The Life of Shakespeare Matt sablan period 4

The life and job Shakespeare had impacted the way he wrote his plays, which resulted in his popularity and success.

Early Life

Shakespeare was one of many children born to his parents, in Stratford. It is known that his father, John, was a shopkeeper as well as the mayor and justice of peace. As for education, it is known that William went only to grammar school, learning about the Latin language. "We know that William was born the third of eight children around April 23, 1564, in Stratford, a market town about one hundred miles northwest of London. His father, John, was a shopkeeper and a man of some importance in Stratford, serving at various times as justice of the peace and high bailiff(mayor). William attended grammar school. where he studied Latin grammar, Latin literature, and rhetoric (the uses of language)" (Anderson 776). This shows us that, although William is one of the best writers in history, he only had a minimum formal education. In addition, William's father was somewhat high up in terms of social status, which means William was most likely not poor, or had access to better opportunities.

Although there is sparse information about William's childhood, it is assumed he went to grammar school, learning the basics of Latin literature. His work clues us into the fact that it required some background of Roman history, mythology and comedy. "While little is known of Shakespeare's boyhood, he probably attended the grammar school in Stratford, where he would have been educated in the classics, particularly Latin grammar and literature. Whatever the veracity of Ben Jonson's famous comment that Shakespeare had "small Latine, and less Greeke," much of his work clearly depends on a knowledge of Roman comedy, ancient history, and classical mythology" ("William Shakespeare"). Because of people's inferences about the education required to write what Shakespeare wrote, more details can be assumed. For instance, experts say it is impossible for him to have written such plays without background in Roman comedy.


Theaters closing in 1593 gave Shakespeare time to focus on things other than play writing. This gave way to Shakespeare's career in poetry, which ended up being successful, because Earl of Southampton had noticed his work during late 1593. "The turning point in Shakespeare's career came in 1593. The theatres had been closed since 1592 due to an outbreak of the plague and, although it is possible that Shakespeare toured the outlying areas of London with acting companies like Pembroke's Men or Lord Strange's Men, it seems more likely that he left the theatre entirely during this time to work on his non-dramatic poetry. The hard work paid off, for by the end of 1593, Shakespeare had caught the attention of the Earl of Southampton" (Mabillard). This means that although Shakespeare had an opportunity to continue his career as a playwright, he chose instead to drop that and become a poet. To elaborate, the theaters closing because of plague may have created the perfect opportunity for Shakespeare to leave the theatrical scene to focus his efforts on other types of literary works.

Shakespeare spent his whole working career in the company, Lord Chamberlain's Men, which was later called the King's Men. This company was a theatrical company, actually sponsored by the king at the time, King James. "By 1594, he was a charter member of the theatrical company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, which was later to become the King's Men. (As the names of these acting companies indicate, theatrical groups depended on the support of wealthy patron-the King's Men were supported by King James himself.) Shakespeare worked with this company for the rest of his writing life" (Anderson 777). This clues us into Shakespeare's duties as a playwright, which was to write scripts for plays for this theater company to perform. Also, since this was the King's Men, and sponsored by the King himself, it can be inferred that the company was reputable and was on the higher end of the scale in terms of content quality.

G. E. Bentley expresses that Shakespeare was deeply involved in his job writing plays as well as acting in them. On top of acting in his own plays, he was generous with the money he made from them, and was also invested in the Globe Theater. G. E. claims he was more engrossed in theater than any other dramatist in the Elizabethan era. "As G.E. Bentley points out in Shakespeare and the Theatre, Shakespeare had by this time become immersed in his roles as actor and writer. He was "more completely and more continuously involved in theatres and acting companies than any other Elizabethan dramatist. [Shakespeare is] "the only one known who not only wrote plays for his company, acted in the plays, and shared the profits, but who was also one of the housekeepers who owned the building" (Mabillard). Shakespeare was very much engaged in his work as a playwright and actor, and went beyond what most other playwrights were doing at the time. Because of this, many held him in high regard, and considered him to be the best playwright of the era.

Play Influences

Drama was influenced heavily by the sponsorship of wealthy individuals. Shakespeare tries to appeal to the wealthy individuals through his plays to please them, because they are the ones paying for it. "This system of patronage left its mark on the drama of the period. As Samuel Johnson commented in the mid-eighteenth century, “The drama’s laws the drama’s patrons give,/ And we who live to please must please to live.” Thomson offers examples of Shakespeare’s efforts to appeal to the powerful" (Rosenblum). The people who sponsored Shakespeare's plays definitely influenced the content of the plays. This means he most likely based his plots to involve the powerful, wealthy people, so his audience might relate.

Because of the lack of support from the aristocrats to the theater, making plays that appealed only to the wealthy slowed. For the plays to make it, they had to appeal to the poor and the rich alike, and had to be easy to see for all as well. This meant they were acted out wherever they were allowed, mostly in inn yards. "Neither the court nor the aristocracy was, however, rich or generous enough to maintain acting companies on its own. This seemingly uncongenial economic situation actually helped the drama by slowing the development of coterie drama meant only for the privileged few. Plays and players had to appeal to commoners as well as to the nobility if they were to survive, and performances had to be accessible to all. Inn yards often served as impromptu theaters..." (Rosenblum). This means that Shakespeare had to adjust his writing style to make sure he appealed to all audience types. If he had not done this, support for theater might not have continued.

Unlike today, plays during the Elizabethan Era did not use props or other visual effects to show the audience the setting of the play. There was no knowledge of the setting until the actors stated within a line in the script. Also, there was no curtain which allowed scenes to continue without pauses. "Unlike most modern dramas, Elizabethan plays did not depend on scenery to indicate the setting (place) of the action. Generally, the setting was unknown to the audience until the characters identified it with a few lines of dialogue. In addition, the main stage had no curtain. One scene could follow another quickly because there was no curtain to close and open and no scenery to change" (Lander). This means that Shakespeare's plays were most likely influenced by the fact that there were no props to indicate the setting to the audience. He had to include hints to the setting withing the script in order for the audience to know were the scene was taking place.

Influence and Impact

Most people repeat something related to Shakespeare often, weather it be a word, line, or idea that was written in one of his works. Many phrases have become part of our daily lives such as assassination, bump and even lonely. "Shakespeare's characters, language, and stories are a source of inspiration, quotation, and imitation. Many words and phrases that first appeared in his plays and poems have become part of our everyday speech. Examples include such common words as assassination, bump, eventful, go-between, gloomy, and lonely, as well as such familiar phrases as fair play, a forgone conclusion, and salad days" (Lander). Shakespeare has had an immense impact on our everyday speech, introducing words we now know as common, such as bump and lonely. His phrases and ideas live on in our everyday speech and influence.

Shakespeare's plays have been performed long after his death, even in countries that do not speak English, and are the most quoted works of any author. Critics have, and are still trying to find out what makes his plays so appealing to such a mass quantity of people. "Since his death Shakespeare's plays have been almost continually performed, in non-English-speaking nations as well as those where English is the native tongue; they are quoted more than the works of any other single author. The plays have been subject to ongoing examination and evaluation by critics attempting to explain their perennial appeal, which does not appear to derive from any set of profound or explicitly formulated ideas." ("William Shakespeare"). It can be inferred that Shakespeare's works have greatly influenced the world, so much that even countries that do not speak English have adopted his works into their society. This is so surprising to some that people are still trying to figure out why his novels are still popular today.

Created By
Matthew Sablan


Created with images by MikeBird - "shakespeare king lear ancient" • ell brown - "Anne Hathaway's Cottage" • jig o'dance - "The Globe Theatre, London" • JackPeasePhotography - "Breamore House, Hampshire" • ajleon - "Winedale Shakespeare Festival"

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