Who was William Shakespeare
Who hasnÕt heard about the man who wrote Hamlet? Who doesnÕt know the plot of Romeo and Juliet?
Everyone knows William Shakespeare, the greatest play writer of all time. Historians have been interested in him for almost 400 years, and many have tried to reconstruct his life. However, it is surprising how little we know about him: we have no idea if he ever left England, what he liked, the relationship with his family, his religious beliefs, his sexuality or even how could he become in so short a time- the favourite play writer of the court. WhatÕs more: we are not even sure how to write his surname. Even though we have six William Shakespeare, and in his wedding register, it appears as Shakespeare. It seems that neither him or his contemporaries knew how to write his name. One that he never used was the one we all know, Shakespeare.
As a matter of fact, there are so many unknown things about him, that he is said to be, at the same time, the most known and least known person in history. What we do know is thanks to his baptism, wedding and death certificates, as well as texts that other authors wrote about him. Therefore, we know that he was baptized on the 26th April 1564 under the Julian calendar (today that would be the 5th May) in Stratford Upon Avon, England, under the reign of Elisabeth I. He was the son of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden and was the third of 4 brothers and 4 sisters (although only one survived to adulthood). We suppose that he studied in the local school until he was 15 and then we lose track of his life until 1582, when he married Anne Hathaway (or Agnus, as appears in her fatherÕs will) who was 8 years older than him and with whom he had three children: Sussanne, and the twins Hamnet and Judith. However, the fact that shortly after they were born, William left Stratford and then went to London, as well as that in his will he only left Anne their second best bed make many people think that they didnÕt have a very close relationship. On the other hand, he sent to his family most of the money he earned and he went to his birthplace quite often. To sum up, no one has any idea about what type of relationship they had.
Between his departure from Stratford and his arrival to London, there passed 8 years that historians call Shakespeare lost years, because they donÕt have the faintest idea what he did during that period of time. Some think that he went to Italy which would explain why many of his plays are set there- others that suffered from religious persecution and others claim that he, in fact, never left Stratford. Once more, we know nothing for sure, except than is between 185-1590 when he arrived to EnglandÕs capital. Even so, the first reference to him we have is thanks to a book written by a poet called Robert Green who, in fact, mocks about the Bard of Avon. The fact that a relatively important poet mocks about a newcomer, makes us thinks that maybe, by that time, he had had already some success.
Shakespeare was one of the few play writers who wrote and also performed what he wrote. He always worked with the same company. “The Lord ChamberlainÕs men, which afterwards became patronized by the king Jacob I, and the name changed to “The KingÕs men. Since his arrival to London until his return to Stratford in 1611, he wrote all the plays which have made his so famous: dramas, comedies, historic plays as well as poems. It is worth mentioning that that is everything we know about his life in London: that we wrote, performed and that he was one of the shareholders of his companyÕs theatre: “The Globe. We donÕt know for sure the order in which he wrote the plays. It is known, however, that some of his plays, such as King Lear or Othello, were based on other stories that had already been written. Sometimes, he even copied whole paragraphs. Obviously, at that time, that was not considered plagiarism.
5 years after he had returned to his home place, on the 23rd April 1616, William Shakespeare died at the age of 52. Sadly, we donÕt have nowadays any direct descendant, since his son Hamnet died when he was 11, Susanne didnÕt have any children and, even though Judith did have a daughter, she died without issue.
Many of the plays and books written by other authors of his time were lost, and this could have been ShakespeareÕs plays fate were it not for the work of two of his friends, who compiled and published most of his plays in 1623. It is believed that his original manuscripts were lost during the London Fire and if that is not the case, their whereabouts are unknown. Anyway, we donÕt have any of his original work. Furthermore, we know that he wrote a play called History of Cardenio based on Cervantes Quixote- and a continuation of a play he wrote but that have never been found.
Without a hint of doubt, Shakespeare meant a complete change to literature. In the English language many of the expressions that are nowadays commonly said come from his work, such as all that glitters is not gold. WhatÕs more, he invented more than 309 words by adding suffixed or joining words, some of which are also used today assassination- while others like “undeaf didnÕt become so popular. He was and still is one of the most important people in history: he changed the course of literature, he has been the inspiration to many other writers and his plays are extremely famous and are constantly being represented around the globe.
By Laura Pulido Suarez (17)
(Student at CET Services)