Shakespeare's Age and Works
by José Goris, M.A.
England's Golden Age
1558: Accession of Queen Elizabeth.
1576: First theatre opened in London.
1580: Drake sails around the world.
1587: Execution of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots.
1588: Defeat of Spanish Armada.
1599: The Globe Theatre - Shakespeare's.
1603: James I, son of Mary Stuart, becomes king of England; English and Scottish crowns united.
This period was marked by:
- A spirit of adventure: voyages of discovery; empire-builders like Drake and Raleigh.
- A spirit of nationalism: rise of England as a sea power, defeat of the Spanish Armada.
1603: James I becomes king.
1620: The first New England Colony founded by the Pilgrim Fathers, sailors of the 'Mayflower'.
1625: Accession of Charles I.
1629 - 1640: Charles I governs without a Parliament: The Divine Right of Kings.
1642: The Civil War begins: Cavaliers versus Roundheads.
1645: Cromwell's Ironsides win the Battle of Naseby.
1649: Charles I beheaded. England becomes a republic - Commonwealth - with Cromwell as Lord Protector.
1658: Death of Oliver Cromwell.
1660: Charles II returns to England as king. Restoration of the Stuarts. Theatres opened again.
This period was marked by:
- A more sober and practical view of life.
- An expansion of commerce and industry.
- Religious discord; the Puritans.
- Party strife; Roundheads and Cavaliers.
Shakespeare 1564 - 1616
- Born at Stratford-on-Avon.
- When 18, married Ann Hathaway (26).
- Left Stratford for London.
- Became an actor and a playwright.
- Returned to Stratford 1611.
- Died 1616.
- Buried in the parish church.
Listen to the story of his son Hamnet
- Venus and Adonis(1593)
- 152 Sonnets:
- Historical plays
- The plays are romantic; the three classic unities of time, place, and action are not observed.
- Mainly written in blank verse.
- Division into five acts.
- Sources: old chronicles, legendary tales, translations from Latin works.
- None of Shakespeare's own manuscripts of the plays have been preserved.
- Quarto texts during his lifetime of separate plays: pirated editions.
- Folio Edition 1623: the first complete edition.
- Is Shakespeare the author? Or one of his contemporaries: Bacon, Marlowe ?
- After his death Shakespeare's popularity declined. In the 18th century a revival.
Since then his fame has grown.
Shakespeare's Dramatic Career
First Period 1590 - 1595: The period of experiments; use of rhyme.
- 'Richard III', a historical play.
- 'The Comedy of Errors', a story of mistaken identity; twin brothers and twin servants.
- 'Love's Labour's Lost', a comedy of courtly life.
Second Period 1595 - 1600: The period of the great comedies and great historical plays.
- 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', a play of enchantment and fairyland.
- 'The Merchant of Venice', a tragi-comedy; Shylock the tragic figure.
- 'As You Like It', a comedy of Arcadian life in an idyllic setting.
- 'Twelfth Night', so called because first performed on Twelfth Night.
- 'Richard II'.
- Henry IV - part 1 and 2. Famous characters: Falstaff and Hotspur.
- Henry V.
- 'Romeo and Juliet', a romantic tragedy of love.
Third Period 1600 - 1608: The period of the great tragedies.
- 'Julius Caesar', a Roman tragedy.
- 'Hamlet', tragedy of the irresolute, melancholy Prince of Denmark.
- 'Othello, the Moor of Venice. The story of a senseless jealousy.
- 'King Lear', tragedy of old age.
- 'Macbeth', a tragedy of criminal ambition.
- 'Antony and Cleopatra', a Roman love story.
Fourth Period 1608 - 1613: Peaceful comedies with a return to romantic themes.
- 'The Winter's Tale'
- 'Cymbeline', a lesser play
- 'The Tempest', Shakespeare's last play.
The London theatres in Shakespeare's days:
- 1576:The Theatre
- 1577:The Curtain
- 1587:The Rose
- 1595:The Swan
- 1599:The Globe and The Fortune
Kermode,F. & Hollander, J. (eds), 1973: The Oxford Anthology of English Literature. Volume 1.
Oxford University Press, London.
Proudfoot,R., Thompson, A. & Kastan, D. (eds) , 1984: The Arden Edition of the works of William Shakespeare.
Thomas Nelson&Sons Ltd, Walton-on-Thames.
Harrison,G.B., 1966: Introducing Shakespeare. Penguin Books, England.
Lamb, Charles and Mary: Tales from Shakespeare. Printed in 1914 by Bickers and Son, London.
BBC - Television Broadcast: Shakespeare's Shorts, BBC Learning Zone 1999.
Famous Shakespeare Quotes