Thesis: Shakespeare’s works, theaters, and overall career have left a lasting impact on our modern world, specifically in the areas of theater and literature.
Quote #1: "Shakespeare attended the local grammar school, King's New School, where the curriculum would have stressed a classical education of Greek mythology, Roman comedy, ancient history, rhetoric, grammar, Latin, and possibly Greek" ("Shakespeare").
Commentary: Shakespeare was born into a very prosperous family. With his father being a government official, and his mother an heiress to plenty of land, he had opportunities to enrich his education, and set him on a path to a lifetime of literature. Unlike most children his age, Shakespeare had always had a relatively easy life, and an opportunity at an education. As a child, he attended a Latin grammar school. The school taught him about Latin language, grammar, rhetoric, and literature. Although some scholars doubt the authenticity of Shakespeare's work, his prestigious education would prove his artistry.
Quote #2: "He left the bulk of his possessions to his eldest daughter, Susanna... little seems to have gone to his wife, Anne, whom he bequeathed his "second-best bed" ("Susanna").
Commentary: Although Shakespeare had a relatively undemanding time starting in theater, his life at home may not have been just as easy. Many sources depict Shakespeare's marriage as forced, or dispassionate. Since Anne was already pregnant with their first child before they were married, it was sort of a given, in the sense they would have to now be married. Another root of the couple's distance could be the idea he never lived at home. In order to keep up with the constant hustle and bustle of his theater, Shakespeare resided in London, and only came home once a year, during the forty-day Lent, when theaters were closed.
The “Lost Years”
Quote #3: "It is generally believed he arrived in London in the mid- to late 1580s and may have found work as a horse attendant at some of London's finer theaters, a scenario updated centuries later by the countless aspiring actors and playwrights in Hollywood and Broadway" ("London").
Commentary: The "lost years" was a seven year period in which there was no trace of any works or documents regarding Shakespeare. In my interpretation, it seems as though Shakespeare's lost years were really a way to help him get started on his real career as a writer. The theater business could have declined, so it is said he took a number of odd jobs to support his family. Many, many aspiring actors, playwrights, and artists find inspiration in the number of strange jobs Shakespeare performed, and his dedication to each one of them. They draw his experience upon their own, providing them with determination.
Quote #4: "...written in the conventional style of the day, with elaborate metaphors and rhetorical phrases that didn't always align naturally with the story's plot or characters" ("conventional").
Commentary: Shakespeare combined the typical writing styles of the 16th and 17th centuries, with his own composition style. He combined Old King James English with his own collection of newly invented words, to provide a fresher, freer feel to his writings. He utilized his ability to easily assimilate and incorporate old standards with new, in order to create kaleidoscopic poetry, plays, and sonnets.
Quote #5: “Richard II, Henry VI (parts 1, 2 and 3) and Henry V dramatize the destructive results of weak or corrupt rulers... the romantic Merchant of Venice, the wit and wordplay of Much Ado About Nothing, the charming As You Like It and Twelfth Night" (“Richard II”).
Commentary: Shakespeare was a very versatile, broad writer. He had the ability to form brilliant prose from the topics of betrayal, morality, and hate, all the way to friendship, true love, and kindness. He also had the ability to compose beautiful sonnets and narratives along with his plays, which is a skill not many writers contain. Most of our modern and past writer's focus primarily on one preeminent topic or style. Shakespeare had the ability to use his past, present, and future experience and translate them into poems and plays, sonnets and stories.
Quote #6: "Early in his career, Shakespeare was able to attract the attention of Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton" ("Shakespeare").
Commentary: Throughout his writing career, Shakespeare was a very prominent figure in England's theater and literature. He had a quite easy start to his career, because of his astoundingly beautiful work. Back in Shakespeare's time, any form of theater or creativity was frowned upon, and seen as pagan. The fact someone as high in power would recognize and support Shakespeare's work, is a great feat. The support of such high officials also provided more attention to his career. Shakespeare then joined the Lord Chamberlain's Men, a group of prestigious writers, composers, and actors, funded by King James I himself. Eventually Shakespeare was able to open the Globe Theater, which still stands today. It is said he provided plays for all theaters almost on demand. All in all, through his support and talent, Shakespeare managed to write around 37 plays, and 154 poems.
Quote #7: "...had attended a 'merry meeting', and it seems he drank too hard, for Shakespeare died of a fever, there contracted" (PBS).
(Quoted in account of John Ward (vicar-- Holy Trinity Church). Verified by Michael Drayton & Ben Johnson)
Commentary: Like every great leader, their reign must come to an end. For Shakespeare, his ended on good terms, yet a little too soon. He died April 23, 1616, supposedly on fifty-second birthday, which is quite young for a moneyed man like him. Everyone has a different theory as to how he died, but the most verified is the idea he died after catching typhoid from contaminated water at a tavern. No one knows if Shakespeare had already contracted the disease, or if the excess drinking only made it more prevalent. One of the most verified sources is accounted from one of his daughters. In the church's account of his death, we can see the term 'merry meeting' is quoted. Many supporting scholars believe Shakespeare's daughter verified the true nature of her father's death, by stating he was at a 'merry meeting'. True or false, Shakespeare left a lasting legacy, and he has not, nor ever will be forgotten.
Impact on Theater
Quote #8: "Theater… had been uniquely reserved for the wealthy and the educated. With the emergence of Shakespeare’s writing came tales that appealed to the masses. His plays were often imbued with universal truths of human existence, rather than acting as mirrors of the privileged life" (Carina).
Commentary: It seems as though Shakespeare took a more humanist approach to his work. He specifically catered it to people of all classes, and made it a point to preach real issues through his writing. Shakespeare used his talent for the better of the people by discussing the topics left out of the world he was living in. He brought awareness to the poverty of some classes, and helped to maintain the theatre as a place for everyone.
Quote #9: "plays were part of the cultural life of the American Colonies and provided entertainment in the mining camps of the Old West. Today, there are theaters in many nations dedicated to staging Shakespeare’s works" (Lander).
Commentary: Shakespeare's works have so greatly influenced our modern medias, it seems as though the entirety of our culture has been based upon them. As America was first forming, we used the entertainment of Shakespeare's plays to relieve stress and tension upon our people. Not only have Shakespeare's works influenced old American culture, but they continue to impact our new-age culture as well. According to Lander, "his widespread presence in popular culture extends to motion pictures, television, and cartoons." Plays such as "Romeo and Juliet", "Much Ado About Nothing", and "Titus" have been made into movies, all ranging from the 1960s, up until our time. All in all, compared to Shakespeare, prolific writers and poets such as Hemingway, Poe, and Frost are incomparable.
Interesting Facts & Theories
“The Shakespeare Theory”
Quote #10: "Skeptics also questioned how anyone of such modest education could write with the intellectual perceptiveness and poetic power that is displayed in Shakespeare's works" ("Skeptics").
Commentary: A number of scholars don’t recognize Shakespeare as an individual, but as a group of better known authors working under an alias. Some question the actuality of what is thought to be his work, considering he had only a elementary education. Although, Shakespeare's education could have been enough. He went to a Latin grammar school, where he learned the rules of the language, and its rhetoric. Scholars also doubt Shakespeare's existence because of the lack of personal documents left for us. This gives us very little insight into his personal life. Yet, we can find so much about him in his works, if we just look close enough. His sonnets and plays. His narratives and poems. They all describe what he was feeling. What his people were feeling. What we all are now feeling. Real or not, this ever mystifying man called Shakespeare has left a lasting impression, and set a very high standard, for our modern and literary world.
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Lander, Jesse M. "Shakespeare, William." World Book Advanced. World Book, 2016. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
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PBS Broadcasting Services. "How Did Shakespeare Die?" PBS SoCal, PBS
Broadcasting Services, 4 Apr. 2016, www.pbs.org/video/2365713458/. Accessed 8 Dec. 2016.
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