WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE- Biography

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1 Name WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE- Biography William Shakespeare is often called the world s greatest playwright. He wrote comedies, tragedies, and historical plays in England in the last part of the 16 th and the early 17 th century. William Shakespeare was born in the English town of Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564 to a middle-class family. His father was a businessman and the town s mayor. His mother came from a farming family who owned land near Stratford. William was actually the third child, but his older sisters had died as infants. William survived even during an outbreak of the plague the year he was born. William had three younger brothers and two younger sisters. William attended a grammar school in Stratford until he was about fourteen. He got a good education and learned Latin. The house where they lived still exists and thousands of tourists from all over the world visit it today. William was married at the age of 18 to Anne Hathaway. They had three children. Their first was Susanna and then they had boy and girl twins, a daughter named Judith and a son named Hamnet. When he was 11, Hamnet died. The next several years of Shakespeare s life were mostly unknown. In 1592 he went to London to work as an actor and writer. This was a difficult job and only the best were successful in finding jobs in London. The Black Death spread across England from 1592 to It was an illness that killed millions of people in Europe and Asia at the end of the Middle Ages. Many public places were closed and plays were not performed. Shakespeare spent these years writing sonnets and poems. Sonnets are poems with fourteen lines that rhyme. When theatres opened back up in 1594, Shakespeare joined the best acting company of the country- Lord Chamberlain s Men. An acting company was a group of people who owned theatres and performed plays. It had the best actors, the best writers, and the most famous theatre- the Globe. The Globe was a huge amphitheatre. It had a thatched roof that covered some of the seats, but it did not cover the entire amphitheater. The seats were curved around the stage. The stage was built on many levels. Plays always started at two o clock in the afternoon. A flag was raised to let people know if a play was taking

2 place, since they were sometimes cancelled for bad weather. Anyone who did not have the money to buy a seat was allowed to stand in front of the stage. These people were called groundlings. All types of people came to see the shows- housewives, children, noblemen and even visitors from other countries. The company also presented special plays for kings and queens. In 1613, a cannon was fired during a play at the Globe and set the theatre s straw roof on fire. An hour later, the building had burned down! It was rebuilt the next year with a roof made of tile. Shakespeare and his fellow actors were responsible for everything in the Globe theatre. They owned the building and costumes, wrote the scripts, and shared any profits they made. They worked together successfully for many years. Shakespeare worked on the stage for twenty years and wrote 37 plays. There are three main categories of these plays. Tragedies are plays that show the downfall of a main character. His famous tragedies are Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth. Comedies are funny plays that usually have a happy ending. Shakespeare s most famous comedies are A Midsummer Night s Dream, As You like It, and the Merry Wives of Windsor. Historical plays are dramas about the lives of some of England s most powerful kings like Henry IV or Richard II. William has several popular plays. Romeo and Juliet is one his most famous. It is about two teenaged lovers whose families hate each other. At a ball the two meet and fall in love. The secretly marry the next day, but Romeo has to leave Verona after he kills Tybalt, Juliet s cousin. Juliet s father does not know that his daughter is already married and tries to force her to marry her cousin in Paris. A friar wants to help Juliet, so he gives her a drug that puts her to sleep for 42 hours and tells everyone she is dead. When Romeo hears that she has died, he hurries to her grave and poisons himself. When Juliet wakes up and sees her dead lover she stabs herself. The two families discover their dead children and end their feud. Julius Caesar is set in ancient Rome before, during, and after the murder of Julius Caesar. The character is Brutus, a Roman general and Caesar s best friend. There is a plot to kill Caesar which Brutus does not like at first, but later agrees to take part in. When the killers attack Caesar in the Roman senate,

3 he cannot believe that his friend Brutus is one of them. At the funeral, Brutus allows Mark Anthony to speak in front of a crowd of Romans. He points out what a good man Caesar was and turns the mob against the plotters. They have to flee Rome and Mark Anthony leads an army to follow them. At the end of the battle Brutus kills himself and Mark Anthony says that he was an honorable and noble Roman. Hamlet takes place after King of Denmark dies. His wife marries Claudius, the king s brother. The king s son, Prince Hamlet, feels sorry about his father s death and is against his mother s marriage. The ghost of Hamlet s father appears and tells the prince that he was murdered by Claudius. Hamlet does not know whether he should believe the ghost. The king shows guilt at a play though, so then Hamlet is convinced he is the killer. Polonius, the king s advisor, listen in on a conversation between Hamlet and his mother while hiding behind a curtain. Hamlet feels that someone is in the rooms and stabs him. Claudius sends Hamlet to England and gives the orders to execute Hamlet when he arrives. Hamlet finds out though, so he goes back to Denmark. When he arrives, he finds out that Ophelia, the daughter of Polonius and a girl Hamlet loved, is dead. Laertes, Ophelia s brother, blames Hamlet for the death of his father and sister. During a fencing match with Hamlet, he uses a poisoned sword to kill him. Hamlet is hurt by the sword and Laertes wounds himself too. Hamlet s mother drinks from a poisoned cup of wine that Claudius prepares for the prince. At the end of the play Hamlet, his mother, Claudius and Laertes all lie dead on the floor. Macbeth is a drama about a man who does everything to get power. Macbeth is a nobleman who returns back home to Scotland with his friend, Banquo. On their way home he meets some witches. They predict that Macbeth will become a baron, and then the king of Scotland. The first part comes true, so Macbeth thinks he really may become king. His wife, Lady Macbeth persuades him to murder King Duncan and he becomes the king of Scotland. Macbeth cannot live in peace though. Duncan s son, Malcolm, escapes to England and Macbeth orders his men to start killing all of his enemies. Macduff, who also fled to England after King Duncan s murder, puts together an army to overthrow Macbeth. Lady Macbeth starts thinking that she is guilty and becomes crazy. She turns into a sleepwalker and finally dies. Macduff returns to Scotland and kills Macbeth and Duncan s son becomes the king of Scotland.

4 In 1610, William Shakespeare retired and went back to his home town of Stratford. He lived there until he went back until his death in At the time, people did not realize their country s greatest poet and playwright had died. They thought of him only as a popular actor and writer. The Globe theatre was closed in 1642 when the Puritans, a religious group, shut down all of London s theatres. The Globe was torn down two years later to build tenements, or apartments. The foundation of the Globe was buried under the tenements and no one knew anything about the Globe s location or design until recently. People have tried to reconstruct the Globe over the years, but no one had luck. In 1970 though, an American actor Sam Wanamaker started the Shakespeare Globe Playhouse Trust. He raised money to build a new Globe. The ground was cleared for the new building in 1987, and something incredible happened! Workers from the Museum of London were digging just 200 yards away from the new site and found part of the old Globe! Most of the Globe is still buried under a nineteenth-century building, so only a small section of the old building could be studied. Even so, builders were able to complete the new Globe and based their designs on what they saw and knew about buildings from that time period. The new Globe opened in 1994 to the public. It does not look exactly like the old building, but approximates what the Globe looked and felt like 400 years ago. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

5 Match the word to its description below. 1. playwright A. Where Shakespeare moved to in 1592 to become a writer and actor. 2. Stratford-upon- Avon B. Illness that killed millions in Europe and Asia from 1592 to 1594, closing many theatres. Shakespeare spent this time writing. 3. Anne Hathaway C. The acting company Shakespeare was a part of. 4. three D. Huge amphitheatre used by Shakespeare s acting group. 5. London E. Time of the day when plays would start at the Globe. 6. Black Death F. Number of plays written by Shakespeare. 7. Sonnet G. Shakespeare is often known as the world s greatest one of these. 8. Lord H. Anyone who could not afford a seat at the Globe was Chamberlain s Men called one of these. They would stand below the stage. 9. The Globe I. Woman Shakespeare married at the age of two J. Number of children Shakespeare had. One girl, Susanna, and then twins- Judith and Hamnet. 11. groundlings K. The English town where Shakespeare was born in L. A 14-line poem that rhymes. Shakespeare wrote several. Types of Plays- Write the definition to each type of play below and give one example by Shakespeare. Type Definition Example 13. Tragedy 14. Comedy 15. Historical Identify the Play- Identify each play described below. 16. Set in ancient Rome before, during, and after the murder of a major Roman leader. 17. Claudius sends the main character to England and gives the orders to execute him when he arrives. 18. It is about two teen-aged lovers whose families hate each other.

6 19. At the end of the play all the main characters lie dead on the floor. 20. At the end of the battle Brutus kills himself and Mark Anthony says that he was an honorable and noble Roman. 21. A drama about a man who does everything to get power. 22. Brutus helps kill his best friend. 23. Duncan s son becomes the king of Scotland at the end of the play. 24. A friar wants to help one of the main characters, so he gives her a drug that puts her to sleep for 42 hours and tells everyone she is dead. 25. The two main characters secretly marry. 26. Takes place after King of Denmark dies. 27. Lady Macbeth starts thinking that she is guilty and becomes crazy. 28. The two families discover their dead children and end their feud. 29. The main characters stabs someone without knowing who it is because he feels someone listening in on he and his mother s conversation. 30. A poisoned sword is used. True or False- Identify the following statements as true or false. 31. In 1610, William Shakespeare retired and went back to his home town of Stratford. 32. The Globe theatre was closed in 1642 when the Protestants, a religious group, shut down all of London s theatres. 33. The Globe was torn down in 1644 to build tenements, or apartments. 34. In 1970, an American actor Sam Wanamaker started the Shakespeare Globe Playhouse Trust. 35. In 1979, a new Globe theatre was built. 36. While starting construction on the new Globe, some of the remnants of the old Globe were found. 37. A new Globe theatre was built to look exactly like the old one. 38. In 1994, the new Globe theatre opened to the public.

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