William Shakespeare was born 26 April 1564 (baptised – 23 April 1616) was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon”. His extant works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, the authorship of some of which is uncertain. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.
Shakespeare was born and brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part-owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later known as the King’s Men. He appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613 at age 49, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare’s private life survive, and there has been considerable speculation about such matters as his physical appearance, sexuality, religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others.
Shakespeare was a respected poet and playwright in his own day, but his reputation did not rise to its present heights until the 19th century. The Romantics, in particular, acclaimed Shakespeare’s genius, and the Victorians worshipped Shakespeare with a reverence that George Bernard Shaw called “bardolatry“. In the 20th century, his work was repeatedly adopted and rediscovered by new movements in scholarship and performance. His plays remain highly popular today and are constantly studied, performed, and reinterpreted in diverse cultural and political contexts throughout the world.
WAYS SHAKESPEARE IMPACTED THE WORLD
William Shakespeare impacted the world with his plays and writing that are still popular and produced today in our modern world. He named a lot of babies. The name “Jessica” first appears in Shakespeare. The original Jessica was Shylock’s daughter in The Merchant of Venice. He invigorated Nazis and anti-Nazis alike. While it’s difficult to categorize Shakespearean politics, it’s easy to find justification of one’s own prejudices and beliefs in the Shakespeare canon. Many groups and movements have sought to claim him as their own. Shortly after Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, the Nazi Party issued a pamphlet entitled Shakespeare – A Germanic Writer. Three years later, during the height of Hitler’s rule, there were more performances of Shakespeare’s works in Germany than the rest of the world combined. But those opposed to Hitler’s ideals could also find support in Shakespeare’s works, particularly in Shylock’s well-known speech from The Merchant of Venice.
He helped us understand teen angst. Those who want to see Romeo and Juliet as the embodiments of purity and love, like 18th-century English playwright David Garrick, are met with an imposing editorial task. Garrick’s first cut was the elimination of the character of Rosaline, the source of Romeo’s heartsickness at the play’s outset (she’s the one making his “sad hours seem long” in Act I, Scene 1) and one of many examples of the young man’s rash and impetuous teenage behaviour. Apparently, people enjoyed the wishful notion of the purity and sensibility of teenage love, Garrick’s edited version of the play survived, unchanged, for over a hundred years
He also influences the English language. Modern phrases that are in common usage can be attributed to his invention. ‘Frailty, thy name is woman’ is a phrase that he penned. A ‘foregone conclusion’ came from his brilliant mind. Every parent has uttered that their children are going to ‘eat out of house and home’. That phrase and many more were originated by William Shakespeare.
SHAKESPEARE’S INFLUENCE ON WRITERS
Shakespeare influenced every generation of writers since his departure from the earth and he continues to have enormous impact on our contemporary movies, plays, poems, etc. His writings greatly influenced John Keats a Romanian Poet who kept a bust of bard beside him while he wrote, hoping that Shakespeare would spark his creativity. This is why Keat’s poems are full of Shakespearean imagery.
Shakespeare’s influence is nicely summarized by Thomas Carlyle (albeit a bit over the top):
This King Shakespeare does he not shine, in crowned sovereignty, over us all, as the noblest, gentlest, yet strongest of rallying-signs; indestructible; really more valuable in that point of view than any other means or appliance whatsoever? We can fancy him as radiant aloft over all Nations of Englishmen, thousand years hence. From Paramatta, from New York, where so ever, under what sort of Parish-Constable so ever, English men and women are, they will say to one another, ‘Yes, this Shakespeare is ours; we produced him, we speak and think by him; we are of one blood and kind with him. (Thomas Carlyle, The Hero as Poet, 1841).
Many authors have used phrases from Shakespeare’s works as titles for their own novels. Here is a list of just a few:
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (The Tempest, 5.1)
- The Dogs of War by Robert Stone (Julius Caesar 3.1)
- The Winter of our Discontent by John Steinbeck (Richard III, 1.1)
- The Undiscovered Country by Auther Schnitzer (Hamlet, 3.1)
- Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (Macbeth, 4.1)
- Bell, Book, and Candle by John van Druten (King John, 3.3)
In 1899, Sir Herbert Beerbohm-Tree produced King John, the first movie based on a play by Shakespeare, and since then there have been dozens of movies and adaptations loosely based on Shakespeare’s work, including: The Boys from Syracuse (1940) – The Two Gentlemen of Verona
v Joe Macbeth (1953) – Macbeth
v Kiss Me Kate (1953) – The Taming of the Shrew
v Forbidden Planet (1956) – The Tempest
v Throne of Blood (1957) – Macbeth
v West Side Story (1961) – Romeo and Juliet
v Chimes at Midnight (1967) – various plays
v Ran (1985) – King Lear
v My Own Private Idaho (1991) – 1 Henry IV
vA Thousand Acres (1997) – King Lear
SHAKESPEARE TWENTY QUOTES WORTH MEMORIZING
“I have no other but a woman’s reason”
“Hold a mirror up to nature”
“Life’s fitful fever”
“Oft expectation fails, and most oft there”
“To thine own self be true”
“Cruel to be kind”
“O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!”
“Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps”
“Come, let’s away to prison; We two alone will sing”
“How poor are they that have not patience!
“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below”
“The patient must minister to himself”
“The marriage of true minds”
“A blinking idiot”
“So sweet was never so fatal”
“Nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”
“More sinned against than sinning”
“More in sorrow than in anger”
“Nothing can come of nothing”
“There is a tide in the affairs of men”
“There was never yet philosopher that could endure the toothache patiently”
I want to join my fellow writers to say a big thanks to the great Shakespeare, on the week of his birthday April 21-27 for the legacies he left behind! Happy Birthday!!!!!!!
Okoro Chinedu Vincent.
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