Essay on William Shakespeare | Biography

 

INTRODUCTION : Little is known definitely about Shakespeare, one of the greatest names in the dramatic literature of all times. So far as his biography is concerned, everything seems to have been shrouded in a mystery. There is hardly any clear fact given about his childhood, his school life and what occupation he did . In fact, people are more or less in an atmosphere of guess work about his life and activity. Nothing more than a probable account can be constructed about his life story out of some occasional flashes of history here and there. There is, however, no controversy about the uniqueness of his creative art – of his plays and poems.

ESSAY ON WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE :

LIFE : From the register of the little parish church at Stratford – on – Avon we learn that William Shakespeare was baptized there on the twenty sixth of April, 1564.As it was customary to baptize children on the third day after birth, the twenty third of April is generally accepted as the poet’s birthday. His father, John Shakespeare, was a farmer’s son from the neighbouring village of Snitterfield, who came to Stratford about 1551.

Much is not known about Shakespeare’s education, except that for a few years he probably attended the endowed grammar school at Stratford. Stratford is a charming little village in beautiful Warwickshire, and near it were the Forest of Arden, the old castles of Warwick and Kenilworth.

It is a matter of speculation that what occupation he followed for the next eight years of his life. According to William J. Long, it can be concluded from some strong evidence found in his plays, that he was a country school master and a lawyer’s clerk.

Secondly:

The character of Holofernes, in Love’s Labour’s Lost, supplies with sufficient proof for  one, and for the other Shakespeare’s knowledge of law terms is hold sufficient for warranty.

A sailor, because of his extraordinary facility in quips and compliments and courtly language; a clown, because no one else is so dull and foolish; even a king, since Henry and Richard are very true to life; a womanbecause he has sounded the depths of a woman’s feelings; and surely a Roman, because in Coriolanus and Julius Caesarhe has shown us the Roman spiritbetter than have the Roman writers themselves. Shakespeare was everything, in his imagination, and to form a clear opinion about his early occupation  from a study of his scenes and characters is impossible.

Shakespeare tied into the nuptial bond with Anne Hathaway in the year 1582. She was eight years older than Shakespeare, who was a mere boy then. But here again the evidence is entirety untrustworthy.

Shakespeare passed away probably  on the anniversary of his birth, April 23, 1616.

WORKS :  A careful reading of the plays and poems leaves us with an impression of four different periods of work, probably corresponding with the growth and experience of the poet’s life.

THE FIRST PERIOD (1588 – 1595) : A PERIOD OF EARLY EXPERIMENTATION.

During this period, Shakespeare with his youthful exuberance, tried his hand at every form of dramatic literature – history, comedy, or tragedy. To this period belong the Henry VI plays, written in collaboration with another playwright;Richard ll and Richard lll, both inspired by Marlowe;Titus Andronicus, “a rather rickety undergraduate effort”;  A Comedy of Errors, which can be termed  rather  as a farce comedy; Love’s Labour’s  Lost, which is a boisterous farce.

More wordy than thoughtful, and inspire of its strong lyrical beauty, altogether lacking the breadth of vision and profundity of thought of his later tragedies.

THE SECOND PERIOD (1595 – 1601) : A PERIOD OF RAPID GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT.

This is a period marked by the absence of tragedy, and is therefore often called the ‘Comic Period’. To this period belongs his greatest comedies and historical plays. The Taming of the Shrew, and The Merry Wives of Cast, are no doubt in the early farcical vein, bear the unmistakable impression of a maturer hand. To this period also belongsA Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is “one of the most charming exercises of imagination, ever visualized on the stage. On a higher plane of wit rests Much Ado About Nothing, while in As You Like It and Twelfth Night humour and romance blend in perfect proportion.

The Merchant of Venice, inspite of its puerile story, is a tragicomedy, that stands apart from Shakespeare’s other plays. Henry V however is a more showy one.

THE THIRD PERIOD (1601 – 1608) : A PERIOD OF GLOOM AND DEPRESSION.

This is preeminently the tragic period.  All the four great tragedies – Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth – besides the Roman play, Julius Caesar (also a tragedy), and the other lesser tragedy, Timon of Athens, belong to this period.

THE FOURTH PERIOD (1608 – 1612) : A PERIOD OF RESTORED SERENITY AND CALM.

Though the last period opens with tragedy in Antony and Cleopatra, which is followed by Coriolanus, another tragedy, they are not generally taken to be the representative productions of this period. Coriolanus is definitely inferior in quality , while Antony and Cleopatra, though quite mature in the point of characterization, is weaker in the dramatic power. Perhaps, these weaker pieces show that Shakespeare was recovering his benignity before his death. A new mood of optimism, of satisfaction in the fact and sight of young and tender love comes into.  Pericles and continues through Cymbeline, A Winter’s Tale and The Tempest. The only real historical play of this period, Henry Vlll, is, perhaps, Shakespearean only in parts.

SHAKESPEARE’S DRAMATIC GENIUS :

Shakespeare’s masterly drawn situations life – like characters and enchanting poetry capture all hearts, old and young. His plays have stood the test of time. More than three hundred years have passed since the death of their author. But they have still remained the dearest friends to men. As the wonderful creations of great art, they have retained their appeal to all ages and all people.

The universality of Shakespeare’s appeal remarkably comes out in his power of characterization. The secret of the human heart is nowhere studied with so much sincerity and accuracy. With a wonderful mastery, he has revealed the dark corridors of the human mind. He has given life to characters, that have stood the wreck of time and has become immortal.

The charm of his poetry is irresistible. And there is his blank verse. Perhaps, no one, except Milton, has ever been able to bend the bow of blank. Verse in a more effective and harmonising manner.

The literary genius of Shakespeare, still seems to be a great riddle. It is so vast, comprehensive and profound that nothing has yet been exactly scrutinized and analyzed about it. In fact, the secret, of his dramatic genius is still a mystery unsolved. Yet, this mysterious greatness of Shakespeare has stood as an imperishable beauty in the world of art. Indeed age can not wear out nor customs stale his infinite variety.

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