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William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was probably the most famous English language writer of all time, an Elizabethan playwright and poet, known for such works as The merchant of Venice, Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth, The Tempest...and of course the [Sonnets->artXXX].

Life of Shakespeare, or what is known of it

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 23rd 1564 (or so it is claimed), son of John Shakespeare, an alderman and Mary Arden, the daughter of a landowner. He went to King's New school, it is assumed, and at the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, by eight years his elder. From this union a daughter was born, followed by twins who died at a young age. He then disappeared and reappeared on the London theatrical scene. The first mention of Shakespeare on the London scene is when he was being attacked by Robert Green in 1592. He might therefore have started writing as early as in the 1580s. Shakespeare was both a playwright and an actor. Not only did he play in his own works but also in other contemporary plays, such as Ben Jonson's works. His success made him a wealthy man. The company of actors that he belonged to then, constructed a theatre on the south bank, which they named the Globe. In the later years of his life, he probably spent less time in London, and his writing activity slowed down. He died on April 23rd, 1616.

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The plays

It is very difficult to date Shakespeare's plays precisely. Part of the problem lies in the custom at the time for writers to collaborate or for writers to revise or modify the works of others. It is assumed the first plays were written in the 1590s. Amongst the early ones we would have: Richard III, The Comedy of Errors, The taming of the shrew, Two gentlemen of Verona. They are then followed by his most famous comedies: Much ado about nothing, The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer night's dream...Then Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, and in the early Seventeenth century, Troilus and Cressida, All's well that ends well... And then the most famous plays, the tragedies, Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, King Lear, before he reverts to comedy with The Tempest, widely considered to be his last play and Les Éditions de Londres's favourite Shakespeare work. In total, he is credited with having written 38 plays.

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Shakespeare's fame

Shakespeare did not have the same reputation when he was alive than now. Although famous, he was often rated below other Renaissance or Elizabethan playwrights such as Christopher Marlowe or Ben Jonson. His ways of mixing comic and tragic aspects in many of his comedies did not please everyone. He became enshrined as a national icon in the Nineteenth century, probably along with the end of Classicism and the rise of Romanticism. It is also the time when his fame started to spread abroad. Amongst his admirers, Goethe, but also in France such authors as Victor Hugo who wrote Cromwell, and Stendhal who famously wrote "Racine et Shakespeare".

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Shakespeare's identity

It is hard to end a simple Shakespeare biography without mentioning the constant doubts which exist with regards to his identity. When you are the Bard, the special one myths are made of, there is a likelihood you will attract the attention of all sorts of literary conspiracy theorists. So, you have those who pretend his works were in fact collective works, or others who claim his was a pseudonym for other famous writers of the time such as Francis Bacon or Christopher Marlowe. Frankly, how should we know?

© 2013- Les Éditions de Londres

Livres publiés

  • Sonnets

    par William Shakespeare

    ISBN : 978-1-909053-98-4
    Date de parution : 21 juin 2013
    Nombre de pages : 171 pages

    Shakespeare's “Sonnets”, published in 1609 by Thomas Thorpe, are the most famous non-theatrical work by William Shakespeare. The 154 sonnets deal with love and death, with contemplation of the human beauty and the passage of time. Some consider the “Sonnets” to be the most beautiful collection of love poetry (...)

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  • The Tempest

    par William Shakespeare

    ISBN : 978-1-909782-34-1
    Date de parution : 17 novembre 2013
    Nombre de pages : 146 pages

    “The Tempest” is a play written by William Shakespeare in 1610 or 1611. It is believed to be the last play of the Bard. It is Les Éditions de Londres's favourite Shakespeare play. Prospero, the Duke of Milan, is deposed of, and along with his daughter Miranda, they are drifting at sea until they find an (...)

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  • Much ado about nothing

    par William Shakespeare

    ISBN : 978-1-910628-90-4
    Date de parution : 5 septembre 2016
    Nombre de pages : 173 pages

    Much ado about nothing” is a comedy written by William Shakespeare around 1598 or 1599. It is one of Shakespeare's most famous comedies. “Much ado about nothing” is the story of the developing relationship between Benedick and Beatrice, their mutual hostility, witty rivalry, and their (...)

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