Shakespeare: His Life and Times Why study Shakespeare?

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Shakespeare: His Life and Times

Why study Shakespeare?

Chances are, you’ve quoted Shakespeare without even knowing it!

Have you ever said the following...

Even today, Shakespeare lives on.

We can relate to his tales of love, hatred, revenge, courage, trust and deception.

So much of our world today has been influenced by Shakespeare.

My Early Life- A Mystery?????

  • Born April 23 or 26 1564- died April 26, 1616
  • Stratford-upon-Avon
  • 3rd of 8 children
  • Parents: John and Mary Arden Shakespeare

Stratford-on-Avon in Shakespeare’s Time

Stratford-upon-Avon Today

Shakespeare’s Birthplace


Married Life

  • Married in 1582 to Anne Hathaway, who was pregnant at the time with their first daughter
  • Had twins in 1585
  • Sometime between 1585-1592, he moved to London and began working in theatre.
    • Poet
    • Playwright
    • Actor

Shakespeare’s Language

  • Shakespeare did NOT write in “Old English.”
  • Old English is the language of Beowulf:

  • Hwaet! We Gardena in geardagum

    Þeodcyninga Þrym gefrunon

    Hu ða æÞelingas ellen fremedon!

    (Hey! We have heard of the glory of the Spear-Danes in the old days, the kings of tribes, how noble princes showed great courage!)

Shakespeare’s Language

  • Shakespeare did not write in “Middle English.”
  • Middle English is the language of Chaucer, the Gawain-poet, and Malory:

  • We redeth oft and findeth y-write—

    And this clerkes wele it wite—

    Layes that ben in harping

    Ben y-founde of ferli thing… (Sir Orfeo)

Shakespeare’s Language

  • Shakespeare wrote in “Early Modern English.”
  • EME was not very different from “Modern English,”

Shakespeare’s Language

  • A mix of old and very new
  • Rural and urban words/images
  • Understandable by the lowest peasant and the highest noble

  • How many words did he use?


    How many words do we use today?


Love of the Language

In Shakespeare’s time, everyone loved the English language.

There were no grammar rules, punctuation keys, OR spelling!

The language was evolving and everyday new words were being made up.

Shakespeare’s language reflects this freedom and experimentation.

Why go to all the TROUBLE???

Using iambic pentameter kept things moving in the play (like a drum beat)

It made the words & play more interesting

It helped the actors remember their lines (like a song)

The first full collection of Shakespeare’s work was published in 1623, seven years after his death.

The first full collection of Shakespeare’s work was published in 1623, seven years after his death.

It was called “First Folio”

It contained 36 plays (compiled by John Heminge and Henry Condell--friends and fellow actors of Shakespeare’s)


The actors were all men; young boys (age 12-14) played the female parts

They were considered “shareholders” and owned stock or shares in the play texts, costumes, and props

Their pay depended on admission sales

Actors only had about 3 weeks to practice a new play

In one week, the troupes may perform 6 different plays (as many as 4,000 lines!)

"Good Friends, for Jesus' sake forbear,

To dig the bones enclosed here!

Blest be the man that spares these stones,

And curst be he that moves my bones."

Shakespeare’s Epitaph…
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