William Shakeseare

                             Shakespeare the man
Although the amount of factual knowledge available about  Shakespeare  is
surprisingly large for one of his station in life, many find it a  little
disappointing, for it is mostly gleaned from  documents  of  an  official
character. Dates of baptisms,  marriages,  deaths,  and  burials;  wills,
conveyances, legal processes, and payments by the  court--these  are  the
dusty  details.  There  are,  however,  a  fair  number  of  contemporary
allusions to him as a writer, and these add a reasonable amount of  flesh
and blood to the biographical skeleton.
                           Early life in Stratford
The  parish  register  of  Holy  Trinity   Church,   Stratford-upon-Avon,
Warwickshire, shows that he was baptized there on  April  26,  1564;  his
birthday is traditionally  celebrated  on  April  23.  His  father,  John
Shakespeare, was a burgess of the borough, who  in  1565  was  chosen  an
alderman and in 1568 bailiff (the position corresponding to mayor, before
the grant of a further charter to Stratford in 1664). He was  engaged  in
various kinds of trade and appears to have suffered some fluctuations  in
prosperity. His wife, Mary Arden, of Wilmcote, Warwickshire, came from an
ancient family and was the heiress to  some  land.  (Given  the  somewhat
rigid social distinctions of the 16th century, this  marriage  must  have
been a step up the social scale for John Shakespeare.)
Stratford enjoyed a grammar school of good  quality,  and  the  education
there was free, the schoolmaster's salary being paid by the  borough.  No
lists of the pupils who were at the  school  in  the  16th  century  have
survived, but it would be absurd to suppose the bailiff of the  town  did
not send his son there. The boy's education would consist mostly of Latin
studies--learning to read, write, and speak the language fairly well  and
studying  some  of  the  classical  historians,  moralists,  and   poets.
Shakespeare did not go on to the university, and indeed  it  is  unlikely
that the tedious  round  of  logic,  rhetoric,  and  other  studies  then
followed there would have interested him.
Instead, at the age of 18 he married. Where  and  exactly  when  are  not
known, but the episcopal registry at Worcester  preserves  a  bond  dated
November 28, 1582,  and  executed  by  two  yeomen  of  Stratford,  named
Sandells and Richardson, as a security to the bishop for the issue  of  a
license for the marriage of William Shakespeare  and  "Anne  Hathaway  of
Stratford," upon the consent of her friends and upon once asking  of  the
banns. (Anne died in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare. There  is  good
evidence to associate her with a family  of  Hathaways  who  inhabited  a
beautiful farmhouse, now much visited, two  miles  from  Stratford.)  The
next date of interest is found in the records of  the  Stratford  church,
where a  daughter,  named  Susanna,  born  to  William  Shakespeare,  was
baptized on May 26, 1583. On  February  2,  1585,  twins  were  baptized,
Hamnet and Judith. (The boy Hamnet, Shakespeare's only son, died 11 years

How Shakespeare spent the next eight years or so, until his  name  begins
to appear in London theatre records, is not known.  There  are  stories--
given currency long after his death--of stealing deer  and  getting  into
trouble with a  local  magnate,  Sir  Thomas  Lucy  of  Charlecote,  near
Stratford; of earning his living as a schoolmaster  in  the  country;  of
going to London and gaining entry to the world of theatre by minding  the
horses of theatregoers; it has also  been  conjectured  that  Shakespeare
spent some time as a member of a  great  household  and  that  he  was  a
soldier, perhaps in the Low Countries. In lieu of external evidence, such
extrapolations about Shakespeare's life have often  been  made  from  the
internal "evidence" of his writings. But this method  is  unsatisfactory:
one cannot conclude, for example, from his  allusions  to  the  law  that
Shakespeare was a lawyer; for  he  was  clearly  a  writer,  who  without
difficulty could get whatever knowledge he needed for the composition  of
his plays.
                            Career in the theatre
The first reference to Shakespeare in the literary world of London  comes
in 1592, when a fellow dramatist, Robert Greene, declared in  a  pamphlet
written on his deathbed:
There is an upstart crow, beautified with our  feathers,  that  with  his
Tygers heart wrapt in a Players hide supposes  he  is  as  well  able  to
bombast out a blank verse as the best of  you;  and,  being  an  absolute
Johannes Factotum, is in his  own  conceit  the  only  Shake-scene  in  a
It is difficult to be certain what these words mean; but it is clear that
they are insulting and that Shakespeare is the object  of  the  sarcasms.
When the book in which they appear (Greenes groats-worth of witte, bought
with a million of repentance, 1592) was published after Greene's death, a
mutual acquaintance wrote a preface offering an  apology  to  Shakespeare
and testifying to his worth. This preface also indicates that Shakespeare
was by then making important friends. For, although the puritanical  city
of London was generally hostile to the theatre, many of the nobility were
good patrons of the drama and friends of  actors.  Shakespeare  seems  to
have attracted the attention of the young Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd earl
of Southampton; and to this nobleman were dedicated his  first  published
poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece.
One striking piece of evidence that Shakespeare began  to  prosper  early
and tried to retrieve the family fortunes and establish its gentility  is
the fact that a coat of arms was granted to  John  Shakespeare  in  1596.
Rough drafts of this grant have been preserved in the  College  of  Arms,
London, though the final document, which must have  been  handed  to  the
Shakespeares, has not survived. It can scarcely be doubted  that  it  was
William who took the initiative and paid  the  fees.  The  coat  of  arms
appears on  Shakespeare's  monument  (constructed  before  1623)  in  the
Stratford  church.  Equally  interesting  as  evidence  of  Shakespeare's
worldly success was his purchase in 1597 of New Place, a large  house  in
Stratford, which as a boy he must have passed every  day  in  walking  to
It is not clear how his career in the theatre began; but from about  1594
onward he was an important member of the company of players known as  the
Lord Chamberlains Men (called the King's  Men  after  the  accession  of
James I in 1603). They had the best actor, Richard Burbage; they had  the
best theatre, the Globe; they had the best dramatist, Shakespeare. It  is
no wonder that the company  prospered.  Shakespeare  became  a  full-time
professional man of his own theatre, sharing in a cooperative  enterprise
and intimately concerned with the  financial  success  of  the  plays  he
Unfortunately, written records give little indication of the way in which
Shakespeare's professional life molded his marvellous artistry. All  that
can  be  deduced  is  that  for  20  years  Shakespeare  devoted  himself
assiduously to his art, writing more than a million words of poetic drama
of the highest quality.
                                Private life
Shakespeare had little contact with  officialdom,  apart  from  walking--
dressed in the royal livery  as  a  member  of  the  King's  Men--at  the
coronation of King James I in  1604.  He  continued  to  look  after  his
financial interests. He bought properties in London and in Stratford.  In
1605 he purchased a share (about one-fifth) of  the  Stratford  tithes--a
fact that explains why he was eventually buried in  the  chancel  of  its
parish church. For some time he lodged  with  a  French  Huguenot  family
called Mountjoy, who lived near St. Olave's Church, Cripplegate,  London.
The records of a lawsuit in May 1612, due to a Mountjoy  family  quarrel,
show Shakespeare as giving evidence in a genial  way  (though  unable  to
remember certain important facts that would have decided the case) and as
interesting himself generally in the family's affairs.
No letters written by Shakespeare have survived, but a private letter  to
him happened to get caught up with some official transactions of the town
of Stratford and so has been preserved in the borough  archives.  It  was
written by one Richard Quiney and addressed by him from the Bell  Inn  in
Carter Lane, London, whither he had gone from Stratford upon business. On
one side of the paper  is  inscribed:  "To  my  loving  good  friend  and
countryman,  Mr.  Wm.  Shakespeare,  deliver  these."  Apparently  Quiney
thought his fellow Stratfordian a person to whom he could apply  for  the
loan of 30--a large sum in Elizabethan money. Nothing  further  is  known
about the transaction, but, because so few opportunities of  seeing  into
Shakespeare's  private  life  present  themselves,  this  begging  letter
becomes a touching document. It is of some interest,  moreover,  that  18
years  later  Quiney's  son  Thomas  became  the   husband   of   Judith,
Shakespeare's second daughter.
Shakespeare's will (made on March  25,  1616)  is  a  long  and  detailed
document. It entailed his quite ample property on the male heirs  of  his
elder daughter, Susanna. (Both his daughters were then  married,  one  to
the aforementioned Thomas Quiney and the other to John Hall, a  respected
physician of Stratford.) As an afterthought, he bequeathed  his  "second-
best bed" to his wife; but no one can  be  certain  what  this  notorious
legacy means. The testator's signatures to the will are apparently  in  a
shaky hand. Perhaps Shakespeare was already ill. He  died  on  April  23,
1616. No name was inscribed on his  gravestone  in  the  chancel  of  the
parish church of Stratford-upon-Avon. Instead these lines,  possibly  his
own, appeared:
Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear

To dig the dust enclosed here.

Blest be the man that spares these stones,

And curst be he that moves my bones.
Shakespeare's family or friends, however, were not content with a  simple
gravestone, and, within a few  years,  a  monument  was  erected  on  the
chancel wall. It seems to have existed by 1623. Its epitaph,  written  in
Latin and inscribed immediately below the bust, attributes to Shakespeare
the worldly wisdom of Nestor, the genius of Socrates, and the poetic  art
of Virgil. This apparently was how his contemporaries in  Stratford-upon-
Avon wished their fellow citizen to be remembered.
Despite much scholarly argument, it is often impossible to date  a  given
play precisely. But there is a general consensus,  especially  for  plays
written 1585-1601, 1605-07, and 1609 onward. The following list of  first
performances is based on  external  and  internal  evidence,  on  general
stylistic and thematic considerations, and on  the  observation  that  an
output of no more than two plays a year seems to have been established in
those periods when dating is rather clearer than others.

1589-92 Henry VI, Part I; Henry VI, Part III; Henry VI, Part III
1592-93 Richard III, The Comedy of Errors
1593-94 Titus Andronicus, The Taming of the Shrew
1594-95 The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Loves Labours Lost, Romeo and
1595-96 Richard II, A Midsummer Nights Dream
1596-97 King John, The Merchant of Venice
1597-98 Henry IV, Part I; Henry IV, Part II
1598-99 Much Ado About Nothing
c. 1599 Henry V
1599-1600 Julius Caesar, As You Like It,
1600-01 Hamlet, The Merry Wives of Windsor
1601-02 Twelfth Night, Troilus and Cressida
1602-03 Alls Well That Ends Well
1604-05 Measure For Measure, Othello
1605-06 King Lear, Macbeth
1606-07 Antony and Cleopatra
1607-08 Coriolanus, Timon of Athens
1608-09 Pericles
1609-10 Cymbeline
1610-11 The Winters Tale
c. 1611 The Tempest
1612-13 Henry VIII, The Two Noble Kinsmen

Shakespeare's two narrative poems, Venus  and  Adonis  and  The  Rape  of
Lucrece, can be dated with certainty to the years when the Plague stopped
dramatic performances in London, in 1592 and 1593-94, respectively,  just
before  their  publication.  But  the  sonnets  offer  many  and  various
problems; they cannot have  been  written  all  at  one  time,  and  most
scholars set them within the  period  1593-1600.  "The  Phoenix  and  the
Turtle" can be dated 1600-01.
During Shakespeare's early career, dramatists invariably sold their plays
to an actor's company, who then took charge  of  them,  prepared  working
promptbooks, and did their best to prevent another company or a publisher
from getting copies; in this way they could exploit the plays  themselves
for as long as they drew an audience. But some plays did  get  published,
usually in small books called quartos. Occasionally plays were "pirated,"
the text being dictated by one or two disaffected actors from the company
that had performed  it  or  else  made  up  from  shorthand  notes  taken
surreptitiously during  performance  and  subsequently  corrected  during
other performances; parts 2 and 3 of the Henry VI  (1594  and  1595)  and
Hamlet (1603) quartos are examples of pirated, or "bad," texts. Sometimes
an author's "foul papers" (his first complete draft) or his "fair" copy--
or a transcript of either of these--got into  a  publisher's  hands,  and
"good quartos" were printed from them, such as those of Titus  Andronicus
(1594), Love's Labour's Lost (1598), and Richard  II  (1597).  After  the
publication of "bad" quartos of Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet  (1597),  the
Chamberlain's Men probably arranged for the release of the "foul  papers"
so that second--"good"--quartos  could  supersede  the  garbled  versions
already on the market. This company had powerful friends at court, and in
1600 a special order was entered in the Stationers'  Register  to  "stay"
the publication of As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, and  Henry  V,
possibly in order to assure that good texts were available.  Subsequently
Henry V (1600) was pirated, and Much Ado About Nothing was  printed  from
"foul papers"; As You Like It did  not  appear  in  print  until  it  was
included in Mr. William Shakespeares  Comedies,  Histories  &  Tragedies,
published in folio (the reference is to the size of page) by a  syndicate
in 1623 (later editions appearing in 1632 and 1663).
The only precedent for such a collected edition of public  theatre  plays
in a handsome folio volume was Ben  Jonson's  collected  plays  of  1616.
Shakespeare's folio included 36 plays, 22 of them appearing for the first
time in a good text. (For the Third Folio reissue of 1664,  Pericles  was
added from a quarto text of 1609, together with  six  apocryphal  plays.)
The First Folio texts were prepared by John  Heminge  and  Henry  Condell
(two of Shakespeare's  fellow  sharers  in  the  Chamberlain's,  now  the
King's, Men), who made every effort to present the volume worthily.  Only
about 230 copies of the First Folio are known to have survived.
The following list gives details of plays  first  published  individually
and indicates the authority for each substantive edition.  Q  stands  for
Quarto: Q2, Q3, Q4, etc., stand for reprints of  an  original  quarto.  F
stands for the First Folio edition of 1623.

Henry VI, Part 2 Q 1594: a reported text. F from revised fair copies,
edited with reference to Q.
Titus Andronicus Q 1594: from foul papers. F from a copy of Q, with
additions from a manuscript that had been used as a promptbook.
Henry VI, Part 3 Q 1595: a reported text. F as for Henry VI, Part 2.
Richard III Q 1597: a reconstructed text prepared for use as a
promptbook. F from reprints of Q, edited with reference to foul papers
and containing some 200 additional lines.
Love's Labour's Lost Q is lost. Q2 1598: from foul papers, and badly
printed. F from Q2.
Romeo and Juliet Q 1597: a reported text. Q2 from foul papers, with some
reference to Q. F from a reprint of Q2.
Richard II Q 1597: from foul papers and missing the abdication scene. Q4
1608, with reported version of missing scene. F from reprints of Q, but
the abdication scene from an authoritative manuscript, probably the
promptbook (of which traces appear elsewhere in F).
Henry IV, Part 1 Q 1598: from foul papers. F from Q5, with some literary
A Midsummer Night's Dream Q 1600: from the author's fair copy. F from Q2,
with some reference to a promptbook.
The Merchant of Venice Q 1600: from foul papers. F from Q, with some
reference to a promptbook.
Henry IV, Part 2 Q 1600: from foul papers. F from Q, with reference to a
Much Ado About Nothing Q 1600: from the author's fair papers. F from Q,
with reference to a promptbook.
Henry V Q 1600: a reported text. F from foul papers (possibly of a second
version of the play).
The Merry Wives of Windsor Q 1602: a reported (and abbreviated) text. F
from a transcript, by Ralph Crane (scrivener of the King's Men), of a
revised promptbook.
Hamlet Q 1603: a reported text, with reference to an earlier play. Q2
from foul papers, with reference to Q. F from Q2, with reference to a
promptbook, with theatrical and authorial additions.
King Lear Q 1608: from an inadequate transcript of foul papers, with use
made of a reported version. F from Q, collated with a promptbook of a
shortened version.
Troilus and Cressida Q 1609: from a fair copy, possibly the author's. F
from Q, with reference to foul papers, adding 45 lines and the Prologue.
Pericles Q 1609: a poor text, badly printed with both auditory and
graphic errors.
Othello Q 1622: from a transcript of foul papers. F from Q, with
corrections from another authorial version of the play.
The plays published for the first time in the First Folio of 1623 are:
All's Well That Ends Well From the author's fair papers, or a transcript
of them.
Antony and Cleopatra From an authorial fair copy.
Henry VI, Part 1
As You Like It From a promptbook, or a transcript of it.
The Comedy of Errors From foul papers.
Coriolanus From an authorial fair copy, edited for the printer.
Cymbeline From an authorial copy, or a transcript of such, imperfectly
prepared as a promptbook.
Henry VIII From a transcript of a fair copy, made by the author, prepared
for reading.
Julius Caesar From a transcript of a promptbook.
King John From an authorial fair copy.
Macbeth From a promptbook of a version prepared for court performance.
Measure for Measure From a transcript, by Ralph Crane, of very imperfect
foul papers.
The Taming of the Shrew From foul papers.
The Tempest From an edited transcript, by Ralph Crane, of the author's
Timon of Athens From foul papers, probably unfinished.
Twelfth Night From a promptbook, or a transcript of it.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona From a transcript, by Ralph Crane, of a
promptbook, probably of a shortened version.
The Winter's Tale From a transcript, by Ralph Crane, probably from the
author's fair copy.

The texts of Venus and Adonis (1593) and The Rape of Lucrece  (1594)  are
remarkably free from errors. Shakespeare presumably furnished a fair copy
of each for the printer. He also seems  to  have  read  the  proofs.  The
sonnets were published in 1609, but there is no evidence that Shakespeare
oversaw their publication.
                         POETIC AND DRAMATIC POWERS
                               The early poems
Shakespeare dedicated the poem Venus and  Adonis  to  his  patron,  Henry
Wriothesley, 3rd earl of Southampton, whom he further promised to  honour
with "some graver labour"--perhaps The Rape of Lucrece, which appeared  a
year later and was also dedicated to Southampton. As these two poems were
something on which Shakespeare was intending to base his reputation  with
the public and to establish himself with his patron, they  were  displays
of his virtuosity--diploma pieces. They were certainly the  most  popular
of his writings with the reading  public  and  impressed  them  with  his
poetic genius. Seven editions of Venus and Adonis had  appeared  by  1602
and 16 by 1640; Lucrece, a more serious poem, went through eight editions
by 1640; and there are numerous allusions to them in  the  literature  of
the time. But after that,  until  the  19th  century,  they  were  little
regarded. Even then the critics did not know what to make of them: on the
one hand, Venus and Adonis is licentiously erotic (though its  sensuality
is often rather comic); while Lucrece may seem to be tragic  enough,  the
treatment of the poem is yet somewhat cold and distant. In both cases the
poet seems to be displaying dexterity rather than  being  "sincere."  But
Shakespeare's detachment from his subjects has come to be admired in more
recent assessments.
Above all, the poems  give  evidence  for  the  growth  of  Shakespeare's
imagination.  Venus  and  Adonis  is  full  of  vivid  imagery   of   the
countryside; birds, beasts, the hunt,  the  sky,  and  the  weather,  the
overflowing Avon--these give freshness to the poem and contrast strangely
with the sensuous love scenes. Lucrece is more rhetorical  and  elaborate
than Venus and Adonis and  also  aims  higher.  Its  disquisitions  (upon
night, time, opportunity, and lust,  for  example)  anticipate  brilliant
speeches on general themes in the plays--on  mercy  in  The  Merchant  of
Venice, suicide in Hamlet, and "degree" in Troilus and Cressida.
There are a few other poems attributed to Shakespeare. When  the  Sonnets
were printed in 1609, a 329-line poem, "A Lovers complaint," was added at
the end of the volume, plainly ascribed by the publisher to  Shakespeare.
There has been a good deal of discussion about  the  authorship  of  this
poem. Only the evidence of style, however, could call into  question  the
publisher's ascription, and this is conflicting. Parts of  the  poem  and
some lines are brilliant, but other parts seem poor in a way that is  not
like  Shakespeare's  careless  writing.  Its   narrative   structure   is
remarkable, however, and the poem deserves more attention than it usually
receives. It is now generally  thought  to  be  from  Shakespeare's  pen,
possibly an early poem revised by him at  a  more  mature  stage  of  his
poetical style. Whether the poem in its extant form is later  or  earlier
than Venus and Adonis and Lucrece cannot be decided. No one  could  doubt
the authenticity of "The Phoenix and the Turtle,"  a  67-line  poem  that
appeared with other "poetical essays" (by John Marston,  George  Chapman,
and Ben Jonson) appended to Robert Chester's poem Loves Martyr  in  1601.
The poem is attractive and memorable, but very obscure, partly because of
its style and partly because it contains allusions to  real  persons  and
situations whose identity can now only be guessed at.
                                 The sonnets
In 1609 appeared SHAKESPEARES SONNETS. Never before  Imprinted.  At  this
date Shakespeare was already a successful author,  a  country  gentleman,
and an affluent member of the most  important  theatrical  enterprise  in
London. How long before 1609 the sonnets were  written  is  unknown.  The
phrase "never before imprinted" may imply that they had existed for  some
time but were now at last printed. Two of them (nos. 138 and 144) had  in
fact already appeared (in a slightly different form) in an anthology, The
Passionate  Pilgrime  (1599).  Shakespeare  had  certainly  written  some
sonnets by 1598, for in  that  year  Francis  Meres,  in  a  "survey"  of
literature, made reference to "his  sugared  sonnets  among  his  private
friends," but whether  these  "sugared  sonnets"  were  those  eventually
published in 1609 cannot be  ascertained--Shakespeare  may  have  written
other sets of sonnets, now lost. Nevertheless, the  sonnets  included  in
The Passionate Pilgrime are among his most striking and mature, so it  is
likely that most of the 154 sonnets that appeared in  the  1609  printing
belong to Shakespeare's early 30s rather than to  his  40s--to  the  time
when he was writing Richard II and Romeo and Juliet rather than  when  he
was writing King Lear and Antony and Cleopatra. But, of course,  some  of
them may belong to any year of Shakespeare's life as a poet before 1609.
                               The early plays
Although the record of Shakespeare's early theatrical success is obscure,
clearly the newcomer soon made himself felt. His brilliant two-part  play
on the Wars of the Roses, The Whole Contention  between  the  two  Famous
Houses, Lancaster and Yorke, was  among  his  earliest  achievements.  He
showed, in The Comedy of Errors, how hilariously comic  situations  could
be shot through with wonder and sentiment. In Titus Andronicus he  scored
a popular success with  tragedy  in  the  high  Roman  fashion.  The  Two
Gentlemen of Verona was a new kind of  romantic  comedy.  The  world  has
never ceased to enjoy The Taming of the Shrew. Loves Labours Lost is an
experiment in witty and  satirical  observation  of  society.  Romeo  and
Juliet combines and interconnects a  tragic  situation  with  comedy  and
gaiety. All this represents the  probable  achievement  of  Shakespeare's
first half-dozen years as a writer for the London stage, perhaps  by  the
time he had reached 30. It shows astonishing versatility and originality.

                                The histories
For his plays on subjects from  English  history,  Shakespeare  primarily
drew upon Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles, which appeared in 1587, and  on
Edward Hall's earlier account of The union of the two noble and  illustre
famelies of Lancastre and York (1548). From these and numerous  secondary
sources he inherited  traditional  themes:  the  divine  right  of  royal
succession, the need for unity and  order  in  the  realm,  the  evil  of
dissension and treason, the cruelty and hardship of  war,  the  power  of
money to corrupt, the  strength  of  family  ties,  the  need  for  human
understanding and careful calculation, and the power of God's providence,
which protected his followers, punished evil, and led England toward  the
stability of Tudor rule.
                               The Roman plays
After the last group of English history plays, Shakespeare chose to write
about  Julius  Caesar,  who   held   particular   fascination   for   the
Elizabethans. Then, for six or seven years Shakespeare did not return  to
a Roman theme, but, after completing Macbeth and King Lear, he again used
Thomas North's translation of Plutarch as a source  for  two  more  Roman
plays, Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus, both tragedies that  seem  as
much concerned to depict the broad  context  of  history  as  to  present
tragic heroes.
                     The "great," or "middle," comedies
The comedies written between 1596 and 1602 have much in common and are as
well considered together as individually. With the exception of The Merry
Wives of Windsor, all are set in some "imaginary" country. Whether called
Illyria, Messina, Venice and Belmont, Athens, or the Forest of Arden, the
sun shines as the dramatist wills.  A  lioness,  snakes,  magic  caskets,
fairy spells, identical twins, disguise of sex, the sudden conversion  of
a tyrannous duke or the defeat offstage of a treacherous brother can  all
change the course of the plot and bring the characters to a conclusion in
which almost all are happy and just deserts are found. Lovers  are  young
and witty and almost always rich. The action  concerns  wooing;  and  its
conclusion is marriage, beyond which the audience is scarcely  concerned.
Whether Shakespeare's source was an Italian novel (The Merchant of Venice
and Much Ado About Nothing), an English pastoral tale (As You  Like  It),
an Italian comedy (the Malvolio story in Twelfth Night), or something  of
his own invention (probably A  Midsummer  Nights  Dream,  and  parts  of
each), always in  his  hands  story  and  sentiments  are  instinct  with
idealism and capable of magic transformations.
In some ways these are intellectual plays. Each  comedy  has  a  multiple
plot and moves from one  set  of  characters  to  another,  between  whom
Shakespeare invites his audience to seek  connections  and  explanations.
Despite very different classes of  people  (or  immortals)  in  different
strands  of  the  narrative,  the  plays  are  unified  by  Shakespeare's
idealistic vision and by an implicit judgment of human relationships, and
all their  characters  are  brought  together--with  certain  significant
exceptions--at, or near, the end.
                             The great tragedies
It is a usual and reasonable  opinion  that  Shakespeare's  greatness  is
nowhere more visible than in the series  of  tragedies--Hamlet,  Othello,
King Lear and Macbeth. Julius Caesar, which was written before these, and
Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus, which were written after, have  many
links with the four. But, because of  their  rather  strict  relationship
with the historical materials, they are best dealt with  in  a  group  by
themselves. Timon of Athens, probably written after the above-named seven
plays, shows signs of having been unfinished or abandoned by Shakespeare.
It has its own  splendours  but  has  rarely  been  considered  equal  in
achievement to the other tragedies of Shakespeare's maturity.
                             The "dark" comedies
Before the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603  the  country  was  ill  at
ease: the House of Commons became more  outspoken  about  monopolies  and
royal prerogative, and uncertainty about the  succession  to  the  throne
made the future of the realm unsettled. In 1603 the Plague  again  struck
London, closing the theatres. In 1601 Shakespeare's patron, the  Earl  of
Southampton, was arrested on charges  of  treason;  he  was  subsequently
released, but such scares did not betoken confidence in  the  new  reign.
About Shakespeare's private reaction to these events there  can  be  only
speculation, but three of  the  five  plays  usually  assigned  to  these
yearsTroilus and Cressida,, Alls  Well  That  Ends  Well,  Measure  for
Measure, --have become known as "dark"  comedies  for  their  distempered
vision of the world. Only during the 20th century have these  plays  been
frequently performed in anything like Shakespeare's texts, an  indication
that their questioning, satiric, intense, and shifting comedy  could  not
please earlier audiences.
                               The late plays
Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winters  Tale,  The  Tempest  and  Henry  VIII,
written between 1608 and 1612, are commonly known as Shakespeare's  "late
plays," or his "last plays,"  and  sometimes,  with  reference  to  their
tragicomic form, they are called his  "romances."  Works  written  by  an
author in his 40s hardly deserve  to  be  classified  as  "late"  in  any
critical sense, yet these plays are often discussed as if they  had  been
written by a venerable old author, tottering on the edge of a well-earned
grave. On the contrary, Shakespeare must have  believed  that  plenty  of
writing years lay before him, and indeed the theatrical effectiveness and
experimental nature of Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, and The  Tempest  in
particular make them very unlike the fatigued work of a writer  about  to
break his staff and drown his book.
                    The contribution of textual criticism
The early editors of  Shakespeare  saw  their  task  chiefly  as  one  of
correction and regularization of the faulty printing and imperfect  texts
of the original editions or their reprints. Many changes in the  text  of
the quartos and folios that are now accepted derive  from  Nicholas  Rowe
(1709) and Alexander Pope (1723-25), but these  editors  also  introduced
many thousands of small changes that have since been rejected.  Later  in
the 18th century, editors compiled collations of alternative and rejected
readings. Samuel Johnson (1765),  Edward  Capell  (1767-68),  and  Edmund
Malone  (1790)  were  notable  pioneers.  Their  work  reached  its  most
comprehensive form in the Cambridge  edition  in  nine  volumes  by  W.G.
Clark, J. Glover, and W.A. Wright, published in 1863-66.  A  famous  one-
volume Globe edition of 1864 was based on this Cambridge text.
                              Romeo and Juliet
play by William Shakespeare, performed about 1594-95 and first  published
in a "bad" quarto in 1597. The characters of Romeo and Juliet  have  been
depicted in literature, music, dance, and  theatre.  The  appeal  of  the
young hero and  heroine--whose  families,  the  Montagues  and  Capulets,
respectively, are implacable enemies--is such that they have  become,  in
the popular imagination, the representative type of star-crossed lovers.
Shakespeare's principal source for the plot was The Tragicall Historye of
Romeus and Juliet (1562), a long  narrative  poem  by  the  English  poet
Arthur Broke (d. 1563). Broke had based his poem on a French  translation
of a tale by the Italian Matteo Bandello (1485-1561).
Shakespeare set the scene in Verona, Italy, during July. Juliet and Romeo
meet and fall instantly in love at a masked  ball  of  the  Capulets  and
profess their love when Romeo later visits her at her private balcony  in
her family's home. Because the two noble families are enemies, the couple
is married secretly by Friar Laurence.  When  Tybald,  a  Capulet,  kills
Romeo's friend Mercutio in a quarrel, Romeo kills Tybalt and is  banished
to Mantua. Juliet's father insists  on  her  marrying  Count  Paris,  and
Juliet goes to consult the friar. He gives her a potion  that  will  make
her appear to be dead and proposes that she take it and that Romeo rescue
her; she complies. Unaware of the friar's scheme, Romeo returns to Verona
on hearing of Juliet's apparent death. He encounters  Paris,  kills  him,
and finds Juliet in the burial vault. There he gives her a last kiss  and
kills himself with poison. Juliet awakens, sees the dead Romeo, and kills
herself. The families learn what has happened and end their feud.
The most complex of Shakespeare's early plays, Romeo and  Juliet  is  far
more than "a play of young love" or "the world's  typical  love-tragedy."
Weaving together a large number of related impressions and judgments,  it
is as much about hate as love. It tells of a family and its home as  well
as a feud and a tragic marriage.  The  public  life  of  Verona  and  the
private lives of the Veronese make up the setting for the love of  Juliet
and Romeo and provide the background against  which  their  love  can  be
assessed. It is not the deaths of the lovers that conclude the  play  but
the public revelation of what has happened, with the admonitions  of  the
Prince and the reconciliation of the two families.
Shakespeare enriched an already old story by  surrounding  the  guileless
mutual passion of Romeo and Juliet with the mature bawdry  of  the  other
characters--the Capulet servants Sampson and Gregory open the  play  with
their fantasies of exploits with the Montague women; the tongues  of  the
Nurse and Mercutio are seldom free from sexual matters--but the innocence
of the lovers is unimpaired.
Romeo and Juliet made a strong impression on contemporary  audiences.  It
was also one of Shakespeare's first plays to be pirated; a very bad  text
appeared in 1597. Detestable though it is, this version does derive  from
a performance of the play, and a good deal of what was seen on stage  was
recorded. Two years later another version of the play appeared, issued by
a different, more respectable publisher, and this is essentially the play
known today, for the printer was working from a manuscript  fairly  close
to Shakespeare's own. Yet  in  neither  edition  did  Shakespeare's  name
appear on the title page, and it was only with the publication of  Love's
Labour's Lost in 1598 that publishers had come to feel that the  name  of
Shakespeare as a dramatist, as well as the public esteem of  the  company
of actors to which he belonged, could make  an  impression  on  potential
purchasers of playbooks.

WALTER EBISCH and LEVIN L. SCHCKING, A Shakespeare  Bibliography  (1931,
reprinted 1968), and a supplement for the years 1930-35  (1937,  reissued
1968), are comprehensive. They  are  updated  by  GORDON  ROSS  SMITH,  A
Classified  Shakespeare  Bibliography,   1936-1958   (1963).   JAMES   G.
McMANAWAY, A Selective Bibliography  of  Shakespeare:  Editions,  Textual
Studies, Commentary  (1975),  covers  more  than  4,500  items  published
between 1930  and  1970,  mainly  in  English.  LARRY  S.  CHAMPION,  The
Essential Shakespeare: An Annotated Bibliography of Major Modern Studies,
2nd ed. (1993), includes works in English  published  from  1900  through
1984.  STANLEY  WELLS  (ed.),  Shakespeare,  new  ed.  (1990),   provides
bibliographies on topics ranging  from  the  poet  to  the  text  to  the
performances.  Shakespeare  Quarterly  publishes  an  annual   classified
bibliography. Shakespeare Survey (quarterly) publishes annual accounts of
"Contributions to Shakespearian Study," as well as retrospective articles
on work done on particular aspects. A selection  of  important  scholarly
essays published during the previous year is collected  in  Shakespearean
Criticism (annual).


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