upon-Avon and the father of William Shakespeare. He was a glover and whittawer (leather worker) by trade. Shakespeare was elected to several municipal offi ...
, an
alderman An alderman is a member of a municipal assembly or council in many jurisdictions founded upon English law. The term may be titular, denoting a high-ranking member of a borough or county council, a council member chosen by the elected members thems ...
and a successful glover (glove-maker) originally from
Snitterfield Snitterfield is a village and civil parish in the Stratford on Avon district of Warwickshire, England, less than to the north of the A46 road, from Stratford upon Avon, from Warwick and from Coventry. The population of the civil parish at the ...
, and Mary Arden, the daughter of an affluent landowning family. He was born in
Stratford-upon-Avon Stratford-upon-Avon (), commonly known as just Stratford, is a market town and civil parish in the Stratford-on-Avon district, in the county of Warwickshire, England. It is situated on the River Avon, north-west of London, south-east of Birmi ...
, where he was baptised on 26 April 1564. His date of birth is unknown, but is traditionally observed on 23 April,
Saint George's Day Saint George's Day, also called the Feast of Saint George, is the feast day of Saint George as celebrated by various Christian Churches and by the several nations, kingdoms, countries and cities of which Saint George is the patron saint includi ...
. This date, which can be traced to a mistake made by an 18th-century scholar, has proved appealing to biographers because Shakespeare died on the same date in 1616. He was the third of eight children, and the eldest surviving son. Although no attendance records for the period survive, most biographers agree that Shakespeare was probably educated at the King's New School in Stratford, a free school chartered in 1553, about a quarter-mile (400 m) from his home.
Grammar school#REDIRECT Grammar school#REDIRECT Grammar school {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
s varied in quality during the Elizabethan era, but grammar school curricula were largely similar: the basic
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the dominant language ...
text was standardised by royal decree, and the school would have provided an intensive education in grammar based upon Latin classical authors. At the age of 18, Shakespeare married 26-year-old
Anne Hathaway Anne Jacqueline Hathaway (born November 12, 1982) is an American actress. She is the recipient of many awards, including an Academy Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and a Golden Globe Award. She was one of the highest-paid actresses in the world ...
. The
consistory court A consistory court is a type of ecclesiastical court, especially within the Church of England where they were originally established pursuant to a charter of King William the Conqueror, and still exist today, although since about the middle of the 1 ...
of the Diocese of Worcester issued a marriage licence on 27 November 1582. The next day, two of Hathaway's neighbours posted bonds guaranteeing that no lawful claims impeded the marriage. The ceremony may have been arranged in some haste since the Worcester
chancellor Chancellor ( la, links=no, cancellarius) is a title of various official positions in the governments of many nations. The original chancellors were the ''cancellarii'' of Roman courts of justice—ushers, who sat at the ''cancelli'' or lattice work ...

chancellor
allowed the marriage banns to be read once instead of the usual three times, and six months after the marriage Anne gave birth to a daughter, Susanna, baptised 26 May 1583. Twins, son Hamnet and daughter Judith, followed almost two years later and were baptised 2 February 1585. Hamnet died of unknown causes at the age of 11 and was buried 11 August 1596. After the birth of the twins, Shakespeare left few historical traces until he is mentioned as part of the London theatre scene in 1592. The exception is the appearance of his name in the "complaints bill" of a law case before the Queen's Bench court at Westminster dated
Michaelmas Term Michaelmas term is the first academic term of the academic year in a number of English-speaking universities and schools in the northern hemisphere, especially in the United Kingdom. Michaelmas term derives its name from the Feast of St Michael a ...
1588 and 9 October 1589. Scholars refer to the years between 1585 and 1592 as Shakespeare's "lost years". Biographers attempting to account for this period have reported many
apocryphal Apocrypha (Gr. ἀπόκρυφος, ‘the hidden hings) The biblical Books received by the early Church as part of the Greek version of the Old Testament, but not included in the Hebrew Bible, being excluded by the non-Hellenistic Jews from th ...
stories. Nicholas Rowe, Shakespeare's first biographer, recounted a Stratford legend that Shakespeare fled the town for London to escape prosecution for deer
poaching Poaching has been defined as the illegal hunting or capturing of wild animals, usually associated with land use rights. Poaching was once performed by impoverished peasants for subsistence purposes and a supplement for meager diets. It was set ...
in the estate of local squire
Thomas Lucy Sir Thomas Lucy (24 April 15327 July 1600) was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons in 1571 and 1585. He was a magistrate in Warwickshire, but is best known for his links to William Shakespeare. As a Protestant activist he came ...
. Shakespeare is also supposed to have taken his revenge on Lucy by writing a scurrilous ballad about him. Another 18th-century story has Shakespeare starting his theatrical career minding the horses of theatre patrons in London.
John Aubrey John Aubrey (12 March 1626 – 7 June 1697) was an English antiquary, natural philosopher and writer. He is perhaps best known as the author of the ''Brief Lives'', his collection of short biographical pieces. He was a pioneer archaeologist, ...

John Aubrey
reported that Shakespeare had been a country schoolmaster. Some 20th-century scholars suggested that Shakespeare may have been employed as a schoolmaster by Alexander Hoghton of
Lancashire Lancashire ( ; abbreviated Lancs.) is a ceremonial county and geographical area in North West England. The ceremonial county's administrative centre is Preston, while Lancaster is still the county town. The borders of the ceremonial county wer ...
, a Catholic landowner who named a certain "William Shakeshafte" in his will. Little evidence substantiates such stories other than
hearsay Hearsay evidence, in a legal forum, is testimony from a witness under oath who is reciting an out-of-court statement, content of which is being offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. In most courts, hearsay evidence is inadmissible (t ...
collected after his death, and Shakeshafte was a common name in the Lancashire area.


London and theatrical career

It is not known definitively when Shakespeare began writing, but contemporary allusions and records of performances show that several of his plays were on the London stage by 1592. By then, he was sufficiently known in London to be attacked in print by the playwright Robert Greene in his '' Groats-Worth of Wit'':
... there is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his ''Tiger's heart wrapped in a Player's hide'', supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you: and being an absolute ''Johannes factotum'', is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country.
Scholars differ on the exact meaning of Greene's words, but most agree that Greene was accusing Shakespeare of reaching above his rank in trying to match such university-educated writers as
Christopher Marlowe Christopher Marlowe, also known as Kit Marlowe (; baptised 26 February 156430 May 1593), was an English playwright, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. Modern scholars count Marlowe among the most famous of the Elizabethan playwrights; ...

Christopher Marlowe
,
Thomas Nashe Thomas Nashe (baptised November 1567 – c. 1601) lso Nashwas an Elizabethan playwright, poet, satirist and a significant pamphleteer. He is known for his novel ''The Unfortunate Traveller'', his pamphlets including ''Pierce Penniless,'' and h ...
, and Greene himself (the so-called "
University Wits The University Wits is a phrase used to name a group of late 16th-century English playwrights and pamphleteers who were educated at the universities (Oxford or Cambridge) and who became popular secular writers. Prominent members of this group were C ...
"). The italicised phrase parodying the line "Oh, tiger's heart wrapped in a woman's hide" from Shakespeare's ''
Henry VI, Part 3 ''Henry VI, Part 3'' (often written as ''3 Henry VI'') is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1591 and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England. Whereas ''1 Henry VI'' deals with the loss of Englan ...
'', along with the pun "Shake-scene", clearly identify Shakespeare as Greene's target. As used here, '' Johannes Factotum'' ("Jack of all trades") refers to a second-rate tinkerer with the work of others, rather than the more common "universal genius". Greene's attack is the earliest surviving mention of Shakespeare's work in the theatre. Biographers suggest that his career may have begun any time from the mid-1580s to just before Greene's remarks. After 1594, Shakespeare's plays were performed only by the
Lord Chamberlain's Men The Lord Chamberlain's Men was a company of actors, or a "playing company" (as it then would likely have been described), for which Shakespeare wrote during most of his career. Richard Burbage played most of the lead roles, including Hamlet, Othell ...
, a company owned by a group of players, including Shakespeare, that soon became the leading
playing companyIn Renaissance London, playing company was the usual term for a company of actors. These companies were organized around a group of ten or so shareholders (or "sharers"), who performed in the plays but were also responsible for management. The sharer ...
in London. After the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603, the company was awarded a royal patent by the new
King James I James VI and I (James Charles Stuart; 19 June 1566 – 27 March 1625) was King of Scotland as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the Scottish and English crowns on 24 March 1603 until his ...
, and changed its name to the King's Men. In 1599, a partnership of members of the company built their own theatre on the south bank of the
River Thames The River Thames ( ), known alternatively in parts as the River Isis, is a river that flows through southern England including London. At , it is the longest river entirely in England and the second-longest in the United Kingdom, after the Ri ...
, which they named the
Globe A globe is a spherical model of Earth, of some other celestial body, or of the celestial sphere. Globes serve purposes similar to some maps, but unlike maps, do not distort the surface that they portray except to scale it down. A model globe of ...
. In 1608, the partnership also took over the Blackfriars indoor theatre. Extant records of Shakespeare's property purchases and investments indicate that his association with the company made him a wealthy man, and in 1597, he bought the second-largest house in Stratford,
New Place New Place () was William Shakespeare's final place of residence in Stratford-upon-Avon. He died there in 1616. Though the house no longer exists, the site is owned by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, which maintains it as a specially-designe ...
, and in 1605, invested in a share of the parish
tithes A tithe (; from Old English: ''teogoþa'' "tenth") is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a contribution to a religious organization or compulsory tax to government. Today, tithes are normally voluntary and paid in cash or cheques, whereas h ...
in Stratford. Some of Shakespeare's plays were published in
quarto Title page of the first quarto edition of Shakespeare's ''Midsummer Night's Dream'', 1600, from the Folger_Shakespeare_Library">Midsummer_Night's_Dream'',_1600,_from_the_Folger_Shakespeare_Library Quarto_(abbreviated_Qto,_4to_or_4º)_is_a_book_o ...
editions, beginning in 1594, and by 1598, his name had become a selling point and began to appear on the
title page The title page of a book, thesis or other written work is the page at or near the front which displays its title, subtitle, author, publisher, and edition. (A half title, by contrast, displays only the title of a work.) In books The title page is ...

title page
s. Shakespeare continued to act in his own and other plays after his success as a playwright. The 1616 edition of
Ben Jonson Benjamin Jonson (c. 11 June 1572 – c. 16 August 1637) was an English playwright and poet. Jonson's artistry exerted a lasting influence upon English poetry and stage comedy. He popularised the comedy of humours; he is best known for the satir ...
's ''Works'' names him on the cast lists for ''
Every Man in His Humour 160px, Portrait of David Garrick as Kitely by Joshua Reynolds.">Joshua_Reynolds.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="David Garrick as Kitely by Joshua Reynolds">David Garrick as Kitely by Joshua Reynolds. ''Every ...
'' (1598) and ''
Sejanus His Fall ''Sejanus His Fall'', a 1603 play by Ben Jonson, is a tragedy about Lucius Aelius Sejanus, the favourite of the Roman emperor Tiberius. ''Sejanus His Fall'' was performed at court in 1603, and at the Globe Theatre in 1604. The latter performanc ...
'' (1603). The absence of his name from the 1605 cast list for Jonson's ''
Volpone ''Volpone'' (Italian for "sly fox") is a comedy play by English playwright Ben Jonson first produced in 1605–1606, drawing on elements of city comedy and beast fable. A merciless satire of greed and lust, it remains Jonson's most-performed pl ...

Volpone
'' is taken by some scholars as a sign that his acting career was nearing its end. The
First Folio#REDIRECT First Folio#REDIRECT First Folio {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{R from other capitalisation ...

First Folio of 1623, however, lists Shakespeare as one of "the Principal Actors in all these Plays", some of which were first staged after ''Volpone'', although one cannot know for certain which roles he played. In 1610,
John Davies of Hereford John Davies of Hereford (c. 1565 – July 1618) was a writing-master and an Anglo-Welsh poet. He referred to himself as ''John Davies of Hereford'' (after the city where he was born) in order to distinguish him from others of the same name, par ...

John Davies of Hereford
wrote that "good Will" played "kingly" roles. In 1709, Rowe passed down a tradition that Shakespeare played the ghost of Hamlet's father. Later traditions maintain that he also played Adam in ''
As You Like It ''As You Like It'' is a pastoral comedy by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1599 and first published in the First Folio in 1623. The play's first performance is uncertain, though a performance at Wilton House in 1603 has bee ...
'', and the Chorus in ''
Henry VHenry V may refer to: People * Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor (1081–1125) * Henry V, Count Palatine of the Rhine (1173–1227) * Henry V, Count of Luxembourg (1216–1281) * Henry V, Duke of Legnica (c.  1248 – 1296) * Henry V of Iron (c. 1319 ...
'', though scholars doubt the sources of that information. Throughout his career, Shakespeare divided his time between London and Stratford. In 1596, the year before he bought New Place as his family home in Stratford, Shakespeare was living in the parish of St. Helen's,
Bishopsgate Bishopsgate was one of the eastern gates in London’s former defensive wall. The gate gave its name to the Bishopsgate Ward of the City of London. The ward is traditionally divided into ''Bishopsgate Within'', inside the line wall, and ''Bishop ...

Bishopsgate
, north of the River Thames. He moved across the river to
Southwark Southwark ( ) is a district of Central London situated on the south bank of the River Thames, forming the north-western part of the wider modern London Borough of Southwark. The district, which is the oldest part of South London, developed du ...

Southwark
by 1599, the same year his company constructed the Globe Theatre there. By 1604, he had moved north of the river again, to an area north of
St Paul's Cathedral St Paul's Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral in London, United Kingdom, which, as the cathedral of the Bishop of London, serves as the mother church of the Diocese of London. It sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London a ...

St Paul's Cathedral
with many fine houses. There, he rented rooms from a French
Huguenot Huguenots ( , also , ) were a religious group of French Protestants. Huguenots were French Protestants who held to the Reformed, or Calvinist, tradition of Protestantism. The term has its origin in early-16th-century France. It was frequently ...
named Christopher Mountjoy, a maker of women's wigs and other headgear.


Later years and death

Rowe was the first biographer to record the tradition, repeated by
Johnson Johnson is a surname of English and Scottish origin.. The name itself is a patronym of the given name ''John'', literally meaning "son of John". The name ''John'' derives from Latin ''Johannes'', which is derived through Greek ''Iōannēs'' from ...
, that Shakespeare retired to Stratford "some years before his death". He was still working as an actor in London in 1608; in an answer to the sharers' petition in 1635,
Cuthbert Burbage Cuthbert (c. 634 – 20 March 687), possibly Cutimbetas/ Stombast, was an Anglo-Saxon saint of the early Northumbrian church in the Celtic tradition. He was a monk, bishop and hermit, associated with the monasteries of Melrose and Lindisfarne i ...
stated that after purchasing the lease of the
Blackfriars Theatre Blackfriars Theatre was the name given to two separate theatres located in the former Blackfriars Dominican priory in the City of London during the Renaissance. The first theatre began as a venue for the Children of the Chapel Royal, child actors ...
in 1608 from Henry Evans, the King's Men "placed men players" there, "which were Heminges, Condell, Shakespeare, etc.". However, it is perhaps relevant that the
bubonic plague Bubonic plague is one of three types of plague caused by the plague bacterium (''Yersinia pestis''). One to seven days after exposure to the bacteria, flu-like symptoms develop. These symptoms include fever, headaches, and vomiting. Swollen an ...
raged in London throughout 1609. The London public playhouses were repeatedly closed during extended outbreaks of the plague (a total of over 60 months closure between May 1603 and February 1610), which meant there was often no acting work. Retirement from all work was uncommon at that time. Shakespeare continued to visit London during the years 1611–1614. In 1612, he was called as a witness in '' Bellott v Mountjoy'', a court case concerning the marriage settlement of Mountjoy's daughter, Mary. In March 1613, he bought a
gatehouse A gatehouse is a type of fortified gateway, an entry control point building, enclosing or accompanying a gateway for a town, religious house, castle, manor house, or other fortification building of importance. Gatehouses are typically the most h ...

gatehouse
in the former Blackfriars priory; and from November 1614, he was in London for several weeks with his son-in-law,
John HallJohn Hall may refer to: Academics * John Hall (NYU President) (fl. c. 1890), American academic * John A. Hall (born 1949), sociology professor at McGill University, Montreal * John F. Hall (born 1951), professor of classics at Brigham Young Univers ...
. After 1610, Shakespeare wrote fewer plays, and none are attributed to him after 1613. His last three plays were collaborations, probably with John Fletcher, who succeeded him as the house playwright of the King's Men. He retired in 1613, before the
Globe Theatre The Globe Theatre was a theatre in London associated with William Shakespeare. It was built in 1599 by Shakespeare's playing company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, on land owned by Thomas Brend and inherited by his son, Nicholas Brend and grands ...
burned down during the performance of ''
Henry VIII Henry VIII (28 June 149128 January 1547) was King of England from 1509 until his death in 1547. Henry is best known for his six marriages, and, in particular, his efforts to have his first marriage (to Catherine of Aragon) annulled. His disag ...
'' on 29 June. Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616, at the age of 52. He died within a month of signing his will, a document which he begins by describing himself as being in "perfect health". No extant contemporary source explains how or why he died. Half a century later, John Ward, the vicar of Stratford, wrote in his notebook: "Shakespeare, Drayton, and Ben Jonson had a merry meeting and, it seems, drank too hard, for Shakespeare died of a fever there contracted", not an impossible scenario since Shakespeare knew Jonson and Drayton. Of the tributes from fellow authors, one refers to his relatively sudden death: "We wondered, Shakespeare, that thou went'st so soon / From the world's stage to the grave's tiring room." He was survived by his wife and two daughters. Susanna had married a physician, John Hall, in 1607, and Judith had married
Thomas Quiney Thomas Quiney (baptised 26 February 1589 – c. 1662 or 1663) was the husband of William Shakespeare's daughter Judith Shakespeare, and a vintner and tobacconist in Stratford-upon-Avon. Quiney held several municipal offices in the corporation of S ...
, a
vintner A winemaker or vintner is a person engaged in winemaking. They are generally employed by wineries or wine companies, where their work includes: *Cooperating with viticulturists *Monitoring the maturity of grapes to ensure their quality and to determ ...
, two months before Shakespeare's death. Shakespeare signed his last will and testament on 25 March 1616; the following day, his new son-in-law, Thomas Quiney was found guilty of fathering an illegitimate son by Margaret Wheeler, who had died during childbirth. Thomas was ordered by the church court to do public penance, which would have caused much shame and embarrassment for the Shakespeare family. Shakespeare bequeathed the bulk of his large estate to his elder daughter Susanna under stipulations that she pass it down intact to "the first son of her body". The Quineys had three children, all of whom died without marrying. The Halls had one child, Elizabeth, who married twice but died without children in 1670, ending Shakespeare's direct line. Shakespeare's will scarcely mentions his wife, Anne, who was probably entitled to one-third of his estate automatically. He did make a point, however, of leaving her "my second best bed", a bequest that has led to much speculation. Some scholars see the bequest as an insult to Anne, whereas others believe that the second-best bed would have been the matrimonial bed and therefore rich in significance. Shakespeare was buried in the
chancel 300px, Plan with the broader definition of the chancel highlighted In church architecture, the chancel is the space around the altar, including the choir and the sanctuary (sometimes called the presbytery), at the liturgical east end of a traditiona ...
of the
Holy Trinity Church
Holy Trinity Church
two days after his death. The epitaph carved into the stone slab covering his grave includes a curse against moving his bones, which was carefully avoided during restoration of the church in 2008: ''Good frend for Iesvs sake forbeare,'' ''To digg the dvst encloased heare.'' ''Bleste be yͤ man yͭ spares thes stones,'' ''And cvrst be he yͭ moves my bones.'' (Modern spelling: ''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.'') Some time before 1623, a
funerary monument , d. 1450 File:Istanbul - Süleymaniye camii - Türbe di Roxellana - Foto G. Dall'Orto 28-5-2006.jpg">upright=1.2, Türbe of Roxelana (d. 1558), Süleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul Funerary art is any work of art forming, or placed in, a repositor ...
was erected in his memory on the north wall, with a half-effigy of him in the act of writing. Its plaque compares him to Nestor,
Socrates Socrates (; grc, Σωκράτης ''Sōkrátēs'' ; – 399 BC) was a Greek philosopher from Athens who is credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, and as being the first moral philosopher of the Western ethical tradition ...

Socrates
, and
Virgil Publius Vergilius Maro (; traditional dates 15 October 70 BC21 September 19 BC), usually called Virgil or Vergil ( ) in English, was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He wrote three of the most famous poems in Latin literature: the ' ...
. In 1623, in conjunction with the publication of the
First Folio#REDIRECT First Folio#REDIRECT First Folio {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{R from other capitalisation ...

First Folio, the Droeshout engraving was published. Shakespeare has been commemorated in many statues and memorials around the world, including funeral monuments in
Southwark Cathedral Southwark Cathedral ( ) or The Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie, Southwark, London, lies on the south bank of the River Thames close to London Bridge. It is the mother church of the Anglican Diocese of Southwark. I ...
and
Poets' Corner Poets' Corner is the name traditionally given to a section of the South Transept of Westminster Abbey because of the high number of poets, playwrights, and writers buried and commemorated there. The first poet interred in Poets' Corner was Geoff ...
in
Westminster Abbey Westminster Abbey, formally titled the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster, is a large, mainly Gothic abbey church in the City of Westminster, London, England, just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is one of the United Ki ...
.


Plays

Most playwrights of the period typically collaborated with others at some point, and critics agree that Shakespeare did the same, mostly early and late in his career. The first recorded works of Shakespeare are ''
Richard III Richard III (2 October 145222 August 1485) was King of England and Lord of Ireland from 1483 until his death in 1485. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. His defeat and death at the Battle of Bosw ...
'' and the three parts of '' Henry VI'', written in the early 1590s during a vogue for
historical drama A historical drama (also period drama, costume drama, and period piece) is a work set in a past time period, usually used in the context of film and television. Historical drama includes historical fiction and romances, adventure films, and swashb ...
. Shakespeare's plays are difficult to date precisely, however, and studies of the texts suggest that ''
Titus Andronicus ''Titus Andronicus'' is a tragedy by William Shakespeare believed to have been written between 1588 and 1593, probably in collaboration with George Peele. It is thought to be Shakespeare's first tragedy and is often seen as his attempt to emula ...
'', ''
The Comedy of Errors ''The Comedy of Errors'' is one of William Shakespeare's early plays. It is his shortest and one of his most farcical comedies, with a major part of the humour coming from slapstick and mistaken identity, in addition to puns and word play. ''T ...
'', ''
The Taming of the Shrew ''The Taming of the Shrew'' is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1590 and 1592. The play begins with a framing device, often referred to as the induction, in which a mischievous nobleman tricks a drunken ti ...
,'' and ''
The Two Gentlemen of Verona ''The Two Gentlemen of Verona'' is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1589 and 1593. It is considered by some to be Shakespeare's first play, and is often seen as showing his first tentative steps in laying o ...
'' may also belong to Shakespeare's earliest period. His first
histories Histories or, in Latin, Historiae may refer to: * the plural of history * ''Histories'' (Herodotus), by Herodotus * ''The Histories'', by Timaeus * ''The Histories'' (Polybius), by Polybius * ''Histories'' by Gaius Sallustius Crispus (Sallust), of ...
, which draw heavily on the 1587 edition of Raphael Holinshed's ''Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland'', dramatise the destructive results of weak or corrupt rule and have been interpreted as a justification for the origins of the
Tudor dynasty The House of Tudor was an English royal house of Welsh origin, descended from the Tudors of Penmynydd. Tudor monarchs ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including their ancestral Wales and the Lordship of Ireland (later the Kingdom of ...
. The early plays were influenced by the works of other Elizabethan dramatists, especially
Thomas Kyd Thomas Kyd (baptised 6 November 1558; buried 15 August 1594) was an English playwright, the author of ''The Spanish Tragedy'', and one of the most important figures in the development of Elizabethan drama. Although well known in his own time, K ...
and
Christopher Marlowe Christopher Marlowe, also known as Kit Marlowe (; baptised 26 February 156430 May 1593), was an English playwright, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. Modern scholars count Marlowe among the most famous of the Elizabethan playwrights; ...

Christopher Marlowe
, by the traditions of medieval drama, and by the plays of
Seneca Seneca may refer to: People and language *Seneca (name), a list of people with either the given name or surname *Seneca the Elder, a Roman rhetorician, writer and father of the stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger *Seneca the Younger, a Roman Stoi ...
. ''The Comedy of Errors'' was also based on classical models, but no source for ''The Taming of the Shrew'' has been found, though it is related to a separate play of the same name and may have derived from a folk story. Like ''The Two Gentlemen of Verona'', in which two friends appear to approve of rape, the ''Shrew's'' story of the taming of a woman's independent spirit by a man sometimes troubles modern critics, directors, and audiences. Shakespeare's early classical and Italianate comedies, containing tight double plots and precise comic sequences, give way in the mid-1590s to the romantic atmosphere of his most acclaimed comedies. ''
A Midsummer Night's Dream ''A Midsummer Night's Dream'' is a comedy written by William Shakespeare 1595 or 1596. The play is set in Athens, and consists of several subplots that revolve around the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta. One subplot involves a conflict be ...
'' is a witty mixture of romance, fairy magic, and comic lowlife scenes. Shakespeare's next comedy, the equally romantic ''
Merchant of Venice ''The Merchant of Venice'' is a 16th-century play written by William Shakespeare in which a merchant in Venice named Antonio defaults on a large loan provided by a Jewish moneylender, Shylock. It is believed to have been written between 1596 a ...
'', contains a portrayal of the vengeful Jewish moneylender
Shylock (late 19th century) Shylock is a fictional character in William Shakespeare's play ''The Merchant of Venice'' (c. 1600). A Venetian Jewish moneylender, Shylock is the play's principal antagonist. His defeat and conversion to Christianity form ...
, which reflects Elizabethan views but may appear derogatory to modern audiences. The wit and wordplay of ''
Much Ado About Nothing#REDIRECT Much_Ado_About_Nothing {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from alternative capitalisation ...
'', the charming rural setting of ''
As You Like It ''As You Like It'' is a pastoral comedy by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1599 and first published in the First Folio in 1623. The play's first performance is uncertain, though a performance at Wilton House in 1603 has bee ...
'', and the lively merrymaking of ''
Twelfth Night ''Twelfth Night, or What You Will'' is a romantic comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written around 1601–1602 as a Twelfth Night's entertainment for the close of the Christmas season. The play centres on the twins Viola and ...
'' complete Shakespeare's sequence of great comedies. After the lyrical ''
Richard II Richard II (6 January 1367 – c. 14 February 1400), also known as Richard of Bordeaux, was King of England from 1377 until he was deposed in 1399. Richard's father, Edward, Prince of Wales, died in 1376, leaving Richard as heir apparent to ...
'', written almost entirely in verse, Shakespeare introduced prose comedy into the histories of the late 1590s, '' Henry IV, parts 1'' and '' 2'', and ''
Henry VHenry V may refer to: People * Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor (1081–1125) * Henry V, Count Palatine of the Rhine (1173–1227) * Henry V, Count of Luxembourg (1216–1281) * Henry V, Duke of Legnica (c.  1248 – 1296) * Henry V of Iron (c. 1319 ...
''. His characters become more complex and tender as he switches deftly between comic and serious scenes, prose and poetry, and achieves the narrative variety of his mature work. This period begins and ends with two tragedies: ''
Romeo and Juliet ''Romeo and Juliet'' is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare early in his career about two young Italian star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately reconcile their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare's most popular plays during ...
'', the famous romantic tragedy of sexually charged adolescence, love, and death; and ''
Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman general and statesman who played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. In 60 BC, Caesar, Crassus and Po ...
''—based on Sir
Thomas North Sir Thomas North (28 May 1535c. 1604) was an English translator, military officer, lawyer, and justice of the peace. His translation into English of Plutarch's ''Parallel Lives'' is notable for being the main source text used by William Shake ...
's 1579 translation of
Plutarch Plutarch (; grc-gre, Πλούταρχος, ''Ploútarchos''; ; AD 46–after AD 119) was a Greek Middle Platonist philosopher, historian, biographer, essayist, and priest at the Temple of Apollo. He is known primarily for his ''Parallel Lives'', ...

Plutarch
's ''
Parallel Lives Plutarch's ''Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans'', commonly called ''Parallel Lives'' or ''Plutarch's Lives'', is a series of 48 biographies of famous men, arranged in pairs to illuminate their common moral virtues or failings, probably writte ...
''—which introduced a new kind of drama. According to Shakespearean scholar James Shapiro, in ''Julius Caesar,'' "the various strands of politics, character, inwardness, contemporary events, even Shakespeare's own reflections on the act of writing, began to infuse each other". In the early 17th century, Shakespeare wrote the so-called " problem plays" ''
Measure for Measure ''Measure for Measure'' is a play by William Shakespeare, probably written in 1603 or 1604 and recordedly first performed in 1604. It was published in the ''First Folio'' of 1623. Its protagonist, the Duke of Vienna, steps out from public lif ...
'', ''
Troilus and Cressida ''Troilus and Cressida'' () is a play by William Shakespeare, probably written in 1602. At Troy during the Trojan War Troilus and Cressida begin a love affair. Cressida is forced to leave Troy to join her father in the Greek camp. Meanwhile, ...

Troilus and Cressida
'', and ''
All's Well That Ends Well ''All's Well That Ends Well'' is a play by William Shakespeare, published in the ''First Folio'' in 1623, where it is listed among the comedies. There is a debate regarding the dating of the composition of the play, with possible dates ranging ...
'' and a number of his best known
tragedies Tragedy (from the grc-gre, τραγῳδία, ''tragōidia'', ''tragōidia'') is a form of drama based on human suffering and, mainly, the terrible or sorrowful events that befall a main character. Traditionally, the intention of tragedy is to ...
. Many critics believe that Shakespeare's greatest tragedies represent the peak of his art. The titular hero of one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies, ''
Hamlet ''The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark'', often shortened to ''Hamlet'' (), is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare sometime between 1599 and 1601. It is Shakespeare's longest play, with 29,551 words. Set in Denmark, the play depicts ...

Hamlet
'', has probably been discussed more than any other Shakespearean character, especially for his famous
soliloquy A soliloquy (, from Latin ''solo'' "to oneself" + ''loquor'' "I talk", plural ''soliloquies'') is a monologue addressed to oneself, thoughts spoken out loud without addressing another. Soliloquies are used as a device in drama to let a character m ...
which begins " To be or not to be; that is the question". Unlike the introverted Hamlet, whose fatal flaw is hesitation, the heroes of the tragedies that followed, Othello and King Lear, are undone by hasty errors of judgement. The plots of Shakespeare's tragedies often hinge on such fatal errors or flaws, which overturn order and destroy the hero and those he loves. In ''
Othello ''Othello'' (''The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice'') is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, probably written in 1603. The story revolves around two characters, Othello and Iago. Othello is a Moorish general in the Venetian army charged w ...
'', the villain
Iago Iago () is a fictional character in Shakespeare's ''Othello'' (c. 1601–1604). Iago is the play's main antagonist, and Othello's standard-bearer. He is the husband of Emilia, who is in turn the attendant of Othello's wife Desdemona. Iago hates ...
stokes Othello's sexual jealousy to the point where he murders the innocent wife who loves him. In ''
King Lear ''King Lear'' is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare. There are two versions, but modern editors usually conflate these to produce a single play. Both versions are based on the mythological Leir of Britain. King Lear relinquishes his pow ...
'', the old king commits the tragic error of giving up his powers, initiating the events which lead to the torture and blinding of the Earl of Gloucester and the murder of Lear's youngest daughter Cordelia. According to the critic Frank Kermode, "the play...offers neither its good characters nor its audience any relief from its cruelty". In ''
Macbeth ''Macbeth'' (; full title ''The Tragedy of Macbeth'') is a tragedy by William Shakespeare; it is thought to have been first performed in 1606. It dramatises the damaging physical and psychological effects of political ambition on those who se ...
'', the shortest and most compressed of Shakespeare's tragedies, uncontrollable ambition incites Macbeth and his wife,
Lady Macbeth Lady Macbeth is a leading character in William Shakespeare's tragedy ''Macbeth'' (c.1603–1607). The wife of the play's tragic hero, Macbeth (a Scottish nobleman), Lady Macbeth goads her husband into committing regicide, after which she become ...
, to murder the rightful king and usurp the throne until their own guilt destroys them in turn. In this play, Shakespeare adds a supernatural element to the tragic structure. His last major tragedies, ''
Antony and Cleopatra ''Antony and Cleopatra'' (First Folio title: ''The Tragedie of Anthonie, and Cleopatra'') is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. The play was first performed, by the King's Men, at either the Blackfriars Theatre or the Globe Theatre in around 16 ...
'' and ''
Coriolanus ''Coriolanus'' ( or ) is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1605 and 1608. The play is based on the life of the legendary Roman leader Caius Marcius Coriolanus. It is one of the last two tragedies written b ...

Coriolanus
'', contain some of Shakespeare's finest poetry and were considered his most successful tragedies by the poet and critic
T. S. Eliot Thomas Stearns Eliot (26 September 18884 January 1965) was a poet, essayist, publisher, playwright, literary critic and editor.Bush, Ronald. "T. S. Eliot's Life and Career", in John A Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (eds), ''American National Biogra ...
. In his final period, Shakespeare turned to
romance Romance (from Vulgar Latin , "in the Roman language", i.e., "Latin") may refer to: Common meanings * Romance (love), emotional attraction towards another person and the courtship behaviors undertaken to express the feelings * Romance languages, a ...
or
tragicomedy Tragicomedy is a literary genre that blends aspects of both tragic and comic forms. Most often seen in dramatic literature, the term can describe either a tragic play which contains enough comic elements to lighten the overall mood or a serious p ...
and completed three more major plays: ''
Cymbeline ''Cymbeline'' , also known as ''The Tragedie of Cymbeline'' or ''Cymbeline, King of Britain'', is a play by William Shakespeare set in Ancient Britain () and based on legends that formed part of the Matter of Britain concerning the early Celtic ...
'', ''
The Winter's Tale ''The Winter's Tale'' is a play by William Shakespeare originally published in the First Folio of 1623. Although it was grouped among the comedies, many modern editors have relabelled the play as one of Shakespeare's late romances. Some critic ...
,'' and ''
The Tempest ''The Tempest'' is a play by English playwright William Shakespeare, probably written in 1610–1611, and thought to be one of the last plays that Shakespeare wrote alone. After the first scene, which takes place on a ship at sea during a tempes ...
'', as well as the collaboration, ''
Pericles, Prince of Tyre ''Pericles, Prince of Tyre'' is a Jacobean play written at least in part by William Shakespeare and included in modern editions of his collected works despite questions over its authorship, as it was not included in the First Folio. Whilst vari ...
''. Less bleak than the tragedies, these four plays are graver in tone than the comedies of the 1590s, but they end with reconciliation and the forgiveness of potentially tragic errors. Some commentators have seen this change in mood as evidence of a more serene view of life on Shakespeare's part, but it may merely reflect the theatrical fashion of the day. Shakespeare collaborated on two further surviving plays, ''
Henry VIII Henry VIII (28 June 149128 January 1547) was King of England from 1509 until his death in 1547. Henry is best known for his six marriages, and, in particular, his efforts to have his first marriage (to Catherine of Aragon) annulled. His disag ...
'' and ''
The Two Noble Kinsmen ''The Two Noble Kinsmen'' is a Jacobean tragicomedy, first published in 1634 and attributed jointly to John Fletcher and William Shakespeare. Its plot derives from "The Knight's Tale" in Geoffrey Chaucer's ''The Canterbury Tales'', which had alr ...
'', probably with John Fletcher.


Performances

It is not clear for which companies Shakespeare wrote his early plays. The title page of the 1594 edition of ''Titus Andronicus'' reveals that the play had been acted by three different troupes. After the plagues of 1592–93, Shakespeare's plays were performed by his own company at
The Theatre The Theatre was an Elizabethan playhouse in Shoreditch (in Curtain Road, part of the modern London Borough of Hackney), just outside the City of London. It was the first permanent theatre ever built in England. It was built in 1576 after the Red ...
and the
Curtain A curtain is a piece of cloth intended to block or obscure light, or drafts, or (in the case of a shower curtain) water. A curtain is also the movable screen or drape in a theater that separates the stage from the auditorium or that serves as a b ...

Curtain
in
Shoreditch Shoreditch is a district in the East End of London that forms the southern part of the London Borough of Hackney. Neighbouring parts of Tower Hamlets are sometimes also perceived as part of the area. In the 16th century, Shoreditch was an importa ...
, north of the Thames. Londoners flocked there to see the first part of ''Henry IV'', Leonard Digges recording, "Let but Falstaff come, Hal, Poins, the rest ... and you scarce shall have a room". When the company found themselves in dispute with their landlord, they pulled The Theatre down and used the timbers to construct the
Globe Theatre The Globe Theatre was a theatre in London associated with William Shakespeare. It was built in 1599 by Shakespeare's playing company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, on land owned by Thomas Brend and inherited by his son, Nicholas Brend and grands ...
, the first playhouse built by actors for actors, on the south bank of the Thames at
Southwark Southwark ( ) is a district of Central London situated on the south bank of the River Thames, forming the north-western part of the wider modern London Borough of Southwark. The district, which is the oldest part of South London, developed du ...

Southwark
. The Globe opened in autumn 1599, with ''Julius Caesar'' one of the first plays staged. Most of Shakespeare's greatest post-1599 plays were written for the Globe, including ''Hamlet'', ''Othello,'' and ''King Lear''. After the Lord Chamberlain's Men were renamed the King's Men in 1603, they entered a special relationship with the new King James. Although the performance records are patchy, the King's Men performed seven of Shakespeare's plays at court between 1 November 1604, and 31 October 1605, including two performances of ''The Merchant of Venice''. After 1608, they performed at the indoor
Blackfriars Theatre Blackfriars Theatre was the name given to two separate theatres located in the former Blackfriars Dominican priory in the City of London during the Renaissance. The first theatre began as a venue for the Children of the Chapel Royal, child actors ...
during the winter and the Globe during the summer. The indoor setting, combined with the Jacobean fashion for lavishly staged
masques The masque was a form of festive courtly entertainment that flourished in 16th- and early 17th-century Europe, though it was developed earlier in Italy, in forms including the intermedio (a public version of the masque was the pageant). A masque ...
, allowed Shakespeare to introduce more elaborate stage devices. In ''Cymbeline'', for example,
Jupiter Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest in the Solar System. It is a gas giant with a mass one-thousandth that of the Sun, but two and a half times that of all the other planets in the Solar System combined. Jupiter is the th ...
descends "in thunder and lightning, sitting upon an eagle: he throws a thunderbolt. The ghosts fall on their knees." The actors in Shakespeare's company included the famous
Richard Burbage Richard Burbage (c. 1567 – 13 March 1619) was an English stage actor, widely considered to have been one of the most famous actors of the Globe Theatre and of his time. In addition to being a stage actor, he was also a theatre owner, entre ...
,
William Kempe William Kempe (c. 1560–c. 1603), commonly referred to as Will Kemp, was an English actor and dancer specialising in comic roles and best known for having been one of the original players in early dramas by William Shakespeare. Roles associate ...
,
Henry Condell Henry Condell (5 September 1576 (baptised) – December 1627) was an actor in the King's Men, the playing company for which William Shakespeare wrote. With John Heminges, he was instrumental in preparing and editing the First Folio, the collecte ...
and
John Heminges John Heminges (spelled Heming, Hemynges and — in both the First Folio, which he edited, and also on the monument in the graveyard where he is buried — it is spelled Heminge) (bapt. 25 November 1566 – 10 October 1630) was an actor in the Kin ...
. Burbage played the leading role in the first performances of many of Shakespeare's plays, including ''Richard III'', ''Hamlet'', ''Othello'', and ''King Lear''. The popular comic actor Will Kempe played the servant Peter in ''Romeo and Juliet'' and
Dogberry Dogberry is a character created by William Shakespeare for his play, ''Much Ado About Nothing''. He is described by ''The Nuttall Encyclopædia'' as a "self-satisfied night constable" with an inflated view of his own importance as the leader of ...
in ''Much Ado About Nothing'', among other characters. He was replaced around 1600 by
Robert Armin Robert Armin (c. 1568 – 1615) was an English actor, and member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men. He became the leading comedy actor with the troupe associated with William Shakespeare following the departure of Will Kempe around 1600. Also a popu ...

Robert Armin
, who played roles such as
Touchstone Touchstone may refer to: * Touchstone (assaying tool), a stone used to identify precious metals * Touchstone (metaphor), a means of assaying relative merits of a concept Entertainment * ''Touchstone'' (album), a 1982 album by Chick Corea * Touc ...
in ''As You Like It'' and the fool in ''King Lear''. In 1613, Sir
Henry Wotton Sir Henry Wotton (; 30 March 1568 – December 1639) was an English author, diplomat and politician who sat in the House of Commons in 1614 and 1625. He is often quoted as saying, "An ambassador is an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the ...
recorded that ''Henry VIII'' "was set forth with many extraordinary circumstances of pomp and ceremony". On 29 June, however, a cannon set fire to the thatch of the Globe and burned the theatre to the ground, an event which pinpoints the date of a Shakespeare play with rare precision.


Textual sources

In 1623,
John Heminges John Heminges (spelled Heming, Hemynges and — in both the First Folio, which he edited, and also on the monument in the graveyard where he is buried — it is spelled Heminge) (bapt. 25 November 1566 – 10 October 1630) was an actor in the Kin ...
and
Henry Condell Henry Condell (5 September 1576 (baptised) – December 1627) was an actor in the King's Men, the playing company for which William Shakespeare wrote. With John Heminges, he was instrumental in preparing and editing the First Folio, the collecte ...
, two of Shakespeare's friends from the King's Men, published the
First Folio#REDIRECT First Folio#REDIRECT First Folio {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{R from other capitalisation ...

First Folio, a collected edition of Shakespeare's plays. It contained 36 texts, including 18 printed for the first time. Many of the plays had already appeared in
quarto Title page of the first quarto edition of Shakespeare's ''Midsummer Night's Dream'', 1600, from the Folger_Shakespeare_Library">Midsummer_Night's_Dream'',_1600,_from_the_Folger_Shakespeare_Library Quarto_(abbreviated_Qto,_4to_or_4º)_is_a_book_o ...
versions—flimsy books made from sheets of paper folded twice to make four leaves. No evidence suggests that Shakespeare approved these editions, which the First Folio describes as "stol'n and surreptitious copies". Nor did Shakespeare plan or expect his works to survive in any form at all; those works likely would have faded into oblivion but for his friends' spontaneous idea, after his death, to create and publish the First Folio. Alfred Pollard termed some of the pre-1623 versions as "
bad quarto (1603), the first published text of ''Hamlet'', is often described as a "bad quarto". A bad quarto, in Shakespearean scholarship, is a book size, quarto-sized printed edition of one of Shakespeare's plays that is considered to be unauthorised, and is ...
s" because of their adapted, paraphrased or garbled texts, which may in places have been reconstructed from memory. Where several versions of a play survive, each differs from the other. The differences may stem from copying or
printing Printing is a process for mass reproducing text and images using a master form or template. The earliest non-paper products involving printing include cylinder seals and objects such as the Cyrus Cylinder and the Cylinders of Nabonidus. The ear ...
errors, from notes by actors or audience members, or from Shakespeare's own papers. In some cases, for example, ''Hamlet'', ''Troilus and Cressida,'' and ''Othello'', Shakespeare could have revised the texts between the quarto and folio editions. In the case of ''
King Lear ''King Lear'' is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare. There are two versions, but modern editors usually conflate these to produce a single play. Both versions are based on the mythological Leir of Britain. King Lear relinquishes his pow ...
'', however, while most modern editions do conflate them, the 1623 folio version is so different from the 1608 quarto that the ''Oxford Shakespeare'' prints them both, arguing that they cannot be conflated without confusion.


Poems

In 1593 and 1594, when the theatres were closed because of
plague Plague or The Plague may refer to: Agriculture, fauna, and medicine *Plague (disease), a disease caused by ''Yersinia pestis'' * An epidemic of infectious disease (medical or agricultural) * A pandemic caused by such a disease * A swarm of pest ...
, Shakespeare published two narrative poems on sexual themes, ''
Venus and AdonisVenus and Adonis may refer to: Literary works *"Venus and Adonis", a story from Book X of Ovid's ''Metamorphoses'' *''Venus and Adonis'' (Shakespeare poem) *''Venus and Adonis'' (Constable poem), a poem by Henry Constable Operas *''Venus and Adonis ...
'' and ''
The Rape of Lucrece 200px, alt=Tarquin attacking nude Lucretia with a dagger, ''Tarquin and Lucretia'' by Titian ''The Rape of Lucrece'' (1594) is a narrative poem by William Shakespeare about the legendary Roman noblewoman Lucretia. In his previous narrative poem, ...
''. He dedicated them to Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton. In ''Venus and Adonis'', an innocent
Adonis Adonis, ; derived from the Canaanite word ''ʼadōn'', meaning "lord".R. S. P. Beekes, ''Etymological Dictionary of Greek'', Brill, 2009, p. 23. was the mortal lover of the goddess Aphrodite in Greek mythology. In Ovid's first-century AD telling ...
rejects the sexual advances of
Venus Venus is the second planet from the Sun. It is named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty. As the brightest natural object in Earth's night sky after the Moon, Venus can cast shadows and can be, on rare occasion, visible to the naked ey ...
; while in ''The Rape of Lucrece'', the virtuous wife Lucrece is raped by the lustful Tarquin. Influenced by
Ovid Pūblius Ovidius Nāsō (; 20 March 43 BC – 17/18 AD), known in English as Ovid ( ), was a Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus. He was a contemporary of the older Virgil and Horace, with whom he is often ranked as one of the thre ...
's ''
Metamorphoses The ''Metamorphoses'' ( la, Metamorphōseōn librī: "Books of Transformations") is an 8 AD Latin narrative poem by the Roman poet Ovid, considered his ''magnum opus''. Comprising 11,995 lines, 15 books and over 250 myths, the poem chronicles th ...
'', the poems show the guilt and moral confusion that result from uncontrolled lust. Both proved popular and were often reprinted during Shakespeare's lifetime. A third narrative poem, ''
A Lover's Complaint "A Lover's Complaint" is a narrative poem written by William Shakespeare, and published as part of the 1609 quarto of ''Shakespeare's Sonnets''. It was published by Thomas Thorpe. "A Lover’s Complaint" is an example of the female-voiced compl ...
'', in which a young woman laments her seduction by a persuasive suitor, was printed in the first edition of the ''Sonnets'' in 1609. Most scholars now accept that Shakespeare wrote ''A Lover's Complaint''. Critics consider that its fine qualities are marred by leaden effects. ''
The Phoenix and the Turtle ''The Phoenix and the Turtle'' (also spelled ''The Phœnix and the Turtle'') is an allegorical poem about the death of ideal love by William Shakespeare. It is widely considered to be one of his most obscure works and has led to many conflictin ...
'', printed in Robert Chester's 1601 ''Love's Martyr'', mourns the deaths of the legendary phoenix and his lover, the faithful turtle dove. In 1599, two early drafts of sonnets 138 and 144 appeared in ''
The Passionate Pilgrim 200px, Title page of ''The Passionate Pilgrim'' (1599) ''The Passionate Pilgrim'' (1599) is an anthology of 20 poems collected and published by William Jaggard that were attributed to "W. Shakespeare" on the title page, only five of which are con ...
'', published under Shakespeare's name but without his permission.


Sonnets

Published in 1609, the ''
Sonnets A sonnet is a poetic form which originated in the Italian poetry composed at the Court of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in Palermo, Sicily. The 13th-century poet and notary Giacomo da Lentini is credited with the sonnet's invention for expre ...
'' were the last of Shakespeare's non-dramatic works to be printed. Scholars are not certain when each of the 154 sonnets was composed, but evidence suggests that Shakespeare wrote sonnets throughout his career for a private readership. Even before the two unauthorised sonnets appeared in ''The Passionate Pilgrim'' in 1599,
Francis Meres Francis Meres (1565/1566 – 29 January 1647) was an English churchman and author. His 1598 commonplace book includes the first critical account of poems and plays by Shakespeare. Career Francis Meres was born at Kirton Meres in the parish of Kir ...
had referred in 1598 to Shakespeare's "sugred Sonnets among his private friends". Few analysts believe that the published collection follows Shakespeare's intended sequence. He seems to have planned two contrasting series: one about uncontrollable lust for a married woman of dark complexion (the "dark lady"), and one about conflicted love for a fair young man (the "fair youth"). It remains unclear if these figures represent real individuals, or if the authorial "I" who addresses them represents Shakespeare himself, though
Wordsworth William Wordsworth (7 April 177023 April 1850) was an English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with their joint publication ''Lyrical Ballads'' (1798). Wordsworth's ''ma ...

Wordsworth
believed that with the sonnets "Shakespeare unlocked his heart". The 1609 edition was dedicated to a "Mr. W.H.", credited as "the only begetter" of the poems. It is not known whether this was written by Shakespeare himself or by the publisher,
Thomas Thorpe Thomas Thorpe (c. 1569c. 1625) was an English publisher, most famous for publishing Shakespeare's sonnets and several works by Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson. His publication of the sonnets has long been controversial. Nineteenth-century cr ...
, whose initials appear at the foot of the dedication page; nor is it known who Mr. W.H. was, despite numerous theories, or whether Shakespeare even authorised the publication. Critics praise the ''Sonnets'' as a profound meditation on the nature of love, sexual passion, procreation, death, and time.


Style

Shakespeare's first plays were written in the conventional style of the day. He wrote them in a stylised language that does not always spring naturally from the needs of the characters or the drama. The poetry depends on extended, sometimes elaborate metaphors and conceits, and the language is often rhetorical—written for actors to declaim rather than speak. The grand speeches in ''
Titus Andronicus ''Titus Andronicus'' is a tragedy by William Shakespeare believed to have been written between 1588 and 1593, probably in collaboration with George Peele. It is thought to be Shakespeare's first tragedy and is often seen as his attempt to emula ...
'', in the view of some critics, often hold up the action, for example; and the verse in ''
The Two Gentlemen of Verona ''The Two Gentlemen of Verona'' is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1589 and 1593. It is considered by some to be Shakespeare's first play, and is often seen as showing his first tentative steps in laying o ...
'' has been described as stilted. However, Shakespeare soon began to adapt the traditional styles to his own purposes. The opening
soliloquy A soliloquy (, from Latin ''solo'' "to oneself" + ''loquor'' "I talk", plural ''soliloquies'') is a monologue addressed to oneself, thoughts spoken out loud without addressing another. Soliloquies are used as a device in drama to let a character m ...
of ''
Richard III Richard III (2 October 145222 August 1485) was King of England and Lord of Ireland from 1483 until his death in 1485. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. His defeat and death at the Battle of Bosw ...
'' has its roots in the self-declaration of
Vice A vice is a practice, behaviour, or habit generally considered immoral, sinful, criminal, rude, taboo, depraved, degrading, deviant or perverted in the associated society. In more minor usage, vice can refer to a fault, a negative character trait ...
in medieval drama. At the same time, Richard's vivid self-awareness looks forward to the soliloquies of Shakespeare's mature plays. No single play marks a change from the traditional to the freer style. Shakespeare combined the two throughout his career, with ''
Romeo and Juliet ''Romeo and Juliet'' is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare early in his career about two young Italian star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately reconcile their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare's most popular plays during ...
'' perhaps the best example of the mixing of the styles. By the time of ''Romeo and Juliet'', ''
Richard II Richard II (6 January 1367 – c. 14 February 1400), also known as Richard of Bordeaux, was King of England from 1377 until he was deposed in 1399. Richard's father, Edward, Prince of Wales, died in 1376, leaving Richard as heir apparent to ...
'', and ''
A Midsummer Night's Dream ''A Midsummer Night's Dream'' is a comedy written by William Shakespeare 1595 or 1596. The play is set in Athens, and consists of several subplots that revolve around the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta. One subplot involves a conflict be ...
'' in the mid-1590s, Shakespeare had begun to write a more natural poetry. He increasingly tuned his metaphors and images to the needs of the drama itself. Shakespeare's standard poetic form was
blank verse Blank verse is poetry written with regular metrical but unrhymed lines, almost always in iambic pentameter. It has been described as "probably the most common and influential form that English poetry has taken since the 16th century", and Paul Fu ...
, composed in
iambic pentameter Iambic pentameter () is a type of metric line used in traditional English poetry and verse drama. The term describes the rhythm, or meter, established by the words in that line; rhythm is measured in small groups of syllables called "feet". "Iambic" ...
. In practice, this meant that his verse was usually unrhymed and consisted of ten syllables to a line, spoken with a stress on every second syllable. The blank verse of his early plays is quite different from that of his later ones. It is often beautiful, but its sentences tend to start, pause, and finish at the end of lines, with the risk of monotony. Once Shakespeare mastered traditional blank verse, he began to interrupt and vary its flow. This technique releases the new power and flexibility of the poetry in plays such as ''
Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman general and statesman who played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. In 60 BC, Caesar, Crassus and Po ...
'' and ''
Hamlet ''The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark'', often shortened to ''Hamlet'' (), is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare sometime between 1599 and 1601. It is Shakespeare's longest play, with 29,551 words. Set in Denmark, the play depicts ...

Hamlet
''. Shakespeare uses it, for example, to convey the turmoil in Hamlet's mind: After ''Hamlet'', Shakespeare varied his poetic style further, particularly in the more emotional passages of the late tragedies. The literary critic A. C. Bradley described this style as "more concentrated, rapid, varied, and, in construction, less regular, not seldom twisted or elliptical". In the last phase of his career, Shakespeare adopted many techniques to achieve these effects. These included run-on lines, irregular pauses and stops, and extreme variations in sentence structure and length. In ''
Macbeth ''Macbeth'' (; full title ''The Tragedy of Macbeth'') is a tragedy by William Shakespeare; it is thought to have been first performed in 1606. It dramatises the damaging physical and psychological effects of political ambition on those who se ...
'', for example, the language darts from one unrelated metaphor or simile to another: "was the hope drunk/ Wherein you dressed yourself?" (1.7.35–38); "... pity, like a naked new-born babe/ Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubim, hors'd/ Upon the sightless couriers of the air ..." (1.7.21–25). The listener is challenged to complete the sense. The late romances, with their shifts in time and surprising turns of plot, inspired a last poetic style in which long and short sentences are set against one another, clauses are piled up, subject and object are reversed, and words are omitted, creating an effect of spontaneity. Shakespeare combined poetic genius with a practical sense of the theatre. Like all playwrights of the time, he dramatised stories from sources such as
Plutarch Plutarch (; grc-gre, Πλούταρχος, ''Ploútarchos''; ; AD 46–after AD 119) was a Greek Middle Platonist philosopher, historian, biographer, essayist, and priest at the Temple of Apollo. He is known primarily for his ''Parallel Lives'', ...

Plutarch
and
Holinshed Raphael Holinshed (–before 24 April 1582) whose first name is spelled with a double "l" on various title pages, ie "Raphaell", was an English chronicler, who was most famous for his work on ''The Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande' ...
. He reshaped each plot to create several centres of interest and to show as many sides of a narrative to the audience as possible. This strength of design ensures that a Shakespeare play can survive translation, cutting and wide interpretation without loss to its core drama. As Shakespeare's mastery grew, he gave his characters clearer and more varied motivations and distinctive patterns of speech. He preserved aspects of his earlier style in the later plays, however. In
Shakespeare's late romances The late romances, often simply called the romances, are a grouping of William Shakespeare's last plays, comprising ''Pericles, Prince of Tyre''; ''Cymbeline''; ''The Winter's Tale''; and ''The Tempest''. ''The Two Noble Kinsmen'', of which Shakespe ...
, he deliberately returned to a more artificial style, which emphasised the illusion of theatre.


Influence

Shakespeare's work has made a lasting impression on later theatre and literature. In particular, he expanded the dramatic potential of
characterisation Characterization or characterisation is the representation of persons (or other beings or creatures) in narrative and dramatic works. The term character development is sometimes used as a synonym. This representation may include direct methods lik ...
, plot,
language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed of glyphs to inscribe the original sound or gesture and ...
, and genre. Until ''
Romeo and Juliet ''Romeo and Juliet'' is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare early in his career about two young Italian star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately reconcile their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare's most popular plays during ...
'', for example, romance had not been viewed as a worthy topic for tragedy.
Soliloquies The ''Soliloquies of Augustine'' is a two-book document written by the 4th-century Roman Catholic theologian Augustine of Hippo. The book has the form of an "inner dialogue" in which questions are posed, discussions take place and answers are pro ...
had been used mainly to convey information about characters or events, but Shakespeare used them to explore characters' minds. His work heavily influenced later poetry. The
Romantic poets Romantic poetry is the poetry of the Romantic era, an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe towards the end of the 18th century. It involved a reaction against prevailing Enlightenment ideas of the 18th c ...
attempted to revive Shakespearean verse drama, though with little success. Critic
George Steiner Francis George Steiner, FBA (April 23, 1929 – February 3, 2020) was a Franco-American literary critic, essayist, philosopher, novelist, and educator. He wrote extensively about the relationship between language, literature and society, and the i ...
described all English verse dramas from Coleridge to
Tennyson Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson (6 August 1809 – 6 October 1892) was a British poet. He was the Poet Laureate during much of Queen Victoria's reign and remains one of the most popular British poets. In 1829, Tennyson was awarded the Ch ...
as "feeble variations on Shakespearean themes." Shakespeare influenced novelists such as
Thomas Hardy Thomas Hardy (2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928) was an English novelist and poet. A Victorian realist in the tradition of George Eliot, he was influenced both in his novels and in his poetry by Romanticism, including the poetry of William Wordsw ...
,
William Faulkner William Cuthbert Faulkner (; September 25, 1897 – July 6, 1962) was an American writer and Nobel Prize laureate from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner wrote novels, short stories, screenplays, poetry, essays, and a play. He is primarily know ...
, and
Charles Dickens Charles John Huffam Dickens (; 7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian er ...
. The American novelist
Herman Melville Herman Melville (born Melvill; August 1, 1819 – September 28, 1891) was an American novelist, short story writer, and poet of the American Renaissance period. Among his best-known works are ''Moby-Dick'' (1851), ''Typee'' (1846), a romanti ...

Herman Melville
's soliloquies owe much to Shakespeare; his Captain Ahab in ''
Moby-Dick ''Moby-Dick; or, The Whale'' is an 1851 novel by American writer Herman Melville. The book is the sailor Ishmael's narrative of the obsessive quest of Ahab, captain of the whaling ship ''Pequod'', for revenge on Moby Dick, the giant white sperm ...
'' is a classic
tragic hero A tragic hero is the protagonist of a tragedy. In his ''Poetics'', Aristotle records the descriptions of the tragic hero to the playwright and strictly defines the place that the tragic hero must play and the kind of man he must be. Aristotle bas ...
, inspired by ''King Lear''. Scholars have identified 20,000 pieces of music linked to Shakespeare's works. These include three operas by
Giuseppe Verdi Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi (; 9 or 10 October 1813 – 27 January 1901) was an Italian opera composer. He was born near Busseto to a provincial family of moderate means, and developed a musical education with the help of a local pa ...
, ''
Macbeth ''Macbeth'' (; full title ''The Tragedy of Macbeth'') is a tragedy by William Shakespeare; it is thought to have been first performed in 1606. It dramatises the damaging physical and psychological effects of political ambition on those who se ...
'', ''
Otello ''Otello'' () is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito, based on Shakespeare's play ''Othello''. It was Verdi's penultimate opera, first performed at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, on 5 February 1887. The c ...
'' and ''
Falstaff Sir John Falstaff is a fictional character who appears in three plays by William Shakespeare and is eulogized in a fourth. His significance as a fully developed character is primarily formed in the plays ''Henry IV, Part 1'' and ''Part 2'', whe ...
'', whose critical standing compares with that of the source plays. Shakespeare has also inspired many painters, including the Romantics and the
Pre-Raphaelites The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (later known as the Pre-Raphaelites) was a group of English painters, poets, and art critics, founded in 1848 by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Michael Rossetti, James Co ...
. The Swiss Romantic artist
Henry Fuseli Henry Fuseli ( ; German: Johann Heinrich Füssli ; 7 February 1741 – 17 April 1825) was a Swiss painter, draughtsman and writer on art who spent much of his life in Britain. Many of his works, such as ''The Nightmare'', deal with supernatural ...
, a friend of
William Blake William Blake (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic A ...
, even translated ''Macbeth'' into German. The psychoanalyst
Sigmund Freud Sigmund Freud ( ; ; born Sigismund Schlomo Freud; 6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939) was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanaly ...
drew on Shakespearean psychology, in particular, that of Hamlet, for his theories of human nature. In Shakespeare's day, English grammar, spelling, and pronunciation were less standardised than they are now, and his use of language helped shape modern English.
Samuel Johnson Samuel Johnson (18 September 1709  – 13 December 1784), often referred to as Dr Johnson, was an English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, playwright, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, ...
quoted him more often than any other author in his ''
A Dictionary of the English Language Published on 15 April 1755 and written by Samuel Johnson, ''A Dictionary of the English Language'', sometimes published as ''Johnson's Dictionary'', is among the most influential dictionaries in the history of the English language. There was d ...
'', the first serious work of its type. Expressions such as "with bated breath" (''Merchant of Venice'') and "a foregone conclusion" (''Othello'') have found their way into everyday English speech. Shakespeare's influence extends far beyond his native England and the English language. His reception in Germany was particularly significant; as early as the 18th century Shakespeare was widely translated and popularised in Germany, and gradually became a "classic of the German Weimar era;"
Christoph Martin Wieland1805 portrait of Christoph Martin Wieland by Ferdinand Jagemann Christoph Martin Wieland (; 5 September 1733 – 20 January 1813) was a German poet and writer. He is best-remembered for having written the first ''Bildungsroman'' (''Geschichte des Ag ...
was the first to produce complete translations of Shakespeare's plays in any language. Actor and theatre director
Simon Callow Simon Phillip Hugh Callow (born 15 June 1949) is an English actor, director, and writer. Early years Callow was born in Streatham, London, the son of Yvonne Mary (née Guise), a secretary, and Neil Francis Callow, a businessman. His father wa ...
writes, "this master, this titan, this genius, so profoundly British and so effortlessly universal, each different culture – German, Italian, Russian – was obliged to respond to the Shakespearean example; for the most part, they embraced it, and him, with joyous abandon, as the possibilities of language and character in action that he celebrated liberated writers across the continent. Some of the most deeply affecting productions of Shakespeare have been non-English, and non-European. He is that unique writer: he has something for everyone."


Critical reputation

Shakespeare was not revered in his lifetime, but he received a large amount of praise. In 1598, the cleric and author
Francis Meres Francis Meres (1565/1566 – 29 January 1647) was an English churchman and author. His 1598 commonplace book includes the first critical account of poems and plays by Shakespeare. Career Francis Meres was born at Kirton Meres in the parish of Kir ...
singled him out from a group of English playwrights as "the most excellent" in both comedy and tragedy. The authors of the ''Parnassus'' plays at
St John's College, Cambridge St John's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge (the full, formal name of the college is the College of St John the Evangelist in the University of Cambridge) founded by the Tudor matriarch Lady Margaret Beaufort. In con ...
, numbered him with
Chaucer Geoffrey Chaucer (; – 25 October 1400) was an English poet and author. Widely considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages, he is best known for ''The Canterbury Tales''. He has been called the "father of English literature", o ...
,
Gower Gower ( cy, Gŵyr) or the Gower Peninsula () is in the southwest of Wales. The peninsula projects westwards into the Bristol Channel and is the most westerly part of the historic county of Glamorgan. In 1956, the majority of Gower became the first ...
, and Spenser. In the
First Folio#REDIRECT First Folio#REDIRECT First Folio {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{R from other capitalisation ...

First Folio,
Ben Jonson Benjamin Jonson (c. 11 June 1572 – c. 16 August 1637) was an English playwright and poet. Jonson's artistry exerted a lasting influence upon English poetry and stage comedy. He popularised the comedy of humours; he is best known for the satir ...
called Shakespeare the "Soul of the age, the applause, delight, the wonder of our stage", although he had remarked elsewhere that "Shakespeare wanted art" (lacked skill). Between the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 and the end of the 17th century, classical ideas were in vogue. As a result, critics of the time mostly rated Shakespeare below John Fletcher and Ben Jonson.
Thomas Rymer Thomas Rymer (c. 164314 December 1713) was an English poet, critic, antiquary and historian. His most lasting contribution was to compile and publish 16 volumes of the first edition of ''Foedera'', a work in 20 volumes containing agreements ...
, for example, condemned Shakespeare for mixing the comic with the tragic. Nevertheless, poet and critic
John Dryden John Dryden (; – ) was an English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who was appointed England's first Poet Laureate in 1668. He is seen as dominating the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period c ...

John Dryden
rated Shakespeare highly, saying of Jonson, "I admire him, but I love Shakespeare". For several decades, Rymer's view held sway; but during the 18th century, critics began to respond to Shakespeare on his own terms and acclaim what they termed his natural genius. A series of scholarly editions of his work, notably those of
Samuel Johnson Samuel Johnson (18 September 1709  – 13 December 1784), often referred to as Dr Johnson, was an English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, playwright, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, ...
in 1765 and
Edmond Malone Edmond Malone (4 October 174125 May 1812) was an Irish Shakespearean scholar and editor of the works of William Shakespeare. Assured of an income after the death of his father in 1774, Malone was able to give up his law practice for at first pol ...
in 1790, added to his growing reputation. By 1800, he was firmly enshrined as the national poet. In the 18th and 19th centuries, his reputation also spread abroad. Among those who championed him were the writers
Voltaire François-Marie Arouet (; 21 November 169430 May 1778), known by his ''nom de plume'' Voltaire (; also , ), was a French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher famous for his wit, his criticism of Christianity—especially the Roman Cat ...
,
Goethe Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German poet, playwright, novelist, scientist, statesman, theatre director, critic, and amateur artist. His works include: four novels; epic and lyric poetry; prose and verse dra ...
,
Stendhal Marie-Henri Beyle (; 23 January 1783 – 23 March 1842), better known by his pen name Stendhal (, ; ), was a 19th-century French writer. Best known for the novels ''Le Rouge et le Noir'' (''The Red and the Black'', 1830) and ''La Chartreuse de Pa ...

Stendhal
, and
Victor Hugo Victor-Marie Hugo (; 7 Ventôse year X 6 February 1802– 22 May 1885) was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. During a literary career that spanned more than sixty years, he wrote abundantly in an exceptional vari ...

Victor Hugo
. During the
Romantic era Romanticism (also known as the Romantic era) was an artistic, literary, musical, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe towards the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1 ...
, Shakespeare was praised by the poet and literary philosopher
Samuel Taylor Coleridge Samuel Taylor Coleridge (; 21 October 177225 July 1834) was an English poet, literary critic, philosopher and theologian who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets ...
, and the critic
August Wilhelm Schlegel August Wilhelm (after 1812: von) Schlegel (; ; 8 September 176712 May 1845), usually cited as August Schlegel, was a German poet, translator and critic, and with his brother Friedrich Schlegel the leading influence within Jena Romanticism. His tran ...
translated his plays in the spirit of
German Romanticism , (1774–1840)''Moonrise by the Sea,'' 1822, 55x71 cm German Romanticism was the dominant intellectual movement of German-speaking countries in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, influencing philosophy, aesthetics, literature and criticism. C ...
. In the 19th century, critical admiration for Shakespeare's genius often bordered on adulation. "This King Shakespeare," the essayist
Thomas Carlyle Thomas Carlyle (4 December 17955 February 1881) was a Scottish historian, satirical writer, essayist, translator, philosopher, mathematician, and teacher. In his book ''On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History'' (1841), he argued that ...
wrote in 1840, "does not he shine, in crowned sovereignty, over us all, as the noblest, gentlest, yet strongest of rallying signs; indestructible". The
Victorians In the history of the United Kingdom, the Victorian era was the period of Queen Victoria's reign, from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. The era followed the Georgian period and preceded the Edwardian period, and its later h ...
produced his plays as lavish spectacles on a grand scale. The playwright and critic
George Bernard Shaw George Bernard Shaw (; 26 July 1856 – 2 November 1950), known at his insistence simply as Bernard Shaw, was an Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist. His influence on Western theatre, culture and politics extended from ...

George Bernard Shaw
mocked the cult of Shakespeare worship as "
bardolatry Bardolatry is the worship, particularly when considered excessive, of William Shakespeare. Shakespeare has been known as "the Bard" since the eighteenth century. One who idolizes Shakespeare is known as a Bardolator. The term ''Bardolatry'', deriv ...
", claiming that the new naturalism of
Ibsen's
Ibsen's
plays had made Shakespeare obsolete. The modernist revolution in the arts during the early 20th century, far from discarding Shakespeare, eagerly enlisted his work in the service of the
avant-garde The avant-garde (; In 'advance guard' or 'vanguard', literally 'fore-guard') are people or works that are experimental, radical, or unorthodox with respect to art, culture, or society.John Picchione, The New Avant-garde in Italy: Theoretical De ...
. The Expressionists in Germany and the
Futurists Futurists are people whose specialty or interest is futurology or the attempt to systematically explore predictions and possibilities about the future and how they can emerge from the present, whether that of human society in particular or of life ...
in Moscow mounted productions of his plays. Marxist playwright and director
Bertolt Brecht Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht (10 February 1898 – 14 August 1956), known professionally as Bertolt Brecht, was a German theatre practitioner, playwright, and poet. Coming of age during the Weimar Republic, he had his first successes as a play ...
devised an
epic theatre Epic theatre (german: episches Theater) is a theatrical movement arising in the early to mid-20th century from the theories and practice of a number of theatre practitioners who responded to the political climate of the time through the creation o ...
under the influence of Shakespeare. The poet and critic T.S. Eliot argued against Shaw that Shakespeare's "primitiveness" in fact made him truly modern. Eliot, along with G. Wilson Knight and the school of
New CriticismNew Criticism was a formalist movement in literary theory that dominated American literary criticism in the middle decades of the 20th century. It emphasized close reading, particularly of poetry, to discover how a work of literature functioned as a ...
, led a movement towards a closer reading of Shakespeare's imagery. In the 1950s, a wave of new critical approaches replaced modernism and paved the way for "
post-modern Postmodernism is a broad movement that developed in the mid- to late 20th century across philosophy, the arts, architecture, and criticism, marking a departure from modernism. The term has been more generally applied to describe a historical er ...
" studies of Shakespeare. By the 1980s, Shakespeare studies were open to movements such as
structuralism In sociology, anthropology, archaeology, history and linguistics, structuralism is a general theory of culture and methodology that implies that elements of human culture must be understood by way of their relationship to a broader system. It work ...
, feminism,
New Historicism#REDIRECT New historicism {{R from move ...
,
African-American studies African-American studies (alternately named Afroamerican studies, or in US education, black studies) is an interdisciplinary academic field that is primarily devoted to the study of the history, culture, and politics of black people from the Unite ...
, and
queer studies Queer studies, sexual diversity studies, or LGBT studies is the study of issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity usually focusing on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender dysphoria, asexual, queer, questioning, intersex peo ...
. Comparing Shakespeare's accomplishments to those of leading figures in philosophy and theology,
Harold Bloom Harold Bloom (July 11, 1930 – October 14, 2019) was an American literary critic and the Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University. In 2017, Bloom was described as "probably the most famous literary critic in the English-speaking wor ...
wrote: "Shakespeare was larger than
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ''Plátōn'', in Classical Attic; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought and the Academy, the ...

Plato
and than
St. Augustine#REDIRECT ST {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
. He ''encloses'' us because we ''see'' with his fundamental perceptions."


Works


Classification of the plays

Shakespeare's works include the 36 plays printed in the
First Folio#REDIRECT First Folio#REDIRECT First Folio {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{R from other capitalisation ...

First Folio of 1623, listed according to their folio classification as
comedies Comedy (from the el, κωμῳδία, ''kōmōdía'') is a genre of fiction consisting of discourses or works intended to be humorous or amusing by inducing laughter, especially in theatre, film, stand-up comedy, television, radio, books, or any ...
,
histories Histories or, in Latin, Historiae may refer to: * the plural of history * ''Histories'' (Herodotus), by Herodotus * ''The Histories'', by Timaeus * ''The Histories'' (Polybius), by Polybius * ''Histories'' by Gaius Sallustius Crispus (Sallust), of ...
, and
tragedies Tragedy (from the grc-gre, τραγῳδία, ''tragōidia'', ''tragōidia'') is a form of drama based on human suffering and, mainly, the terrible or sorrowful events that befall a main character. Traditionally, the intention of tragedy is to ...
. Two plays not included in the First Folio, ''
The Two Noble Kinsmen ''The Two Noble Kinsmen'' is a Jacobean tragicomedy, first published in 1634 and attributed jointly to John Fletcher and William Shakespeare. Its plot derives from "The Knight's Tale" in Geoffrey Chaucer's ''The Canterbury Tales'', which had alr ...
'' and ''
Pericles, Prince of Tyre ''Pericles, Prince of Tyre'' is a Jacobean play written at least in part by William Shakespeare and included in modern editions of his collected works despite questions over its authorship, as it was not included in the First Folio. Whilst vari ...
'', are now accepted as part of the canon, with today's scholars agreeing that Shakespeare made major contributions to the writing of both. No Shakespearean poems were included in the First Folio. In the late 19th century,
Edward Dowden Edward Dowden (3 May 18434 April 1913) was an Irish critic and poet. Biography He was the son of John Wheeler Dowden, a merchant and landowner, and was born at Cork, three years after his brother John, who became Bishop of Edinburgh in 1886. Edwa ...
classified four of the late comedies as romances, and though many scholars prefer to call them '' tragicomedies'', Dowden's term is often used. In 1896, Frederick S. Boas coined the term " problem plays" to describe four plays: ''
All's Well That Ends Well ''All's Well That Ends Well'' is a play by William Shakespeare, published in the ''First Folio'' in 1623, where it is listed among the comedies. There is a debate regarding the dating of the composition of the play, with possible dates ranging ...
'', ''
Measure for Measure ''Measure for Measure'' is a play by William Shakespeare, probably written in 1603 or 1604 and recordedly first performed in 1604. It was published in the ''First Folio'' of 1623. Its protagonist, the Duke of Vienna, steps out from public lif ...
'', ''
Troilus and Cressida ''Troilus and Cressida'' () is a play by William Shakespeare, probably written in 1602. At Troy during the Trojan War Troilus and Cressida begin a love affair. Cressida is forced to leave Troy to join her father in the Greek camp. Meanwhile, ...

Troilus and Cressida
,'' and ''
Hamlet ''The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark'', often shortened to ''Hamlet'' (), is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare sometime between 1599 and 1601. It is Shakespeare's longest play, with 29,551 words. Set in Denmark, the play depicts ...

Hamlet
''. "Dramas as singular in theme and temper cannot be strictly called comedies or tragedies", he wrote. "We may, therefore, borrow a convenient phrase from the theatre of today and class them together as Shakespeare's problem plays." The term, much debated and sometimes applied to other plays, remains in use, though ''Hamlet'' is definitively classed as a tragedy.


Speculation about Shakespeare


Authorship

Around 230 years after Shakespeare's death, doubts began to be expressed about the authorship of the works attributed to him. Proposed alternative candidates include
Francis Bacon Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban, (; 22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626), also known as Lord Verulam, was an English philosopher and statesman who served as Attorney General and as Lord Chancellor of England. His works are seen as developing ...

Francis Bacon
,
Christopher Marlowe Christopher Marlowe, also known as Kit Marlowe (; baptised 26 February 156430 May 1593), was an English playwright, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. Modern scholars count Marlowe among the most famous of the Elizabethan playwrights; ...

Christopher Marlowe
, and
Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (; 12 April 155024 June 1604) was an English peer and courtier of the Elizabethan era. Oxford was heir to the second oldest earldom in the kingdom, a court favourite for a time, a sought-after patron of t ...
. Several "group theories" have also been proposed. Only a small minority of academics believe there is reason to question the traditional attribution, but interest in the subject, particularly the
Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship The Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship contends that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, wrote the plays and poems traditionally attributed to William Shakespeare. Though literary scholars reject all alternative authorship candidates, ...
, continues into the 21st century.


Religion

Shakespeare conformed to the official state religion, but his private views on religion have been the subject of debate.
Shakespeare's will William Shakespeare's last will and testament was signed on 25 March 1616, just under a month before his death. The document has been studied for details of his personal life, for his opinions, and for his attitudes towards his two daughters, Susa ...
uses a Protestant formula, and he was a confirmed member of the
Church of England#REDIRECT Church of England#REDIRECT Church of England {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{R from other capitalisation ...
, where he was married, his children were baptised, and where he is buried. Some scholars claim that members of Shakespeare's family were Catholics, at a time when practising Catholicism in England was against the law. Shakespeare's mother, Mary Arden, certainly came from a pious Catholic family. The strongest evidence might be a Catholic statement of faith signed by his father,
John Shakespeare John Shakespeare (c. 1531 – 7 September 1601) was an English businessman in Stratford-upon-Avon and the father of William Shakespeare. He was a glover and whittawer (leather worker) by trade. Shakespeare was elected to several municipal offi ...
, found in 1757 in the rafters of his former house in Henley Street. However, the document is now lost and scholars differ as to its authenticity. In 1591, the authorities reported that John Shakespeare had missed church "for fear of process for debt", a common Catholic excuse. In 1606, the name of William's daughter Susanna appears on a list of those who failed to attend Easter Eucharist, communion in Stratford. Other authors argue that there is a lack of evidence about Shakespeare's religious beliefs. Scholars find evidence both for and against Shakespeare's Catholicism, Protestantism, or lack of belief in his plays, but the truth may be impossible to prove.


Sexuality

Few details of Shakespeare's sexuality are known. At 18, he married 26-year-old
Anne Hathaway Anne Jacqueline Hathaway (born November 12, 1982) is an American actress. She is the recipient of many awards, including an Academy Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and a Golden Globe Award. She was one of the highest-paid actresses in the world ...
, who was pregnant. Susanna, the first of their three children, was born six months later on 26 May 1583. Over the centuries, some readers have posited that Shakespeare's sonnets are autobiographical, and point to them as evidence of his love for a young man. Others read the same passages as the expression of intense friendship rather than romantic love. The 26 so-called Dark Lady (Shakespeare), "Dark Lady" sonnets, addressed to a married woman, are taken as evidence of heterosexual liaisons.


Portraiture

No written contemporary description of Shakespeare's physical appearance survives, and no evidence suggests that he ever commissioned a portrait, so the Droeshout engraving, which
Ben Jonson Benjamin Jonson (c. 11 June 1572 – c. 16 August 1637) was an English playwright and poet. Jonson's artistry exerted a lasting influence upon English poetry and stage comedy. He popularised the comedy of humours; he is best known for the satir ...
approved of as a good likeness, and his Shakespeare's funerary monument, Stratford monument provide perhaps the best evidence of his appearance. From the 18th century, the desire for authentic Shakespeare portraits fuelled claims that various surviving pictures depicted Shakespeare. That demand also led to the production of several fake portraits, as well as misattributions, repaintings, and relabelling of portraits of other people.


See also

* Outline of William Shakespeare * English Renaissance theatre * Spelling of Shakespeare's name * ''World Shakespeare Bibliography'' * Shakespeare and Star Trek


Notes and references


Notes


References


Sources

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External links


Shakespeare Documented
an online exhibition documenting Shakespeare in his own time *
Winston Churchill & Shakespeare - UK Parliament Living Heritage

Internet Shakespeare Editions

Folger Digital Texts

Open Source Shakespeare
complete works, with search engine and concordance
First Four Folios
at Miami University Library, digital collection
The Shakespeare Quartos Archive

Shakespeare's sonnets, poems, and texts
at Poets.org
Shakespeare's Words
the online version of the best selling glossary and language companion


Shakespeare's Will
from The National Archives (United Kingdom), The National Archives *
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
* * * *
''Discovering Literature: Shakespeare''
at the British Library
Excavation finds early Shakespeare theatre

William Shakespeare
at the British Library
"Shakespeare and Literary Criticism"
BBC Radio 4 discussion with Harold Bloom and Jacqueline Rose (''In Our Time'', 4 March 1999).
"Shakespeare's Work"
BBC Radio 4 discussion with Frank Kermode, Michael Bagdanov and Germaine Greer (''In Our Time'', 11 May 2000).
"Shakespeare's Life"
BBC Radio 4 discussion with Katherine Duncan-Jones, John Sutherland and Grace Ioppolo (''In Our Time'', 15 March 2001). *
Records on Shakespeare's Theatre Legacy from the UK Parliamentary Collections
* {{DEFAULTSORT:Shakespeare, William William Shakespeare, 1564 births 1616 deaths 16th-century English male actors English male stage actors 16th-century English dramatists and playwrights 17th-century English dramatists and playwrights 16th-century English poets Burials in Warwickshire 17th-century English poets 17th-century English male writers English Renaissance dramatists English male writers People educated at King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon People from Stratford-upon-Avon People of the Elizabethan era Shakespeare family, William Sonneteers King's Men (playing company) 17th-century English male actors English male dramatists and playwrights English male poets