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William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

Overview
William Shakespeare (baptised
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

 26 April 1564; died 23 April 1616) was an English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

 poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

 and playwright
Playwright
A playwright, also called a dramatist, is a person who writes plays.The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder...

, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His surviving works, including some collaborations
Shakespeare's collaborations
Like most playwrights of his period, Shakespeare did not always write alone and a number of his plays are collaborative, or were revised after their original composition, although the exact number is open to debate...

, consist of about 38 plays
Shakespeare's plays
William Shakespeare's plays have the reputation of being among the greatest in the English language and in Western literature. Traditionally, the 37 plays are divided into the genres of tragedy, history, and comedy; they have been translated into every major living language, in addition to being...

, 154 sonnets
Shakespeare's sonnets
Shakespeare's sonnets are 154 poems in sonnet form written by William Shakespeare, dealing with themes such as the passage of time, love, beauty and mortality. All but two of the poems were first published in a 1609 quarto entitled SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS.: Never before imprinted. Sonnets 138 and 144...

, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. 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 raised in Stratford-upon-Avon
Stratford-upon-Avon
Stratford-upon-Avon is a market town and civil parish in south Warwickshire, England. It lies on the River Avon, south east of Birmingham and south west of Warwick. It is the largest and most populous town of the District of Stratford-on-Avon, which uses the term "on" to indicate that it covers...

.
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Timeline

1582   In Stratford-upon-Avon, William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway pay a £40 bond for their marriage license.

1597   William Shakespeare's ''The Merry Wives of Windsor'' is first performed, with Queen Elizabeth I in attendance.

1604   William Shakespeare's tragedy ''Othello'' is presented for the first time, at Whitehall Palace in London.

1978   Censorship: the People's Republic of China lifts a ban on works by Aristotle, Shakespeare and Dickens.

 
Quotations

Time's glory is to command contending kings, To unmask falsehood, and bring truth to light.

wikisource:The_Rape_of_Lucrece|The Rape of Lucrece

On a day—alack the day!—Love, whose month is ever May,Spied a blossom passing fairPlaying in the wanton air

Sonnets to Sundry Notes of Music, II

Crabbed age and youth cannot live together:Youth is full of pleasure, age is full of care

The Passionate Pilgrim: A Madrigal

I gyve unto my wief my second best bed with the furniture (Modern spelling: I give unto my wife my second best bed with the furniture.)

wikisource:Shakespeare's last will and testament|Shakespeare's will

Good frend for Jesus sake forbeare/To digg the dust encloased heare/Blese be the man that spares these stones/And curst be he that moves my bones (Modern spelling: Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear, to dig the dust enclosed here. Blessed be the man that spares these stones, And cursed be he that moves my bones.)

Shakespeare's epitaph
Encyclopedia
William Shakespeare (baptised
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

 26 April 1564; died 23 April 1616) was an English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

 poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

 and playwright
Playwright
A playwright, also called a dramatist, is a person who writes plays.The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder...

, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His surviving works, including some collaborations
Shakespeare's collaborations
Like most playwrights of his period, Shakespeare did not always write alone and a number of his plays are collaborative, or were revised after their original composition, although the exact number is open to debate...

, consist of about 38 plays
Shakespeare's plays
William Shakespeare's plays have the reputation of being among the greatest in the English language and in Western literature. Traditionally, the 37 plays are divided into the genres of tragedy, history, and comedy; they have been translated into every major living language, in addition to being...

, 154 sonnets
Shakespeare's sonnets
Shakespeare's sonnets are 154 poems in sonnet form written by William Shakespeare, dealing with themes such as the passage of time, love, beauty and mortality. All but two of the poems were first published in a 1609 quarto entitled SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS.: Never before imprinted. Sonnets 138 and 144...

, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. 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 raised in Stratford-upon-Avon
Stratford-upon-Avon
Stratford-upon-Avon is a market town and civil parish in south Warwickshire, England. It lies on the River Avon, south east of Birmingham and south west of Warwick. It is the largest and most populous town of the District of Stratford-on-Avon, which uses the term "on" to indicate that it covers...

. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway
Anne Hathaway (Shakespeare)
Anne Hathaway was the wife of William Shakespeare. They were married in 1582. She outlived her husband by seven years...

, with whom he had three children: Susanna
Susanna Hall
Susanna Hall , née Shakespeare, was the eldest child of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, and the older sister of Judith Quiney and Hamnet Shakespeare...

, and twins Hamnet
Hamnet Shakespeare
Hamnet Shakespeare was the only son of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, and the fraternal twin of Judith Shakespeare. He died at age 11 of unknown causes. There are several theories on the relationship, if any, between Hamnet and his father's later play Hamlet...

 and Judith
Judith Quiney
Judith Quiney , née Shakespeare, was the youngest daughter of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway. She married Thomas Quiney, a vintner of Stratford-upon-Avon. The circumstances of the marriage, including Quiney's misconduct, may have prompted the rewriting of Shakespeare's will...

. Between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 as an actor, writer, and part owner of a playing company
Playing company
In Renaissance London, playing company was the usual term for a company of actors. These companies were organized around a group of ten or so shareholders , who performed in the plays but were also responsible for management. The sharers employed "hired men" — that is, the minor actors and...

 called the Lord Chamberlain's Men
Lord Chamberlain's Men
The Lord Chamberlain's Men was a playing company for whom Shakespeare worked for most of his career. Formed at the end of a period of flux in the theatrical world of London, it had become, by 1603, one of the two leading companies of the city and was subsequently patronised by James I.It was...

, later known as the King's Men
King's Men (playing company)
The King's Men was the company of actors to which William Shakespeare belonged through most of his career. Formerly known as The Lord Chamberlain's Men during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, it became The King's Men in 1603 when King James ascended the throne and became the company's patron.The...

. 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
Portraits of Shakespeare
Within four decades of its foundation in 1856, upwards of 60 portraits were offered for sale to the National Portrait Gallery purporting to be of William Shakespeare, but there are only two definitively accepted as portraying him, both of which are posthumous...

, sexuality
Sexuality of William Shakespeare
The sexuality of William Shakespeare has been the subject of recurring debate. It is known that he married Anne Hathaway and they had three children...

, religious beliefs
Shakespeare's religion
Knowledge of William Shakespeare's religion is important in understanding the man and his works because of the wealth of biblical and liturgical allusions, both Protestant and Catholic, in his writings and the hidden references to contemporary religious tensions that are claimed to be found in the...

, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others
Shakespeare authorship question
Image:ShakespeareCandidates1.jpg|thumb|alt=Portraits of Shakespeare and four proposed alternative authors.|Oxford, Bacon, Derby, and Marlowe have each been proposed as the true author...

.

Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were mainly comedies
Shakespearean comedy
In the First Folio, the plays of William Shakespeare were grouped into three categories: comedies, histories, and tragedies."Comedy", in its Elizabethan usage, had a very different meaning from modern comedy...

 and histories
Shakespearean history
In the First Folio, the plays of William Shakespeare were grouped into three categories: comedies, histories, and tragedies. This categorisation has become established, although some critics have argued for other categories such as romances and problem plays. The histories were those plays based on...

, genres he raised to the peak of sophistication and artistry by the end of the 16th century. He then wrote mainly tragedies
Shakespearean tragedy
Shakespeare wrote tragedies from the beginning of his career. One of his earliest plays was the Roman tragedy Titus Andronicus, which he followed a few years later with Romeo and Juliet. However, his most admired tragedies were written in a seven-year period between 1601 and 1608...

 until about 1608, including Hamlet
Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

, King Lear
King Lear
King Lear is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. The title character descends into madness after foolishly disposing of his estate between two of his three daughters based on their flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. The play is based on the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological...

, Othello
Othello
The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in approximately 1603, and based on the Italian short story "Un Capitano Moro" by Cinthio, a disciple of Boccaccio, first published in 1565...

, and Macbeth
Macbeth
The Tragedy of Macbeth is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607...

, considered some of the finest works in the English language. In his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies
Shakespeare's late romances
The late romances, often simply called the romances, are a grouping of what many scholars believe to be William Shakespeare's later plays, including Pericles, Prince of Tyre; Cymbeline; The Winter's Tale; and The Tempest. The Two Noble Kinsmen is sometimes included in this grouping...

, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights.

Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime. In 1623, two of his former theatrical colleagues published the First Folio
First Folio
Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. is the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare's plays. Modern scholars commonly refer to it as the First Folio....

, a collected edition of his dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognised as Shakespeare's.

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
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

 worshipped Shakespeare with a reverence that George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60...

 called "bardolatry
Bardolatry
Bardolatry is a term that refers to the excessive adulation of William Shakespeare, a portmanteau of "bard" and "idolatry." Shakespeare has been known as "the Bard" since the nineteenth century. One who idolizes Shakespeare is known as a Bardolater....

". 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.

Early life


William Shakespeare was the son of John Shakespeare
John Shakespeare
John Shakespeare was the father of William Shakespeare. He was the son of Richard Shakespeare of Snitterfield, a farmer. He moved to Stratford-upon-Avon and married Mary Arden, with whom he had eight children, five of whom survived into adulthood...

, an alderman
Alderman
An alderman is a member of a municipal assembly or council in many jurisdictions founded upon English law. The term may be titular, denoting a high-ranking member of a borough or county council, a council member chosen by the elected members themselves rather than by popular vote, or a council...

 and a successful glove
Glove
A glove is a garment covering the hand. Gloves have separate sheaths or openings for each finger and the thumb; if there is an opening but no covering sheath for each finger they are called "fingerless gloves". Fingerless gloves with one large opening rather than individual openings for each...

r originally from Snitterfield
Snitterfield
Snitterfield is a village and civil parish in the Stratford on Avon district of Warwickshire, England, less than a mile to the north of the A46 road, 4 ½ miles from Stratford upon Avon, 6 ½ miles from Warwick and from Coventry.-History:...

, and Mary Arden, the daughter of an affluent landowning farmer. He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon and baptised there on 26 April 1564. His actual birthdate remains unknown, but is traditionally observed on 23 April, St George's Day
St George's Day
St George's Day is celebrated by the several nations, kingdoms, countries, and cities of which Saint George is the patron saint. St George's Day is celebrated on 23 April, the traditionally accepted date of Saint George's death in AD 303...

. This date, which can be traced back to an 18th-century scholar's mistake, has proved appealing to biographers, since Shakespeare died 23 April 1616. He was the third child of eight and the eldest surviving son.

Although no attendance records for the period survive, most biographers agree that Shakespeare was probably educated at the King's New School
King Edward VI School Stratford-upon-Avon
King Edward VI School is a voluntary aided boys grammar school in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England...

 in Stratford, a free school chartered in 1553, about a quarter-mile from his home. Grammar school
Grammar school
A grammar school is one of several different types of school in the history of education in the United Kingdom and some other English-speaking countries, originally a school teaching classical languages but more recently an academically-oriented secondary school.The original purpose of mediaeval...

s varied in quality during the Elizabethan era, but the curriculum was dictated by law throughout England, and the school would have provided an intensive education in Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 grammar and the classics
Classics
Classics is the branch of the Humanities comprising the languages, literature, philosophy, history, art, archaeology and other culture of the ancient Mediterranean world ; especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during Classical Antiquity Classics (sometimes encompassing Classical Studies or...

.


At the age of 18, Shakespeare married the 26-year-old Anne Hathaway
Anne Hathaway (Shakespeare)
Anne Hathaway was the wife of William Shakespeare. They were married in 1582. She outlived her husband by seven years...

. The consistory court
Consistory court
The consistory court is a type of ecclesiastical court, especially within the Church of England. They were established by a charter of King William I of England, and still exist today, although since about the middle of the 19th century consistory courts have lost much of their subject-matter...

 of the Diocese of Worcester
Anglican Diocese of Worcester
The Diocese of Worcester forms part of the Province of Canterbury in England.The diocese was founded in around 679 by St Theodore of Canterbury at Worcester to minister to the kingdom of the Hwicce, one of the many Anglo Saxon petty-kingdoms of that time...

 issued a marriage licence 27 November 1582. The next day two of Hathaway's neighbours posted bonds guaranteeing that no lawful claims impeded the marriage. The ceremony may have been arranged in some haste, since the Worcester chancellor
Chancellor
Chancellor is the title of various official positions in the governments of many nations. The original chancellors were the Cancellarii of Roman courts of justice—ushers who sat at the cancelli or lattice work screens of a basilica or law court, which separated the judge and counsel from the...

 allowed the marriage banns
Banns of marriage
The banns of marriage, commonly known simply as the "banns" or "bans" are the public announcement in a Christian parish church of an impending marriage between two specified persons...

 to be read once instead of the usual three times, and six months after the marriage Anne gave birth to a daughter, Susanna
Susanna Hall
Susanna Hall , née Shakespeare, was the eldest child of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, and the older sister of Judith Quiney and Hamnet Shakespeare...

, baptised 26 May 1583. Twins, son Hamnet
Hamnet Shakespeare
Hamnet Shakespeare was the only son of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, and the fraternal twin of Judith Shakespeare. He died at age 11 of unknown causes. There are several theories on the relationship, if any, between Hamnet and his father's later play Hamlet...

 and daughter Judith
Judith Quiney
Judith Quiney , née Shakespeare, was the youngest daughter of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway. She married Thomas Quiney, a vintner of Stratford-upon-Avon. The circumstances of the marriage, including Quiney's misconduct, may have prompted the rewriting of Shakespeare's will...

, followed almost two years later and were baptised 2 February 1585. Hamnet died of unknown causes at the age of 11 and was buried 11 August 1596.

After the birth of the twins, Shakespeare left few historical traces until he is mentioned as part of the London theatre scene in 1592, and scholars refer to the years between 1585 and 1592 as Shakespeare's "lost years". Biographers attempting to account for this period have reported many apocryphal stories. Nicholas Rowe, Shakespeare’s first biographer, recounted a Stratford legend that Shakespeare fled the town for London to escape prosecution for deer poaching
Poaching
Poaching is the illegal taking of wild plants or animals contrary to local and international conservation and wildlife management laws. Violations of hunting laws and regulations are normally punishable by law and, collectively, such violations are known as poaching.It may be illegal and in...

 in the estate of local squire Thomas Lucy
Thomas Lucy
Sir Thomas Lucy was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons in 1571 and 1585. He was a magistrate in Warwickshire, but is best known for his links to William Shakespeare...

. Shakespeare is also supposed to have taken his revenge on Lucy by writing a scurrilous ballad about him. Another 18th-century story has Shakespeare starting his theatrical career minding the horses of theatre patrons in London. John Aubrey
John Aubrey
John Aubrey FRS, was an English antiquary, natural philosopher and writer. He is perhaps best known as the author of the collection of short biographical pieces usually referred to as Brief Lives...

 reported that Shakespeare had been a country schoolmaster. Some 20th-century scholars have suggested that Shakespeare may have been employed as a schoolmaster by Alexander Hoghton of Lancashire
Lancashire
Lancashire is a non-metropolitan county of historic origin in the North West of England. It takes its name from the city of Lancaster, and is sometimes known as the County of Lancaster. Although Lancaster is still considered to be the county town, Lancashire County Council is based in Preston...

, a Catholic landowner who named a certain "William Shakeshafte" in his will. No evidence substantiates such stories other than hearsay collected after his death, and Shakeshafte was a common name in the Lancashire area.

London and theatrical career



It is not known exactly when Shakespeare began writing, but contemporary allusions and records of performances show that several of his plays were on the London stage by 1592. He was well enough known in London by then to be attacked in print by the playwright Robert Greene in his Groats-Worth of Wit
Greene's Groats-Worth of Wit
Greenes, Groats-worth of Witte, bought with a million of Repentance is a tract published as the work of the recently deceased playwright Robert Greene...

:

...there is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tiger's heart wrapped in a Player's 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 country.


Scholars differ on the exact meaning of these words, but most agree that Greene is accusing Shakespeare of reaching above his rank in trying to match university-educated writers such as Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe was an English dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. As the foremost Elizabethan tragedian, next to William Shakespeare, he is known for his blank verse, his overreaching protagonists, and his mysterious death.A warrant was issued for Marlowe's arrest on 18 May...

, Thomas Nashe
Thomas Nashe
Thomas Nashe was an English Elizabethan pamphleteer, playwright, poet and satirist. He was the son of the minister William Nashe and his wife Margaret .-Early life:...

 and Greene himself (the "university wits"
University Wits
The University Wits were a group of late 16th century English playwrights who were educated at the universities and who became playwrights and popular secular writers...

). The italicised phrase parodying the line "Oh, tiger's heart wrapped in a woman's hide" from Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 3
Henry VI, part 3
Henry VI, Part 3 or The Third Part of Henry the Sixt is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1591, and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England...

, along with the pun "Shake-scene", identifies Shakespeare as Greene's target. Here Johannes Factotum
Jack of all trades, master of none
"Jack of all trades, master of none" is a figure of speech used in reference to a person that is competent with many skills but is not necessarily outstanding in any particular one....

—"Jack of all trades"— means a second-rate tinkerer with the work of others, rather than the more common "universal genius".

Greene's attack is the earliest surviving mention of Shakespeare’s career in the theatre. Biographers suggest that his career may have begun any time from the mid-1580s to just before Greene's remarks. From 1594, Shakespeare's plays were performed only by the Lord Chamberlain's Men
Lord Chamberlain's Men
The Lord Chamberlain's Men was a playing company for whom Shakespeare worked for most of his career. Formed at the end of a period of flux in the theatrical world of London, it had become, by 1603, one of the two leading companies of the city and was subsequently patronised by James I.It was...

, a company owned by a group of players, including Shakespeare, that soon became the leading playing company
Playing company
In Renaissance London, playing company was the usual term for a company of actors. These companies were organized around a group of ten or so shareholders , who performed in the plays but were also responsible for management. The sharers employed "hired men" — that is, the minor actors and...

 in London. After the death of Queen Elizabeth
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

 in 1603, the company was awarded a royal patent by the new king, James I
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

, and changed its name to the King's Men
King's Men (playing company)
The King's Men was the company of actors to which William Shakespeare belonged through most of his career. Formerly known as The Lord Chamberlain's Men during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, it became The King's Men in 1603 when King James ascended the throne and became the company's patron.The...

.

In 1599, a partnership of company members built their own theatre on the south bank of the River Thames
River Thames
The River Thames flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford,...

, which they called the Globe
Globe Theatre
The Globe Theatre was a theatre in London associated with William Shakespeare. It was built in 1599 by Shakespeare's playing company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, and was destroyed by fire on 29 June 1613...

. In 1608, the partnership also took over the Blackfriars indoor theatre
Blackfriars Theatre
Blackfriars Theatre was the name of a theatre in the Blackfriars district of the City of London during the Renaissance. The theatre began as a venue for child actors associated with the Queen's chapel choirs; in this function, the theatre hosted some of the most innovative drama of Elizabeth and...

. Records of Shakespeare's property purchases and investments indicate that the company made him a wealthy man. In 1597, he bought the second-largest house in Stratford, New Place
New Place
New Place is the name of William Shakespeare's final place of residence in Stratford-upon-Avon. He died there in 1616. Though the house no longer exists, the land is owned by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust....

, and in 1605, he invested in a share of the parish
Parish
A parish is a territorial unit historically under the pastoral care and clerical jurisdiction of one parish priest, who might be assisted in his pastoral duties by a curate or curates - also priests but not the parish priest - from a more or less central parish church with its associated organization...

 tithes in Stratford.

Some of Shakespeare's plays were published in quarto editions from 1594. By 1598, his name had become a selling point and began to appear on the title page
Title page
The title page of a book, thesis or other written work is the page at or near the front which displays its title and author, usually together with information relating to the publication of the book...

s. Shakespeare continued to act in his own and other plays after his success as a playwright. The 1616 edition of Ben Jonson
Ben Jonson
Benjamin Jonson was an English Renaissance dramatist, poet and actor. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he is best known for his satirical plays, particularly Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, which are considered his best, and his lyric poems...

's Works names him on the cast lists for Every Man in His Humour
Every Man in His Humour
Every Man in His Humour is a 1598 play by the English playwright Ben Jonson. The play belongs to the subgenre of the "humours comedy," in which each major character is dominated by an overriding humour or obsession.-Performance and Publication:...

(1598) and Sejanus His Fall (1603). The absence of his name from the 1605 cast list for Jonson’s Volpone
Volpone
Volpone is a comedy by Ben Jonson first produced in 1606, drawing on elements of city comedy, black comedy and beast fable...

is taken by some scholars as a sign that his acting career was nearing its end. The First Folio
First Folio
Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. is the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare's plays. Modern scholars commonly refer to it as the First Folio....

 of 1623, however, lists Shakespeare as one of "the Principal Actors in all these Plays", some of which were first staged after Volpone, although we cannot know for certain which roles he played. In 1610, John Davies of Hereford
John Davies of Hereford
John Davies of Hereford was a writing-master and an Anglo-Welsh poet. He is usually known as John Davies of Hereford in order to distinguish him from others of the same name....

 wrote that "good Will" played "kingly" roles. In 1709, Rowe passed down a tradition that Shakespeare played the ghost of Hamlet's father. Later traditions maintain that he also played Adam in As You Like It
As You Like It
As You Like It is a pastoral comedy by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1599 or early 1600 and first published in the folio of 1623. The play's first performance is uncertain, though a performance at Wilton House in 1603 has been suggested as a possibility...

and the Chorus in Henry V
Henry V (play)
Henry V is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to be written in approximately 1599. Its full titles are The Cronicle History of Henry the Fifth and The Life of Henry the Fifth...

, though scholars doubt the sources of the information.

Shakespeare divided his time between London and Stratford during his career. In 1596, the year before he bought New Place as his family home in Stratford, Shakespeare was living in the parish
Parish
A parish is a territorial unit historically under the pastoral care and clerical jurisdiction of one parish priest, who might be assisted in his pastoral duties by a curate or curates - also priests but not the parish priest - from a more or less central parish church with its associated organization...

 of St. Helen's, Bishopsgate
Bishopsgate
Bishopsgate is a road and ward in the northeast part of the City of London, extending north from Gracechurch Street to Norton Folgate. It is named after one of the original seven gates in London Wall...

, north of the River Thames. He moved across the river to Southwark
Southwark
Southwark is a district of south London, England, and the administrative headquarters of the London Borough of Southwark. Situated east of Charing Cross, it forms one of the oldest parts of London and fronts the River Thames to the north...

 by 1599, the year his company constructed the Globe Theatre there. By 1604, he had moved north of the river again, to an area north of St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral, London, is a Church of England cathedral and seat of the Bishop of London. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. St Paul's sits at the top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, and is the mother...

 with many fine houses. There he rented rooms from a French Huguenot
Huguenot
The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France during the 16th and 17th centuries. Since the 17th century, people who formerly would have been called Huguenots have instead simply been called French Protestants, a title suggested by their German co-religionists, the...

 called Christopher Mountjoy, a maker of ladies' wigs and other headgear.

Later years and death


Rowe was the first biographer to pass down the tradition that Shakespeare retired to Stratford some years before his death; but retirement from all work was uncommon at that time, and Shakespeare continued to visit London. In 1612 he was called as a witness in a court case concerning the marriage settlement of Mountjoy's daughter, Mary. In March 1613 he bought a gatehouse
Gatehouse
A gatehouse, in architectural terminology, is a building enclosing or accompanying a gateway for a castle, manor house, fort, town or similar buildings of importance.-History:...

 in the former Blackfriars priory
Priory
A priory is a house of men or women under religious vows that is headed by a prior or prioress. Priories may be houses of mendicant friars or religious sisters , or monasteries of monks or nuns .The Benedictines and their offshoots , the Premonstratensians, and the...

; and from November 1614 he was in London for several weeks with his son-in-law, John Hall
John Hall (physician)
John Hall was a physician and son-in-law of William Shakespeare.-Life:He was born at Carlton, Bedfordshire and studied at Queens' College, Cambridge from 1589, receiving a B.A. in 1593 and a M.A. in 1597...

.


After 1606–1607, Shakespeare wrote fewer plays, and none are attributed to him after 1613. His last three plays were collaborations, probably with John Fletcher
John Fletcher (playwright)
John Fletcher was a Jacobean playwright. Following William Shakespeare as house playwright for the King's Men, he was among the most prolific and influential dramatists of his day; both during his lifetime and in the early Restoration, his fame rivalled Shakespeare's...

, who succeeded him as the house playwright for the King’s Men.

Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616 and was survived by his wife and two daughters. Susanna had married a physician, John Hall, in 1607, and Judith had married Thomas Quiney
Thomas Quiney
Thomas Quiney was the husband of William Shakespeare's daughter Judith Shakespeare, and a vintner and tobacconist in Stratford-upon-Avon. Quiney held several municipal offices in the corporation of Stratford-upon-Avon, the highest being chamberlain in 1621 and 1622, but was also fined for various...

, a vintner
Vintner
A vintner is a wine merchant. You pronounce it like this In some modern use, in particular in American English, the term is alsoused as a synonym for winemaker....

, two months before Shakespeare’s death.

In his will, Shakespeare left the bulk of his large estate to his elder daughter Susanna. The terms instructed that she pass it down intact to "the first son of her body". The Quineys had three children, all of whom died without marrying. The Halls had one child, Elizabeth, who married twice but died without children in 1670, ending Shakespeare’s direct line. Shakespeare's will scarcely mentions his wife, Anne, who was probably entitled to one third of his estate automatically. He did make a point, however, of leaving her "my second best bed", a bequest that has led to much speculation. Some scholars see the bequest as an insult to Anne, whereas others believe that the second-best bed would have been the matrimonial bed and therefore rich in significance.

Shakespeare was buried in the chancel
Chancel
In church architecture, the chancel is the space around the altar in the sanctuary at the liturgical east end of a traditional Christian church building...

 of the Holy Trinity Church
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
The Collegiate Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon is a Grade I listed parish church of the Church of England in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England.-Background:...

 two days after his death. The epitaph carved into the stone slab covering his grave includes a curse
Curse
A curse is any expressed wish that some form of adversity or misfortune will befall or attach to some other entity—one or more persons, a place, or an object...

 against moving his bones, which was carefully avoided during restoration of the church in 2008:

Good frend for Iesvs sake forbeare,
To digg the dvst encloased heare.
Bleste be ye man yt spares thes stones,
And cvrst be he yt moves my bones.


Modern spelling:
"Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear,"
"To dig the dust enclosed here."
"Blessed be the man that spares these stones,"
"And cursed be he who moves my bones."


Sometime before 1623, a funerary monument
Shakespeare's funerary monument
The Shakespeare funerary monument is a memorial to William Shakespeare located inside Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, UK, the same church in which Shakespeare was baptised....

 was erected in his memory on the north wall, with a half-effigy of him in the act of writing. Its plaque compares him to Nestor
Nestor (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Nestor of Gerenia was the son of Neleus and Chloris and the King of Pylos. He became king after Heracles killed Neleus and all of Nestor's siblings...

, Socrates
Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

, and Virgil
Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

. In 1623, in conjunction with the publication of the First Folio
First Folio
Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. is the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare's plays. Modern scholars commonly refer to it as the First Folio....

, the Droeshout engraving was published.

Shakespeare has been commemorated in many statues and memorials
Memorials to William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare has been commemorated in a number of different statues and memorials around the world, notably his funerary monument in Stratford-upon-Avon ; a statue in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey, London, designed by William Kent and executed by Peter Scheemakers ; and a statue in New...

 around the world, including funeral monuments in Southwark Cathedral
Southwark Cathedral
Southwark Cathedral or The Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie, Southwark, London, lies on the south bank of the River Thames close to London Bridge....

 and Poets' Corner
Poets' Corner
Poets' Corner is the name traditionally given to a section of the South Transept of Westminster Abbey because of the number of poets, playwrights, and writers buried and commemorated there. The most recent additions were a memorial floor stone unveiled in 2009 for the founders of the Royal Ballet...

 in Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

.

Plays



Most playwrights of the period typically collaborated with others at some point, and critics agree that Shakespeare did the same, mostly early and late in his career. Some attributions, such as Titus Andronicus
Titus Andronicus
Titus Andronicus is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, and possibly George Peele, believed to have been written between 1588 and 1593. It is thought to be Shakespeare's first tragedy, and is often seen as his attempt to emulate the violent and bloody revenge plays of his contemporaries, which were...

and the early history plays, remain controversial, while The Two Noble Kinsmen
The Two Noble Kinsmen
The Two Noble Kinsmen is a Jacobean tragicomedy, first published in 1634 and attributed to John Fletcher and William Shakespeare. Its plot derives from "The Knight's Tale" in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales....

and the lost Cardenio have well-attested contemporary documentation. Textual evidence also supports the view that several of the plays were revised by other writers after their original composition.

The first recorded works of Shakespeare are Richard III
Richard III (play)
Richard III is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in approximately 1591. It depicts the Machiavellian rise to power and subsequent short reign of Richard III of England. The play is grouped among the histories in the First Folio and is most often classified...

and the three parts of Henry VI
Henry VI, part 1
Henry VI, Part 1 or The First Part of Henry the Sixt is a history play by William Shakespeare, and possibly Thomas Nashe, believed to have been written in 1591, and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England...

, written in the early 1590s during a vogue for historical drama. Shakespeare's plays are difficult to date, however, and studies of the texts suggest that Titus Andronicus
Titus Andronicus
Titus Andronicus is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, and possibly George Peele, believed to have been written between 1588 and 1593. It is thought to be Shakespeare's first tragedy, and is often seen as his attempt to emulate the violent and bloody revenge plays of his contemporaries, which were...

, The Comedy of Errors
The Comedy of Errors
The Comedy of Errors is one of William Shakespeare's earliest plays. It is his shortest and one of his most farcical comedies, with a major part of the humour coming from slapstick and mistaken identity, in addition to puns and word play. The Comedy of Errors is one of only two of Shakespeare's...

, The Taming of the Shrew
The Taming of the Shrew
The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1590 and 1591.The play begins with a framing device, often referred to as the Induction, in which a mischievous nobleman tricks a drunken tinker named Sly into believing he is actually a nobleman himself...

and The Two Gentlemen of Verona
The Two Gentlemen of Verona
The Two Gentlemen of Verona is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1590 or 1591. It is considered by some to be Shakespeare's first play, and is often seen as his first tentative steps in laying out some of the themes and tropes with which he would later deal in more...

may also belong to Shakespeare’s earliest period. His first histories
Shakespearean history
In the First Folio, the plays of William Shakespeare were grouped into three categories: comedies, histories, and tragedies. This categorisation has become established, although some critics have argued for other categories such as romances and problem plays. The histories were those plays based on...

, which draw heavily on the 1587 edition of Raphael Holinshed's
Raphael Holinshed
Raphael Holinshed was an English chronicler, whose work, commonly known as Holinshed's Chronicles, was one of the major sources used by William Shakespeare for a number of his plays....

 Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, dramatise the destructive results of weak or corrupt rule and have been interpreted as a justification for the origins of the Tudor dynasty
Tudor dynasty
The Tudor dynasty or House of Tudor was a European royal house of Welsh origin that ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including the Lordship of Ireland, later the Kingdom of Ireland, from 1485 until 1603. Its first monarch was Henry Tudor, a descendant through his mother of a legitimised...

. The early plays were influenced by the works of other Elizabethan dramatists, especially Thomas Kyd
Thomas Kyd
Thomas Kyd was an English dramatist, the author of The Spanish Tragedy, and one of the most important figures in the development of Elizabethan drama....

 and Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe was an English dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. As the foremost Elizabethan tragedian, next to William Shakespeare, he is known for his blank verse, his overreaching protagonists, and his mysterious death.A warrant was issued for Marlowe's arrest on 18 May...

, by the traditions of medieval drama, and by the plays of Seneca
Seneca the Younger
Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero...

. The Comedy of Errors was also based on classical models, but no source for The Taming of the Shrew has been found, though it is related to a separate play of the same name and may have derived from a folk story. Like The Two Gentlemen of Verona, in which two friends appear to approve of rape, the Shrew's story of the taming of a woman's independent spirit by a man sometimes troubles modern critics and directors.


Shakespeare's early classical and Italianate comedies, containing tight double plots and precise comic sequences, give way in the mid-1590s to the romantic atmosphere of his greatest comedies. A Midsummer Night's Dream
A Midsummer Night's Dream
A Midsummer Night's Dream is a play that was written by William Shakespeare. It is believed to have been written between 1590 and 1596. It portrays the events surrounding the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta...

is a witty mixture of romance, fairy magic, and comic lowlife scenes. Shakespeare's next comedy, the equally romantic Merchant of Venice
The Merchant of Venice
The Merchant of Venice is a tragic comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1596 and 1598. Though classified as a comedy in the First Folio and sharing certain aspects with Shakespeare's other romantic comedies, the play is perhaps most remembered for its dramatic...

, contains a portrayal of the vengeful Jewish moneylender Shylock
Shylock
Shylock is a fictional character in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.-In the play:In The Merchant of Venice, Shylock is a Jewish moneylender who lends money to his Christian rival, Antonio, setting the security at a pound of Antonio's flesh...

, which reflects Elizabethan views but may appear derogatory to modern audiences. The wit and wordplay of Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy written by William Shakespeare about two pairs of lovers, Benedick and Beatrice, and Claudio and Hero....

, the charming rural setting of As You Like It
As You Like It
As You Like It is a pastoral comedy by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1599 or early 1600 and first published in the folio of 1623. The play's first performance is uncertain, though a performance at Wilton House in 1603 has been suggested as a possibility...

, and the lively merrymaking of Twelfth Night complete Shakespeare's sequence of great comedies. After the lyrical Richard II
Richard II (play)
King Richard the Second is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to be written in approximately 1595. It is based on the life of King Richard II of England and is the first part of a tetralogy, referred to by some scholars as the Henriad, followed by three plays concerning Richard's...

, written almost entirely in verse, Shakespeare introduced prose comedy into the histories of the late 1590s, Henry IV, parts 1
Henry IV, Part 1
Henry IV, Part 1 is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written no later than 1597. It is the second play in Shakespeare's tetralogy dealing with the successive reigns of Richard II, Henry IV , and Henry V...

and 2
Henry IV, Part 2
Henry IV, Part 2 is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed written between 1596 and 1599. It is the third part of a tetralogy, preceded by Richard II and Henry IV, Part 1 and succeeded by Henry V.-Sources:...

, and Henry V
Henry V (play)
Henry V is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to be written in approximately 1599. Its full titles are The Cronicle History of Henry the Fifth and The Life of Henry the Fifth...

. His characters become more complex and tender as he switches deftly between comic and serious scenes, prose and poetry, and achieves the narrative variety of his mature work. This period begins and ends with two tragedies: Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written early in the career of playwright William Shakespeare about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately unite their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare's most popular archetypal stories of young, teenage lovers.Romeo and Juliet belongs to a...

, the famous romantic tragedy of sexually charged adolescence, love, and death; and Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar (play)
The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, also known simply as Julius Caesar, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1599. It portrays the 44 BC conspiracy against...

—based on Sir Thomas North's
Thomas North
Sir Thomas North was an English translator of Plutarch, second son of the 1st Baron North.-Life:He is supposed to have been a student of Peterhouse, Cambridge, and was entered at Lincoln's Inn in 1557. In 1574 he accompanied his brother, Lord North, on a visit to the French court. He served as...

 1579 translation of Plutarch's
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 Parallel Lives
Parallel Lives
Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, commonly called Parallel Lives or Plutarch's Lives, is a series of biographies of famous men, arranged in tandem to illuminate their common moral virtues or failings, written in the late 1st century...

—which introduced a new kind of drama. According to Shakespearean scholar James Shapiro, in Julius Caesar "the various strands of politics, character, inwardness, contemporary events, even Shakespeare's own reflections on the act of writing, began to infuse each other".


In the early 17th century, Shakespeare wrote the so-called "problem plays" Measure for Measure
Measure for Measure
Measure for Measure is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1603 or 1604. It was classified as comedy, but its mood defies those expectations. As a result and for a variety of reasons, some critics have labelled it as one of Shakespeare's problem plays...

, Troilus and Cressida
Troilus and Cressida
Troilus and Cressida is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1602. It was also described by Frederick S. Boas as one of Shakespeare's problem plays. The play ends on a very bleak note with the death of the noble Trojan Hector and destruction of the love between Troilus...

, and All's Well That Ends Well
All's Well That Ends Well
All's Well That Ends Well is a play by William Shakespeare. It is believed to have been written between 1604 and 1605, and was originally published in the First Folio in 1623....

and a number of his best known tragedies
Shakespearean tragedy
Shakespeare wrote tragedies from the beginning of his career. One of his earliest plays was the Roman tragedy Titus Andronicus, which he followed a few years later with Romeo and Juliet. However, his most admired tragedies were written in a seven-year period between 1601 and 1608...

. Many critics believe that Shakespeare's greatest tragedies represent the peak of his art. The titular hero of one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies, Hamlet
Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

, has probably been discussed more than any other Shakespearean character, especially for his famous soliloquy
Soliloquy
A soliloquy is a device often used in drama whereby a character relates his or her thoughts and feelings to him/herself and to the audience without addressing any of the other characters, and is delivered often when they are alone or think they are alone. Soliloquy is distinct from monologue and...

 "To be or not to be; that is the question
To be, or not to be
"To be, or not to be" is the opening phrase of a soliloquy from William Shakespeare's play Hamlet , Act III, Scene 1. It is the best-known quotation from the play and probably the most famous in world literature but there is disagreement on its meaning, as there is of the whole speech.- Text :This...

". Unlike the introverted Hamlet, whose fatal flaw is hesitation, the heroes of the tragedies that followed, Othello and King Lear, are undone by hasty errors of judgement. The plots of Shakespeare's tragedies often hinge on such fatal errors or flaws, which overturn order and destroy the hero and those he loves. In Othello
Othello
The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in approximately 1603, and based on the Italian short story "Un Capitano Moro" by Cinthio, a disciple of Boccaccio, first published in 1565...

, the villain Iago
Iago
Iago is a fictional character in Shakespeare's Othello . The character's source is traced to Giovanni Battista Giraldi Cinthio's tale "Un Capitano Moro" in Gli Hecatommithi . There, the character is simply "the ensign". Iago is a soldier and Othello's ancient . He is the husband of Emilia,...

 stokes Othello's sexual jealousy to the point where he murders the innocent wife who loves him. In King Lear
King Lear
King Lear is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. The title character descends into madness after foolishly disposing of his estate between two of his three daughters based on their flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. The play is based on the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological...

, the old king commits the tragic error of giving up his powers, initiating the events which lead to the murder of his daughter and the torture and blinding of the Earl of Gloucester. According to the critic Frank Kermode, "the play offers neither its good characters nor its audience any relief from its cruelty". In Macbeth
Macbeth
The Tragedy of Macbeth is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607...

, the shortest and most compressed of Shakespeare's tragedies, uncontrollable ambition incites Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth
Lady Macbeth
Lady Macbeth may refer to:*Lady Macbeth, from William Shakespeare's play Macbeth**Queen Gruoch of Scotland, the real-life Queen on whom Shakespeare based the character...

, to murder the rightful king and usurp the throne, until their own guilt destroys them in turn. In this play, Shakespeare adds a supernatural element to the tragic structure. His last major tragedies, Antony and Cleopatra
Antony and Cleopatra
Antony and Cleopatra is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607. It was first printed in the First Folio of 1623. The plot is based on Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's Lives and follows the relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony...

and Coriolanus
Coriolanus
Gaius Marcius Coriolanus was a Roman general who is said to have lived in the 5th century BC. He received his toponymic cognomen "Coriolanus" because of his exceptional valor in a Roman siege of the Volscian city of Corioli. He was then promoted to a general...

, contain some of Shakespeare's finest poetry and were considered his most successful tragedies by the poet and critic T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

.

In his final period, Shakespeare turned to romance
Shakespeare's late romances
The late romances, often simply called the romances, are a grouping of what many scholars believe to be William Shakespeare's later plays, including Pericles, Prince of Tyre; Cymbeline; The Winter's Tale; and The Tempest. The Two Noble Kinsmen is sometimes included in this grouping...

 or tragicomedy
Tragicomedy
Tragicomedy is fictional work that blends aspects of the genres of tragedy and comedy. In English literature, from Shakespeare's time to the nineteenth century, tragicomedy referred to a serious play with either a happy ending or enough jokes throughout the play to lighten the mood.-Classical...

 and completed three more major plays: Cymbeline
Cymbeline
Cymbeline , also known as Cymbeline, King of Britain or The Tragedy of Cymbeline, is a play by William Shakespeare, based on legends concerning the early Celtic British King Cunobelinus. Although listed as a tragedy in the First Folio, modern critics often classify Cymbeline as a romance...

, The Winter's Tale
The Winter's Tale
The Winter's Tale is a play by William Shakespeare, originally published in the First Folio of 1623. Although it was grouped among the comedies, some modern editors have relabelled the play as one of Shakespeare's late romances. Some critics, among them W. W...

and The Tempest
The Tempest
The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1610–11, and thought by many critics to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone. It is set on a remote island, where Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place,...

, as well as the collaboration, Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Pericles, Prince of Tyre is a Jacobean play written at least in part by William Shakespeare and included in modern editions of his collected works despite questions over its authorship, as it was not included in the First Folio...

. Less bleak than the tragedies, these four plays are graver in tone than the comedies of the 1590s, but they end with reconciliation and the forgiveness of potentially tragic errors. Some commentators have seen this change in mood as evidence of a more serene view of life on Shakespeare's part, but it may merely reflect the theatrical fashion of the day. Shakespeare collaborated on two further surviving plays, Henry VIII
Henry VIII (play)
The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eight is a history play by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher, based on the life of Henry VIII of England. An alternative title, All is True, is recorded in contemporary documents, the title Henry VIII not appearing until the play's publication...

and The Two Noble Kinsmen
The Two Noble Kinsmen
The Two Noble Kinsmen is a Jacobean tragicomedy, first published in 1634 and attributed to John Fletcher and William Shakespeare. Its plot derives from "The Knight's Tale" in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales....

, probably with John Fletcher
John Fletcher (playwright)
John Fletcher was a Jacobean playwright. Following William Shakespeare as house playwright for the King's Men, he was among the most prolific and influential dramatists of his day; both during his lifetime and in the early Restoration, his fame rivalled Shakespeare's...

.

Performances


It is not clear for which companies Shakespeare wrote his early plays. The title page of the 1594 edition of Titus Andronicus reveals that the play had been acted by three different troupes. After the plagues
Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

 of 1592–3, Shakespeare's plays were performed by his own company at The Theatre
The Theatre
The Theatre was an Elizabethan playhouse located in Shoreditch , just outside the City of London. It was the second permanent theatre ever built in England, after the Red Lion, and the first successful one...

 and the Curtain
Curtain Theatre
The Curtain Theatre was an Elizabethan playhouse located in Curtain Close, Shoreditch , just outside the City of London. It opened in 1577, and continued staging plays until 1622....

 in Shoreditch
Shoreditch
Shoreditch is an area of London within the London Borough of Hackney in England. It is a built-up part of the inner city immediately to the north of the City of London, located east-northeast of Charing Cross.-Etymology:...

, north of the Thames. Londoners flocked there to see the first part of Henry IV, Leonard Digges
Leonard Digges (writer)
Leonard Digges was an accomplished Hispanist and minor poet, a younger son of the astronomer Thomas Digges Leonard Digges (1588 – 7 April 1635) was an accomplished Hispanist and minor poet, a younger son of the astronomer Thomas Digges Leonard Digges (1588 – 7 April 1635) was an...

 recording, "Let but Falstaff come, Hal, Poins, the rest...and you scarce shall have a room". When the company found themselves in dispute with their landlord, they pulled The Theatre down and used the timbers to construct the Globe Theatre
Globe Theatre
The Globe Theatre was a theatre in London associated with William Shakespeare. It was built in 1599 by Shakespeare's playing company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, and was destroyed by fire on 29 June 1613...

, the first playhouse built by actors for actors, on the south bank of the Thames at Southwark
Southwark
Southwark is a district of south London, England, and the administrative headquarters of the London Borough of Southwark. Situated east of Charing Cross, it forms one of the oldest parts of London and fronts the River Thames to the north...

. The Globe opened in autumn 1599, with Julius Caesar one of the first plays staged. Most of Shakespeare's greatest post-1599 plays were written for the Globe, including Hamlet, Othello and King Lear.


After the Lord Chamberlain's Men were renamed the King's Men
King's Men (playing company)
The King's Men was the company of actors to which William Shakespeare belonged through most of his career. Formerly known as The Lord Chamberlain's Men during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, it became The King's Men in 1603 when King James ascended the throne and became the company's patron.The...

 in 1603, they entered a special relationship with the new King James
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

. Although the performance records are patchy, the King's Men performed seven of Shakespeare's plays at court between 1 November 1604 and 31 October 1605, including two performances of The Merchant of Venice. After 1608, they performed at the indoor Blackfriars Theatre
Blackfriars Theatre
Blackfriars Theatre was the name of a theatre in the Blackfriars district of the City of London during the Renaissance. The theatre began as a venue for child actors associated with the Queen's chapel choirs; in this function, the theatre hosted some of the most innovative drama of Elizabeth and...

 during the winter and the Globe during the summer. The indoor setting, combined with the Jacobean
Jacobean era
The Jacobean era refers to the period in English and Scottish history that coincides with the reign of King James VI of Scotland, who also inherited the crown of England in 1603 as James I...

 fashion for lavishly staged masques, allowed Shakespeare to introduce more elaborate stage devices. In Cymbeline, for example, Jupiter
Jupiter (mythology)
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Jupiter or Jove is the king of the gods, and the god of the sky and thunder. He is the equivalent of Zeus in the Greek pantheon....

 descends "in thunder and lightning, sitting upon an eagle: he throws a thunderbolt. The ghosts fall on their knees."

The actors in Shakespeare's company included the famous Richard Burbage
Richard Burbage
Richard Burbage was an English actor and theatre owner. He was the younger brother of Cuthbert Burbage. They were both actors in drama....

, William Kempe
William Kempe
William Kempe , also spelt Kemp, was an English actor and dancer specializing in comic roles and best known for having been one of the original players in early dramas by William Shakespeare...

, Henry Condell
Henry Condell
Henry Condell was an actor in the King's Men, the playing company for which William Shakespeare wrote. With John Heminges, he was instrumental in preparing the First Folio, the collected plays of Shakespeare, published in 1623....

 and John Heminges
John Heminges
John Heminges was an English Renaissance actor. Most noted now as one of the editors of William Shakespeare's 1623 First Folio, Heminges served in his time as an actor and financial manager for the King's Men.-Life:Heminges was born in Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire in 1556...

. Burbage played the leading role in the first performances of many of Shakespeare's plays, including Richard III, Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear. The popular comic actor Will Kempe played the servant Peter in Romeo and Juliet and Dogberry
Dogberry
Dogberry is a self-satisfied night constable in Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing.In the play, Dogberry is the chief of the citizen-police in Messina. As is usual in Shakespearean comedy, and Renaissance comedy generally, he is a figure of comic incompetence...

 in Much Ado About Nothing, among other characters. He was replaced around the turn of the 16th century by Robert Armin
Robert Armin
Robert Armin was an English actor, a member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men. He became the leading comedy actor with the troupe associated with William Shakespeare following the departure of Will Kempe around 1600...

, who played roles such as Touchstone
Touchstone (As You Like It)
Touchstone is an interesting fictional character in Shakespeare's play As You Like It. Touchstone is the court fool or jester, portrayed as a wise man with a dry, cynical wit. Throughout the play he comments on the other characters of the play and thus, contributes to a better understanding of the...

 in As You Like It and the fool in King Lear. In 1613, Sir Henry Wotton
Henry Wotton
Sir Henry Wotton was an English author and diplomat. He is often quoted as saying, "An ambassador is an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country." -Life:The son of Thomas Wotton , brother of Edward Wotton, 1st Baron Wotton, and grandnephew of the diplomat...

 recorded that Henry VIII "was set forth with many extraordinary circumstances of pomp and ceremony". On 29 June, however, a cannon set fire to the thatch of the Globe and burned the theatre to the ground, an event which pinpoints the date of a Shakespeare play with rare precision.

Textual sources



In 1623, John Heminges
John Heminges
John Heminges was an English Renaissance actor. Most noted now as one of the editors of William Shakespeare's 1623 First Folio, Heminges served in his time as an actor and financial manager for the King's Men.-Life:Heminges was born in Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire in 1556...

 and Henry Condell
Henry Condell
Henry Condell was an actor in the King's Men, the playing company for which William Shakespeare wrote. With John Heminges, he was instrumental in preparing the First Folio, the collected plays of Shakespeare, published in 1623....

, two of Shakespeare's friends from the King's Men, published the First Folio
First Folio
Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. is the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare's plays. Modern scholars commonly refer to it as the First Folio....

, a collected edition of Shakespeare's plays. It contained 36 texts, including 18 printed for the first time. Many of the plays had already appeared in quarto
Book size
The size of a book is generally measured by the height against the width of a leaf, or sometimes the height and width of its cover. A series of terms is commonly used by libraries and publishers for the general sizes of modern books, ranging from "folio" , to "quarto" and "octavo"...

 versions—flimsy books made from sheets of paper folded twice to make four leaves. No evidence suggests that Shakespeare approved these editions, which the First Folio describes as "stol'n and surreptitious copies". Alfred Pollard
Alfred W. Pollard
Alfred William Pollard was an English bibliographer, widely credited for bringing a higher level of scholarly rigor to the study of Shakespearean texts....

 termed some of them "bad quarto
Bad quarto
Bad quarto is a term and concept developed by twentieth-century Shakespeare scholars to explain some problems in the early transmission of the texts of Shakespearean works...

s" because of their adapted, paraphrased or garbled texts, which may in places have been reconstructed from memory. Where several versions of a play survive, each differs from the other. The differences may stem from copying or printing errors, from notes by actors or audience members, or from Shakespeare's own papers
Foul papers
Foul papers is a term that refers to an author's working drafts, most often applied in the study of the plays of Shakespeare and other dramatists of English Renaissance drama. Once the composition of a play was finished, a transcript or "fair copy" of the foul papers was prepared, by the author or...

. In some cases, for example Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida
Troilus and Cressida
Troilus and Cressida is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1602. It was also described by Frederick S. Boas as one of Shakespeare's problem plays. The play ends on a very bleak note with the death of the noble Trojan Hector and destruction of the love between Troilus...

and Othello, Shakespeare could have revised the texts between the quarto and folio editions. In the case of King Lear
King Lear
King Lear is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. The title character descends into madness after foolishly disposing of his estate between two of his three daughters based on their flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. The play is based on the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological...

, however, while most modern additions do conflate them, the 1623 folio version is so different from the 1608 quarto, that the Oxford Shakespeare prints them both, arguing that they cannot be conflated without confusion.

Poems


In 1593 and 1594, when the theatres were closed because of plague
Bubonic plague
Plague is a deadly infectious disease that is caused by the enterobacteria Yersinia pestis, named after the French-Swiss bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin. Primarily carried by rodents and spread to humans via fleas, the disease is notorious throughout history, due to the unrivaled scale of death...

, Shakespeare published two narrative poems on erotic themes, Venus and Adonis
Venus and Adonis (Shakespeare poem)
Venus and Adonis is a poem by William Shakespeare, written in 1592–1593, with a plot based on passages from Ovid's Metamorphoses. It is a complex, kaleidoscopic work, using constantly shifting tone and perspective to present contrasting views of the nature of love.-Publication:Venus and Adonis was...

and The Rape of Lucrece
The Rape of Lucrece
The Rape of Lucrece is a narrative poem by William Shakespeare about the legendary Lucretia. In his previous narrative poem, Venus and Adonis , Shakespeare had included a dedicatory letter to his patron, the Earl of Southampton, in which he promised to write a "graver work"...

. He dedicated them to Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton
Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton
Henry Wriothesley , 3rd Earl of Southampton , was the second son of Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton, and his wife Mary Browne, Countess of Southampton, daughter of the 1st Viscount Montagu...

. In Venus and Adonis, an innocent Adonis
Adonis
Adonis , in Greek mythology, the god of beauty and desire, is a figure with Northwest Semitic antecedents, where he is a central figure in various mystery religions. The Greek , Adōnis is a variation of the Semitic word Adonai, "lord", which is also one of the names used to refer to God in the Old...

 rejects the sexual advances of Venus
Venus (mythology)
Venus is a Roman goddess principally associated with love, beauty, sex,sexual seduction and fertility, who played a key role in many Roman religious festivals and myths...

; while in The Rape of Lucrece, the virtuous wife Lucrece
Lucretia
Lucretia is a legendary figure in the history of the Roman Republic. According to the story, told mainly by the Roman historian Livy and the Greek historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus , her rape by the king's son and consequent suicide were the immediate cause of the revolution that overthrew the...

 is raped by the lustful Tarquin
Sextus Tarquinius
Sextus Tarquinius was a Roman prince, the third and youngest son of the last king of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus . He is primarily known for his rape of Lucretia, daughter of Spurius Lucretius Tricipitinus, wife of Collatinus....

. Influenced by Ovid's
Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

 Metamorphoses, the poems show the guilt and moral confusion that result from uncontrolled lust. Both proved popular and were often reprinted during Shakespeare's lifetime. A third narrative poem, A Lover's Complaint
A Lover's Complaint
A Lover's Complaint is a narrative poem published as an appendix to the original edition of Shakespeare's sonnets. It is given the title 'A Lover's Complaint' in the book, which was published by Thomas Thorpe in 1609...

, in which a young woman laments her seduction by a persuasive suitor, was printed in the first edition of the Sonnets in 1609. Most scholars now accept that Shakespeare wrote A Lover's Complaint. Critics consider that its fine qualities are marred by leaden effects. The Phoenix and the Turtle
The Phoenix and the Turtle
The Phoenix and the Turtle is an allegorical poem about the death of ideal love by William Shakespeare. It is widely considered to be one of his most obscure works and has led to many conflicting interpretations. It has also been called "the first great published metaphysical poem". The title "The...

, printed in Robert Chester's 1601 Love's Martyr, mourns the deaths of the legendary phoenix
Phoenix (mythology)
The phoenix or phenix is a mythical sacred firebird that can be found in the mythologies of the Arabian, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Chinese, Indian and Phoenicians....

 and his lover, the faithful turtle dove
Turtle Dove
The European Turtle Dove , also known as Turtle Dove, is a member of the bird family Columbidae, which includes the doves and pigeons.-Distribution & Status:...

. In 1599, two early drafts of sonnets 138 and 144 appeared in The Passionate Pilgrim
The Passionate Pilgrim
The Passionate Pilgrim is an anthology of 20 poems that were attributed to "W. Shakespeare" on the title page, only five of which are accepted by present-day scholars as authentically Shakespearean.-Editions:...

, published under Shakespeare's name but without his permission.

Sonnets


Published in 1609, the Sonnets
Shakespeare's sonnets
Shakespeare's sonnets are 154 poems in sonnet form written by William Shakespeare, dealing with themes such as the passage of time, love, beauty and mortality. All but two of the poems were first published in a 1609 quarto entitled SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS.: Never before imprinted. Sonnets 138 and 144...

were the last of Shakespeare's non-dramatic works to be printed. Scholars are not certain when each of the 154 sonnets was composed, but evidence suggests that Shakespeare wrote sonnets throughout his career for a private readership. Even before the two unauthorised sonnets appeared in The Passionate Pilgrim in 1599, Francis Meres
Francis Meres
Francis Meres was an English churchman and author.He was born at Kirton in the Holland division of Lincolnshire in 1565. He was educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he received a B.A. in 1587 and an M.A. in 1591. Two years later he was incorporated an M.A. of Oxford...

 had referred in 1598 to Shakespeare's "sugred Sonnets among his private friends". Few analysts believe that the published collection follows Shakespeare's intended sequence. He seems to have planned two contrasting series: one about uncontrollable lust for a married woman of dark complexion (the "dark lady"), and one about conflicted love for a fair young man (the "fair youth"). It remains unclear if these figures represent real individuals, or if the authorial "I" who addresses them represents Shakespeare himself, though Wordsworth believed that with the sonnets "Shakespeare unlocked his heart". The 1609 edition was dedicated to a "Mr. W.H.", credited as "the only begetter" of the poems.

It is not known whether this was written by Shakespeare himself or by the publisher, Thomas Thorpe
Thomas Thorpe
Thomas Thorpe was an English publisher, most famous for publishing Shakespeare's sonnets and several works by Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson. His publication of the sonnets has long been controversial...

, whose initials appear at the foot of the dedication page; nor is it known who Mr. W.H. was, despite numerous theories, or whether Shakespeare even authorised the publication. Critics praise the Sonnets as a profound meditation on the nature of love, sexual passion, procreation, death, and time.

Style


Shakespeare's first plays were written in the conventional style of the day. He wrote them in a stylised language that does not always spring naturally from the needs of the characters or the drama. The poetry depends on extended, sometimes elaborate metaphors and conceits, and the language is often rhetorical—written for actors to declaim rather than speak. The grand speeches in Titus Andronicus
Titus Andronicus
Titus Andronicus is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, and possibly George Peele, believed to have been written between 1588 and 1593. It is thought to be Shakespeare's first tragedy, and is often seen as his attempt to emulate the violent and bloody revenge plays of his contemporaries, which were...

, in the view of some critics, often hold up the action, for example; and the verse in The Two Gentlemen of Verona
The Two Gentlemen of Verona
The Two Gentlemen of Verona is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1590 or 1591. It is considered by some to be Shakespeare's first play, and is often seen as his first tentative steps in laying out some of the themes and tropes with which he would later deal in more...

has been described as stilted.

Soon, however, Shakespeare began to adapt the traditional styles to his own purposes. The opening soliloquy
Soliloquy
A soliloquy is a device often used in drama whereby a character relates his or her thoughts and feelings to him/herself and to the audience without addressing any of the other characters, and is delivered often when they are alone or think they are alone. Soliloquy is distinct from monologue and...

 of Richard III
Richard III (play)
Richard III is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in approximately 1591. It depicts the Machiavellian rise to power and subsequent short reign of Richard III of England. The play is grouped among the histories in the First Folio and is most often classified...

has its roots in the self-declaration of Vice
The Vice
Vice is a stock character of the medieval morality plays. While the main character of these plays was representative of every human being , the other characters were representative of personified virtues or vices who sought to win control of man's soul...

 in medieval drama. At the same time, Richard’s vivid self-awareness looks forward to the soliloquies of Shakespeare's mature plays. No single play marks a change from the traditional to the freer style. Shakespeare combined the two throughout his career, with Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written early in the career of playwright William Shakespeare about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately unite their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare's most popular archetypal stories of young, teenage lovers.Romeo and Juliet belongs to a...

perhaps the best example of the mixing of the styles. By the time of Romeo and Juliet, Richard II
Richard II (play)
King Richard the Second is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to be written in approximately 1595. It is based on the life of King Richard II of England and is the first part of a tetralogy, referred to by some scholars as the Henriad, followed by three plays concerning Richard's...

, and A Midsummer Night's Dream
A Midsummer Night's Dream
A Midsummer Night's Dream is a play that was written by William Shakespeare. It is believed to have been written between 1590 and 1596. It portrays the events surrounding the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta...

in the mid-1590s, Shakespeare had begun to write a more natural poetry. He increasingly tuned his metaphors and images to the needs of the drama itself.


Shakespeare's standard poetic form was blank verse
Blank verse
Blank verse is poetry written in unrhymed iambic pentameter. It has been described as "probably the most common and influential form that English poetry has taken since the sixteenth century" and Paul Fussell has claimed that "about three-quarters of all English poetry is in blank verse."The first...

, composed in iambic pentameter
Iambic pentameter
Iambic pentameter is a commonly used metrical line in traditional verse and verse drama. The term describes the particular rhythm that the words establish in that line. That rhythm is measured in small groups of syllables; these small groups of syllables are called "feet"...

. In practice, this meant that his verse was usually unrhymed and consisted of ten syllables to a line, spoken with a stress on every second syllable. The blank verse of his early plays is quite different from that of his later ones. It is often beautiful, but its sentences tend to start, pause, and finish at the end of lines
End-stopping
An end-stopped line is a feature in poetry in which the syntactic unit corresponds in length to the line. Its opposite is enjambment, where the sense runs on into the next line. According to A. C...

, with the risk of monotony. Once Shakespeare mastered traditional blank verse, he began to interrupt and vary its flow. This technique releases the new power and flexibility of the poetry in plays such as Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar (play)
The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, also known simply as Julius Caesar, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1599. It portrays the 44 BC conspiracy against...

and Hamlet
Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

. Shakespeare uses it, for example, to convey the turmoil in Hamlet's mind:
Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting
That would not let me sleep. Methought I lay
Worse than the mutines in the bilboes. Rashly—
And prais'd be rashness for it—let us know
Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well...

Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2, 4–8


After Hamlet, Shakespeare varied his poetic style further, particularly in the more emotional passages of the late tragedies. The literary critic A. C. Bradley described this style as "more concentrated, rapid, varied, and, in construction, less regular, not seldom twisted or elliptical". In the last phase of his career, Shakespeare adopted many techniques to achieve these effects. These included run-on lines
Enjambment
Enjambment or enjambement is the breaking of a syntactic unit by the end of a line or between two verses. It is to be contrasted with end-stopping, where each linguistic unit corresponds with a single line, and caesura, in which the linguistic unit ends mid-line...

, irregular pauses and stops, and extreme variations in sentence structure and length. In Macbeth
Macbeth
The Tragedy of Macbeth is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607...

, for example, the language darts from one unrelated metaphor or simile to another: "was the hope drunk/ Wherein you dressed yourself?" (1.7.35–38); "...pity, like a naked new-born babe/ Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubim, hors'd/ Upon the sightless couriers of the air..." (1.7.21–25). The listener is challenged to complete the sense. The late romances, with their shifts in time and surprising turns of plot, inspired a last poetic style in which long and short sentences are set against one another, clauses are piled up, subject and object are reversed, and words are omitted, creating an effect of spontaneity.

Shakespeare combined poetic genius with a practical sense of the theatre. Like all playwrights of the time, he dramatised stories from sources such as Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 and Holinshed. He reshaped each plot to create several centres of interest and to show as many sides of a narrative to the audience as possible. This strength of design ensures that a Shakespeare play can survive translation, cutting and wide interpretation without loss to its core drama. As Shakespeare’s mastery grew, he gave his characters clearer and more varied motivations and distinctive patterns of speech. He preserved aspects of his earlier style in the later plays, however. In Shakespeare's late romances
Shakespeare's late romances
The late romances, often simply called the romances, are a grouping of what many scholars believe to be William Shakespeare's later plays, including Pericles, Prince of Tyre; Cymbeline; The Winter's Tale; and The Tempest. The Two Noble Kinsmen is sometimes included in this grouping...

, he deliberately returned to a more artificial style, which emphasised the illusion of theatre.

Influence



Shakespeare's work has made a lasting impression on later theatre and literature. In particular, he expanded the dramatic potential of characterisation
Characterisation
Characterization or characterisation is the art of creating characters for a narrative, including the process of conveying information about them. It may be employed in dramatic works of art or everyday conversation...

, plot, language
Language
Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

, and genre
Genre
Genre , Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time...

. Until Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written early in the career of playwright William Shakespeare about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately unite their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare's most popular archetypal stories of young, teenage lovers.Romeo and Juliet belongs to a...

, for example, romance had not been viewed as a worthy topic for tragedy. Soliloquies had been used mainly to convey information about characters or events; but Shakespeare used them to explore characters' minds. His work heavily influenced later poetry. The Romantic poets
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 attempted to revive Shakespearean verse drama, though with little success. Critic George Steiner
George Steiner
Francis George Steiner, FBA , is an influential European-born American literary critic, essayist, philosopher, novelist, translator, and educator. He has written extensively about the relationship between language, literature and society, and the impact of the Holocaust...

 described all English verse dramas from Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, Romantic, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets. He is probably best known for his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla...

 to Tennyson as "feeble variations on Shakespearean themes."

Shakespeare influenced novelists such as Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy, OM was an English novelist and poet. While his works typically belong to the Naturalism movement, several poems display elements of the previous Romantic and Enlightenment periods of literature, such as his fascination with the supernatural.While he regarded himself primarily as a...

, William Faulkner
William Faulkner
William Cuthbert Faulkner was an American writer from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner worked in a variety of media; he wrote novels, short stories, a play, poetry, essays and screenplays during his career...

, and Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens
Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime, and he remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature's most iconic...

. The American novelist Herman Melville's
Herman Melville
Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick and the posthumous novella Billy Budd....

 soliloquies owe much to Shakespeare; his Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick
Moby-Dick
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, was written by American author Herman Melville and first published in 1851. It is considered by some to be a Great American Novel and a treasure of world literature. The story tells the adventures of wandering sailor Ishmael, and his voyage on the whaleship Pequod,...

is a classic tragic hero
Tragic hero
A tragic hero is the main character in a tragedy. Tragic heroes appear in the dramatic works of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Seneca, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Webster, Marston, Corneille, Racine, Goethe, Schiller, Kleist, Strindberg, and many other writers.-Aristotle's tragic hero:Aristotle...

, inspired by King Lear. Scholars have identified 20,000 pieces of music linked to Shakespeare's works. These include two opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

s by Giuseppe Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi
Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi was an Italian Romantic composer, mainly of opera. He was one of the most influential composers of the 19th century...

, Otello
Otello
Otello is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito, based on Shakespeare's play Othello. It was Verdi's penultimate opera, and was first performed at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, on February 5, 1887....

and Falstaff
Falstaff (opera)
Falstaff is an operatic commedia lirica in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi, adapted by Arrigo Boito from Shakespeare's plays The Merry Wives of Windsor and scenes from Henry IV. It was Verdi's last opera, written in the composer's ninth decade, and only the second of his 26 operas to be a comedy...

, whose critical standing compares with that of the source plays. Shakespeare has also inspired many painters, including the Romantics and the Pre-Raphaelites
Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a group of English painters, poets, and critics, founded in 1848 by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti...

. The Swiss Romantic artist Henry Fuseli
Henry Fuseli
Henry Fuseli was a British painter, draughtsman, and writer on art, of Swiss origin.-Biography:...

, a friend of William Blake
William Blake
William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age...

, even translated Macbeth into German. The psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

 drew on Shakespearean psychology, in particular that of Hamlet, for his theories of human nature.

In Shakespeare's day, English grammar, spelling and pronunciation were less standardised than they are now, and his use of language helped shape modern English. Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson , often referred to as Dr. Johnson, was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer...

 quoted him more often than any other author in his A Dictionary of the English Language
A Dictionary of the English Language
Published on 15 April 1755 and written by Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language, sometimes published as Johnson's Dictionary, is among the most influential dictionaries in the history of the English language....

, the first serious work of its type. Expressions such as "with bated breath" (Merchant of Venice) and "a foregone conclusion" (Othello) have found their way into everyday English speech.

Critical reputation


Shakespeare was not revered in his lifetime, but he received his share of praise. In 1598, the cleric and author Francis Meres
Francis Meres
Francis Meres was an English churchman and author.He was born at Kirton in the Holland division of Lincolnshire in 1565. He was educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he received a B.A. in 1587 and an M.A. in 1591. Two years later he was incorporated an M.A. of Oxford...

 singled him out from a group of English writers as "the most excellent" in both comedy and tragedy. And the authors of the Parnassus plays at St John's College, Cambridge
St John's College, Cambridge
St John's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. The college's alumni include nine Nobel Prize winners, six Prime Ministers, three archbishops, at least two princes, and three Saints....

, numbered him with Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer , known as the Father of English literature, is widely considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages and was the first poet to have been buried in Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey...

, Gower
John Gower
John Gower was an English poet, a contemporary of William Langland and a personal friend of Geoffrey Chaucer. He is remembered primarily for three major works, the Mirroir de l'Omme, Vox Clamantis, and Confessio Amantis, three long poems written in French, Latin, and English respectively, which...

 and Spenser
Edmund Spenser
Edmund Spenser was an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognised as one of the premier craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy, and one of the greatest poets in the English...

. In the First Folio
First Folio
Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. is the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare's plays. Modern scholars commonly refer to it as the First Folio....

, Ben Jonson
Ben Jonson
Benjamin Jonson was an English Renaissance dramatist, poet and actor. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he is best known for his satirical plays, particularly Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, which are considered his best, and his lyric poems...

 called Shakespeare the "Soul of the age, the applause, delight, the wonder of our stage", though he had remarked elsewhere that "Shakespeare wanted art".

Between the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 and the end of the 17th century, classical ideas were in vogue. As a result, critics of the time mostly rated Shakespeare below John Fletcher
John Fletcher (playwright)
John Fletcher was a Jacobean playwright. Following William Shakespeare as house playwright for the King's Men, he was among the most prolific and influential dramatists of his day; both during his lifetime and in the early Restoration, his fame rivalled Shakespeare's...

 and Ben Jonson
Ben Jonson
Benjamin Jonson was an English Renaissance dramatist, poet and actor. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he is best known for his satirical plays, particularly Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, which are considered his best, and his lyric poems...

. Thomas Rymer
Thomas Rymer
Thomas Rymer , English historiographer royal, was the younger son of Ralph Rymer, lord of the manor of Brafferton in Yorkshire, described by Clarendon as possessed of a good estate, who was executed for his share in the Presbyterian rising of 1663.-Early life and education:Thomas Rymer was born at...

, for example, condemned Shakespeare for mixing the comic with the tragic. Nevertheless, poet and critic John Dryden
John Dryden
John Dryden was an influential English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who dominated the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden.Walter Scott called him "Glorious John." He was made Poet...

 rated Shakespeare highly, saying of Jonson, "I admire him, but I love Shakespeare". For several decades, Rymer's view held sway; but during the 18th century, critics began to respond to Shakespeare on his own terms and acclaim what they termed his natural genius. A series of scholarly editions of his work, notably those of Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson , often referred to as Dr. Johnson, was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer...

 in 1765 and Edmond Malone
Edmond Malone
Edmond Malone was an Irish Shakespearean scholar and editor of the works of William Shakespeare.Assured of an income after the death of his father in 1774, Malone was able to give up his law practice for at first political and then more congenial literary pursuits. He went to London, where he...

 in 1790, added to his growing reputation. By 1800, he was firmly enshrined as the national poet. In the 18th and 19th centuries, his reputation also spread abroad. Among those who championed him were the writers Voltaire
Voltaire
François-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...

, Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath. He is considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science. His Faust has been called the greatest long...

, Stendhal
Stendhal
Marie-Henri Beyle , better known by his pen name Stendhal, was a 19th-century French writer. Known for his acute analysis of his characters' psychology, he is considered one of the earliest and foremost practitioners of realism in his two novels Le Rouge et le Noir and La Chartreuse de Parme...

 and Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo
Victor-Marie Hugo was a Frenchpoet, playwright, novelist, essayist, visual artist, statesman, human rights activist and exponent of the Romantic movement in France....

.

During the Romantic era
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

, Shakespeare was praised by the poet and literary philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, Romantic, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets. He is probably best known for his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla...

; and the critic August Wilhelm Schlegel translated his plays in the spirit of German Romanticism
German Romanticism
For the general context, see Romanticism.In the philosophy, art, and culture of German-speaking countries, German Romanticism was the dominant movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. German Romanticism developed relatively late compared to its English counterpart, coinciding in its...

. In the 19th century, critical admiration for Shakespeare's genius often bordered on adulation. "That King Shakespeare," the essayist Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle was a Scottish satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher during the Victorian era.He called economics "the dismal science", wrote articles for the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, and became a controversial social commentator.Coming from a strict Calvinist family, Carlyle was...

 wrote in 1840, "does not he shine, in crowned sovereignty, over us all, as the noblest, gentlest, yet strongest of rallying signs; indestructible". The Victorians
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

 produced his plays as lavish spectacles on a grand scale. The playwright and critic George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60...

 mocked the cult of Shakespeare worship as "bardolatry
Bardolatry
Bardolatry is a term that refers to the excessive adulation of William Shakespeare, a portmanteau of "bard" and "idolatry." Shakespeare has been known as "the Bard" since the nineteenth century. One who idolizes Shakespeare is known as a Bardolater....

". He claimed that the new naturalism
Naturalism (theatre)
Naturalism is a movement in European drama and theatre that developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It refers to theatre that attempts to create a perfect illusion of reality through a range of dramatic and theatrical strategies: detailed, three-dimensional settings Naturalism is a...

 of Ibsen's
Henrik Ibsen
Henrik Ibsen was a major 19th-century Norwegian playwright, theatre director, and poet. He is often referred to as "the father of prose drama" and is one of the founders of Modernism in the theatre...

 plays had made Shakespeare obsolete.

The modernist revolution in the arts during the early 20th century, far from discarding Shakespeare, eagerly enlisted his work in the service of the avant-garde
Avant-garde
Avant-garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard". The adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics....

. The Expressionists in Germany
German Expressionism
German Expressionism refers to a number of related creative movements beginning in Germany before the First World War that reached a peak in Berlin, during the 1920s...

 and the Futurists
Futurism
Futurism was an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy in the early 20th century.Futurism or futurist may refer to:* Afrofuturism, an African-American and African diaspora subculture* Cubo-Futurism* Ego-Futurism...

 in Moscow mounted productions of his plays. Marxist playwright and director Bertolt Brecht
Bertolt Brecht
Bertolt Brecht was a German poet, playwright, and theatre director.An influential theatre practitioner of the 20th century, Brecht made equally significant contributions to dramaturgy and theatrical production, the latter particularly through the seismic impact of the tours undertaken by the...

 devised an epic theatre
Epic theatre
Epic theatre was a theatrical movement arising in the early to mid-20th century from the theories and practice of a number of theatre practitioners, including Erwin Piscator, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Vsevolod Meyerhold and, most famously, Bertolt Brecht...

 under the influence of Shakespeare. The poet and critic T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

 argued against Shaw that Shakespeare's "primitiveness" in fact made him truly modern. Eliot, along with G. Wilson Knight
G. Wilson Knight
George Richard Wilson Knight was an English literary critic and academic, known particularly for his interpretation of mythic content in literature, and his essays The Wheel of Fire on Shakespeare's drama...

 and the school of New Criticism
New Criticism
New Criticism was a movement in literary theory that dominated American literary criticism in the middle decades of the 20th century. It emphasized close reading, particularly of poetry, to discover how a work of literature functioned as a self-contained, self-referential aesthetic...

, led a movement towards a closer reading of Shakespeare's imagery. In the 1950s, a wave of new critical approaches replaced modernism and paved the way for "post-modern
Postmodernism
Postmodernism is a philosophical movement evolved in reaction to modernism, the tendency in contemporary culture to accept only objective truth and to be inherently suspicious towards a global cultural narrative or meta-narrative. Postmodernist thought is an intentional departure from the...

" studies of Shakespeare. By the eighties, Shakespeare studies were open to movements such as structuralism
Structuralism
Structuralism originated in the structural linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure and the subsequent Prague and Moscow schools of linguistics. Just as structural linguistics was facing serious challenges from the likes of Noam Chomsky and thus fading in importance in linguistics, structuralism...

, feminism
Feminism
Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women. Its concepts overlap with those of women's rights...

, New Historicism
New Historicism
New Historicism is a school of literary theory, grounded in critical theory, that developed in the 1980s, primarily through the work of the critic Stephen Greenblatt, and gained widespread influence in the 1990s....

, African American studies
African American studies
African American studies is a subset of Black studies or Africana studies. It is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to the study of the history, culture, and politics of African Americans...

, and queer studies
Queer studies
Queer studies is the critical theory based study of issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity usually focusing on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and cultures. Universities have also labeled this area of analysis Sexual Diversity Studies, Sexualities...

.

Authorship



Around 150 years after Shakespeare's death, doubts began to be expressed about the authorship of the works attributed to him. Proposed alternative candidates include Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Albans, KC was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, author and pioneer of the scientific method. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England...

, Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe was an English dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. As the foremost Elizabethan tragedian, next to William Shakespeare, he is known for his blank verse, his overreaching protagonists, and his mysterious death.A warrant was issued for Marlowe's arrest on 18 May...

, and Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford
Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford
Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford was an Elizabethan courtier, playwright, lyric poet, sportsman and patron of the arts, and is currently the most popular alternative candidate proposed for the authorship of Shakespeare's works....

. Several "group theories" have also been proposed. Only a small minority of academics believe there is reason to question the traditional attribution, but interest in the subject, particularly the Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship
Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship
The Oxfordian theory of Shakespearean authorship proposes that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford , wrote the plays and poems traditionally attributed to William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon. While a large majority of scholars reject all alternative candidates for authorship, popular...

, continues into the 21st century.

Religion


Some scholars claim that members of Shakespeare's family were Catholics, at a time when Catholic practice was against the law. Shakespeare's mother, Mary Arden, certainly came from a pious Catholic family. The strongest evidence might be a Catholic statement of faith signed by John Shakespeare
John Shakespeare
John Shakespeare was the father of William Shakespeare. He was the son of Richard Shakespeare of Snitterfield, a farmer. He moved to Stratford-upon-Avon and married Mary Arden, with whom he had eight children, five of whom survived into adulthood...

, found in 1757 in the rafters of his former house in Henley Street. The document is now lost, however, and scholars differ as to its authenticity. In 1591 the authorities reported that John Shakespeare had missed church "for fear of process for debt", a common Catholic excuse. In 1606 the name of William's daughter Susanna appears on a list of those who failed to attend Easter communion
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

 in Stratford. Scholars find evidence both for and against Shakespeare's Catholicism in his plays, but the truth may be impossible to prove either way.

Sexuality


Few details of Shakespeare's sexuality are known. At 18, he married the 26-year-old Anne Hathaway
Anne Hathaway (Shakespeare)
Anne Hathaway was the wife of William Shakespeare. They were married in 1582. She outlived her husband by seven years...

, who was pregnant. Susanna, the first of their three children, was born six months later on 26 May 1583. Over the centuries some readers have posited that Shakespeare's sonnets are autobiographical, and point to them as evidence of his love for a young man. Others read the same passages as the expression of intense friendship rather than sexual love. The 26 so-called "Dark Lady" sonnets, addressed to a married woman, are taken as evidence of heterosexual liaisons.

Portraiture



There is no written description of Shakespeare's physical appearance and no evidence that he ever commissioned a portrait, so the Droeshout engraving, which Ben Jonson approved of as a good likeness, and his Stratford monument
Shakespeare's funerary monument
The Shakespeare funerary monument is a memorial to William Shakespeare located inside Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, UK, the same church in which Shakespeare was baptised....

 provide the best evidence of his appearance. From the 18th century, the desire for authentic Shakespeare portraits fuelled claims that various surviving pictures depicted Shakespeare. That demand also led to the production of several fake portraits, as well as misattributions, repaintings and relabelling of portraits of other people.

List of works



Classification of the plays



Shakespeare's works include the 36 plays printed in the First Folio
First Folio
Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. is the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare's plays. Modern scholars commonly refer to it as the First Folio....

 of 1623, listed below according to their folio classification as comedies
Shakespearean comedy
In the First Folio, the plays of William Shakespeare were grouped into three categories: comedies, histories, and tragedies."Comedy", in its Elizabethan usage, had a very different meaning from modern comedy...

, histories
Shakespearean history
In the First Folio, the plays of William Shakespeare were grouped into three categories: comedies, histories, and tragedies. This categorisation has become established, although some critics have argued for other categories such as romances and problem plays. The histories were those plays based on...

 and tragedies
Shakespearean tragedy
Shakespeare wrote tragedies from the beginning of his career. One of his earliest plays was the Roman tragedy Titus Andronicus, which he followed a few years later with Romeo and Juliet. However, his most admired tragedies were written in a seven-year period between 1601 and 1608...

. Two plays not included in the First Folio, The Two Noble Kinsmen
The Two Noble Kinsmen
The Two Noble Kinsmen is a Jacobean tragicomedy, first published in 1634 and attributed to John Fletcher and William Shakespeare. Its plot derives from "The Knight's Tale" in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales....

and Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Pericles, Prince of Tyre is a Jacobean play written at least in part by William Shakespeare and included in modern editions of his collected works despite questions over its authorship, as it was not included in the First Folio...

, are now accepted as part of the canon, with scholars agreed that Shakespeare made a major contribution to their composition. No Shakespearean poems were included in the First Folio.

In the late 19th century, Edward Dowden
Edward Dowden
Edward Dowden , was an Irish critic and poet.He was the son of John Wheeler Dowden, a merchant and landowner, and was born at Cork, three years after his brother John, who became Bishop of Edinburgh in 1886. Edward's literary tastes emerged early, in a series of essays written at the age of twelve...

 classified four of the late comedies as romances
Shakespeare's late romances
The late romances, often simply called the romances, are a grouping of what many scholars believe to be William Shakespeare's later plays, including Pericles, Prince of Tyre; Cymbeline; The Winter's Tale; and The Tempest. The Two Noble Kinsmen is sometimes included in this grouping...

, and though many scholars prefer to call them tragicomedies
Tragicomedy
Tragicomedy is fictional work that blends aspects of the genres of tragedy and comedy. In English literature, from Shakespeare's time to the nineteenth century, tragicomedy referred to a serious play with either a happy ending or enough jokes throughout the play to lighten the mood.-Classical...

, his term is often used. These plays and the associated Two Noble Kinsmen are marked with an asterisk (*) below. In 1896, Frederick S. Boas
Frederick S. Boas
Frederick Samuel Boas was an English scholar of early modern drama. He was born on 24 July 1862, the eldest son of Hermann Boas of Belfast. He attended Clifton College as a scholar and went up to Balliol College, Oxford, in 1881. During his time at Balliol his tutor was David George Ritchie...

 coined the term "problem plays" to describe four plays: All's Well That Ends Well
All's Well That Ends Well
All's Well That Ends Well is a play by William Shakespeare. It is believed to have been written between 1604 and 1605, and was originally published in the First Folio in 1623....

, Measure for Measure
Measure for Measure
Measure for Measure is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1603 or 1604. It was classified as comedy, but its mood defies those expectations. As a result and for a variety of reasons, some critics have labelled it as one of Shakespeare's problem plays...

, Troilus and Cressida
Troilus and Cressida
Troilus and Cressida is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1602. It was also described by Frederick S. Boas as one of Shakespeare's problem plays. The play ends on a very bleak note with the death of the noble Trojan Hector and destruction of the love between Troilus...

and Hamlet
Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

. "Dramas as singular in theme and temper cannot be strictly called comedies or tragedies", he wrote. "We may therefore borrow a convenient phrase from the theatre of today and class them together as Shakespeare's problem plays." The term, much debated and sometimes applied to other plays, remains in use, though Hamlet is definitively classed as a tragedy. The other problem plays are marked below with a double dagger (‡).

Plays thought to be only partly written by Shakespeare are marked with a dagger (†) below. Other works occasionally attributed to him are listed as apocrypha.

Works


Comedies

  • All's Well That Ends Well
    All's Well That Ends Well
    All's Well That Ends Well is a play by William Shakespeare. It is believed to have been written between 1604 and 1605, and was originally published in the First Folio in 1623....

  • As You Like It
    As You Like It
    As You Like It is a pastoral comedy by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1599 or early 1600 and first published in the folio of 1623. The play's first performance is uncertain, though a performance at Wilton House in 1603 has been suggested as a possibility...

  • The Comedy of Errors
    The Comedy of Errors
    The Comedy of Errors is one of William Shakespeare's earliest plays. It is his shortest and one of his most farcical comedies, with a major part of the humour coming from slapstick and mistaken identity, in addition to puns and word play. The Comedy of Errors is one of only two of Shakespeare's...

  • Love's Labour's Lost
    Love's Labour's Lost
    Love's Labour's Lost is one of William Shakespeare's early comedies, believed to have been written in the mid-1590s, and first published in 1598.-Title:...

  • Measure for Measure
    Measure for Measure
    Measure for Measure is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1603 or 1604. It was classified as comedy, but its mood defies those expectations. As a result and for a variety of reasons, some critics have labelled it as one of Shakespeare's problem plays...

  • The Merchant of Venice
    The Merchant of Venice
    The Merchant of Venice is a tragic comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1596 and 1598. Though classified as a comedy in the First Folio and sharing certain aspects with Shakespeare's other romantic comedies, the play is perhaps most remembered for its dramatic...

  • The Merry Wives of Windsor
    The Merry Wives of Windsor
    The Merry Wives of Windsor is a comedy by William Shakespeare, first published in 1602, though believed to have been written prior to 1597. It features the fat knight Sir John Falstaff, and is Shakespeare's only play to deal exclusively with contemporary Elizabethan era English middle class life...

  • A Midsummer Night's Dream
    A Midsummer Night's Dream
    A Midsummer Night's Dream is a play that was written by William Shakespeare. It is believed to have been written between 1590 and 1596. It portrays the events surrounding the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta...

  • Much Ado About Nothing
    Much Ado About Nothing
    Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy written by William Shakespeare about two pairs of lovers, Benedick and Beatrice, and Claudio and Hero....

  • Pericles, Prince of Tyre
    Pericles, Prince of Tyre
    Pericles, Prince of Tyre is a Jacobean play written at least in part by William Shakespeare and included in modern editions of his collected works despite questions over its authorship, as it was not included in the First Folio...

    *†
  • The Taming of the Shrew
    The Taming of the Shrew
    The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1590 and 1591.The play begins with a framing device, often referred to as the Induction, in which a mischievous nobleman tricks a drunken tinker named Sly into believing he is actually a nobleman himself...

  • The Tempest
    The Tempest
    The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1610–11, and thought by many critics to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone. It is set on a remote island, where Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place,...

    *
  • Twelfth Night
  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona
    The Two Gentlemen of Verona
    The Two Gentlemen of Verona is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1590 or 1591. It is considered by some to be Shakespeare's first play, and is often seen as his first tentative steps in laying out some of the themes and tropes with which he would later deal in more...

  • The Two Noble Kinsmen
    The Two Noble Kinsmen
    The Two Noble Kinsmen is a Jacobean tragicomedy, first published in 1634 and attributed to John Fletcher and William Shakespeare. Its plot derives from "The Knight's Tale" in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales....

    *†
  • The Winter's Tale
    The Winter's Tale
    The Winter's Tale is a play by William Shakespeare, originally published in the First Folio of 1623. Although it was grouped among the comedies, some modern editors have relabelled the play as one of Shakespeare's late romances. Some critics, among them W. W...

    *

Histories

  • King John
  • Richard II
    Richard II (play)
    King Richard the Second is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to be written in approximately 1595. It is based on the life of King Richard II of England and is the first part of a tetralogy, referred to by some scholars as the Henriad, followed by three plays concerning Richard's...

  • Henry IV, Part 1
    Henry IV, Part 1
    Henry IV, Part 1 is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written no later than 1597. It is the second play in Shakespeare's tetralogy dealing with the successive reigns of Richard II, Henry IV , and Henry V...

  • Henry IV, Part 2
    Henry IV, Part 2
    Henry IV, Part 2 is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed written between 1596 and 1599. It is the third part of a tetralogy, preceded by Richard II and Henry IV, Part 1 and succeeded by Henry V.-Sources:...

  • Henry V
    Henry V (play)
    Henry V is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to be written in approximately 1599. Its full titles are The Cronicle History of Henry the Fifth and The Life of Henry the Fifth...

  • Henry VI, Part 1
    Henry VI, part 1
    Henry VI, Part 1 or The First Part of Henry the Sixt is a history play by William Shakespeare, and possibly Thomas Nashe, believed to have been written in 1591, and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England...

  • Henry VI, Part 2
    Henry VI, part 2
    Henry VI, Part 2 or The Second Part of Henry the Sixt is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1591, and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England...

  • Henry VI, Part 3
    Henry VI, part 3
    Henry VI, Part 3 or The Third Part of Henry the Sixt is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1591, and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England...

  • Richard III
    Richard III (play)
    Richard III is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in approximately 1591. It depicts the Machiavellian rise to power and subsequent short reign of Richard III of England. The play is grouped among the histories in the First Folio and is most often classified...

  • Henry VIII
    Henry VIII (play)
    The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eight is a history play by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher, based on the life of Henry VIII of England. An alternative title, All is True, is recorded in contemporary documents, the title Henry VIII not appearing until the play's publication...


Tragedies

  • Romeo and Juliet
    Romeo and Juliet
    Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written early in the career of playwright William Shakespeare about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately unite their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare's most popular archetypal stories of young, teenage lovers.Romeo and Juliet belongs to a...

  • Coriolanus
    Coriolanus
    Gaius Marcius Coriolanus was a Roman general who is said to have lived in the 5th century BC. He received his toponymic cognomen "Coriolanus" because of his exceptional valor in a Roman siege of the Volscian city of Corioli. He was then promoted to a general...

  • Titus Andronicus
    Titus Andronicus
    Titus Andronicus is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, and possibly George Peele, believed to have been written between 1588 and 1593. It is thought to be Shakespeare's first tragedy, and is often seen as his attempt to emulate the violent and bloody revenge plays of his contemporaries, which were...

  • Timon of Athens
    Timon of Athens
    The Life of Timon of Athens is a play by William Shakespeare about the fortunes of an Athenian named Timon , generally regarded as one of his most obscure and difficult works...

  • Julius Caesar
    Julius Caesar (play)
    The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, also known simply as Julius Caesar, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1599. It portrays the 44 BC conspiracy against...

  • Macbeth
    Macbeth
    The Tragedy of Macbeth is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607...

  • Hamlet
    Hamlet
    The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

  • Troilus and Cressida
    Troilus and Cressida
    Troilus and Cressida is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1602. It was also described by Frederick S. Boas as one of Shakespeare's problem plays. The play ends on a very bleak note with the death of the noble Trojan Hector and destruction of the love between Troilus...

  • King Lear
    King Lear
    King Lear is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. The title character descends into madness after foolishly disposing of his estate between two of his three daughters based on their flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. The play is based on the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological...

  • Othello
    Othello
    The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in approximately 1603, and based on the Italian short story "Un Capitano Moro" by Cinthio, a disciple of Boccaccio, first published in 1565...

  • Antony and Cleopatra
    Antony and Cleopatra
    Antony and Cleopatra is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607. It was first printed in the First Folio of 1623. The plot is based on Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's Lives and follows the relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony...

  • Cymbeline
    Cymbeline
    Cymbeline , also known as Cymbeline, King of Britain or The Tragedy of Cymbeline, is a play by William Shakespeare, based on legends concerning the early Celtic British King Cunobelinus. Although listed as a tragedy in the First Folio, modern critics often classify Cymbeline as a romance...

    *

Poems
  • Shakespeare's sonnets
    Shakespeare's sonnets
    Shakespeare's sonnets are 154 poems in sonnet form written by William Shakespeare, dealing with themes such as the passage of time, love, beauty and mortality. All but two of the poems were first published in a 1609 quarto entitled SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS.: Never before imprinted. Sonnets 138 and 144...

  • Venus and Adonis
    Venus and Adonis (Shakespeare poem)
    Venus and Adonis is a poem by William Shakespeare, written in 1592–1593, with a plot based on passages from Ovid's Metamorphoses. It is a complex, kaleidoscopic work, using constantly shifting tone and perspective to present contrasting views of the nature of love.-Publication:Venus and Adonis was...

  • The Rape of Lucrece
    The Rape of Lucrece
    The Rape of Lucrece is a narrative poem by William Shakespeare about the legendary Lucretia. In his previous narrative poem, Venus and Adonis , Shakespeare had included a dedicatory letter to his patron, the Earl of Southampton, in which he promised to write a "graver work"...

  • The Passionate Pilgrim
    The Passionate Pilgrim
    The Passionate Pilgrim is an anthology of 20 poems that were attributed to "W. Shakespeare" on the title page, only five of which are accepted by present-day scholars as authentically Shakespearean.-Editions:...

  • The Phoenix and the Turtle
    The Phoenix and the Turtle
    The Phoenix and the Turtle is an allegorical poem about the death of ideal love by William Shakespeare. It is widely considered to be one of his most obscure works and has led to many conflicting interpretations. It has also been called "the first great published metaphysical poem". The title "The...

  • A Lover's Complaint
    A Lover's Complaint
    A Lover's Complaint is a narrative poem published as an appendix to the original edition of Shakespeare's sonnets. It is given the title 'A Lover's Complaint' in the book, which was published by Thomas Thorpe in 1609...


Lost plays
  • Love's Labour's Won
    Love's Labour's Won
    Love's Labour's Won is the name of a play written by William Shakespeare before 1598. The play appears to have been published by 1603, but no copies are known to have survived. One theory holds that it is a lost work, possibly a sequel to Love's Labour's Lost...

  • The History of Cardenio

Apocrypha

  • Arden of Faversham
    Arden of Faversham
    Arden of Faversham is an Elizabethan play, entered into the Register of the Stationers Company on 3 April 1592, and printed later that same year by Edward White. It depicts the murder of one Thomas Arden by his wife Alice Arden and her lover, and their subsequent discovery and punishment...

  • The Birth of Merlin
    The Birth of Merlin
    The Birth of Merlin, or, The Child Hath Found his Father is a Jacobean play, first performed in 1622 at the Curtain Theatre in Shoreditch. It contains a comic depiction of the birth of the fully grown Merlin to a country girl, and also features figures from Arthurian legend, including Uther...

  • Edward III
    Edward III (play)
    The Reign of King Edward the Third is an Elizabethan play printed anonymously in 1596. It has frequently been claimed that it was at least partly written by William Shakespeare, a view that Shakespeare scholars have increasingly endorsed. The rest of the play was probably written by Thomas Kyd...

  • Locrine
    Locrine
    Locrine is an Elizabethan play depicting the legendary Trojan founders of the nation of England and of Troynovant . The play presents a cluster of complex and unresolved problems for scholars of English Renaissance theatre.-Date:...

  • The London Prodigal
    The London Prodigal
    The London Prodigal is a play in English Renaissance theatre, a city comedy set in London, in which a prodigal son learns the error of his ways. The play was published in quarto in 1605 by the stationer Nathaniel Butter, and printed by Thomas Cotes...

  • The Puritan
    The Puritan
    The Puritan, or the Widow of Watling Street, also known as The Puritan Widow, is an anonymous Jacobean stage comedy, first published in 1607. It is often attributed to Thomas Middleton, but also belongs to the Shakespeare Apocrypha due to its title page attribution to "W.S.".-Date and...

  • The Second Maiden's Tragedy
    The Second Maiden's Tragedy
    The Second Maiden's Tragedy is a Jacobean play that survives only in manuscript. It was written in 1611, and performed in the same year by the King's Men. The manuscript that survives is the copy that was sent to the censor, and therefore includes his notes and deletions...

  • Sir John Oldcastle
    Sir John Oldcastle
    Sir John Oldcastle is an Elizabethan play about John Oldcastle, a controversial 14th-15th century rebel and Lollard who was seen by some of Shakespeare's contemporaries as a proto-Protestant martyr.-Publication:...

  • Thomas Lord Cromwell
    Thomas Lord Cromwell
    Thomas Lord Cromwell is an Elizabethan history play, depicting the life of Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex, the minister of King Henry VIII of England....

  • A Yorkshire Tragedy
    A Yorkshire Tragedy
    A Yorkshire Tragedy is an early Jacobean era stage play, a domestic tragedy printed in 1608. The play was originally assigned to William Shakespeare, though the modern critical consensus rejects this attribution, favouring Thomas Middleton....

  • Sir Thomas More
    Sir Thomas More (play)
    Sir Thomas More is a collaborative Elizabethan play by Anthony Munday and others depicting the life and death of Thomas More. It survives only in a single manuscript, now owned by the British Library...


See also



  • World Shakespeare Bibliography
    World Shakespeare Bibliography
    World Shakespeare Bibliography Online is a searchable electronic database consisting of the most comprehensive record of Shakespeare-related scholarship and theatrical productions published or produced worldwide between 1961 and 2009...



External links



  • Open Source Shakespeare complete works, with search engine and concordance
  • Open Shakespeare complete works, search engine, stats and more all as open content/open source
  • Internet Shakespeare Editions
  • First Four Folios at Miami University
    Miami University
    Miami University is a coeducational public research university located in Oxford, Ohio, United States. Founded in 1809, it is the 10th oldest public university in the United States and the second oldest university in Ohio, founded four years after Ohio University. In its 2012 edition, U.S...

     Library, digital collection
  • Shakespeare's Will from The National Archives
  • William Shakespeare at Project Gutenberg
    Project Gutenberg
    Project Gutenberg is a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works, to "encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks". Founded in 1971 by Michael S. Hart, it is the oldest digital library. Most of the items in its collection are the full texts of public domain books...



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