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Costumes, Prose, and More: All About William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare, known as the Bard of Avon or "the Bard," is one of the most influential and popular poets and playwrights of all time. While most people recognize his works courtesy of popular plays such as Romeo and Juliet, his accomplishments are many. He has become such a well-known figure that one can even dress up as the Bard for a Halloween costume. Despite his fame, Shakespeare is also very much a mystery, with gaps in his history that leave portions of his life incomplete or unknown. Learning the known and documented details regarding the playwright and his work will help to develop a better overall image of his life and successes.

Shakespeare's Life

In 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, William Shakespeare was born. He was the third of eight children and a son of merchant and borough council member John Shakespeare and his wife Mary. Researchers and scholars believe that his official date of birth was April 23; however, there is no record of the actual date. Little is known about his educational history, either. It is speculated that he attended King's New School, probably until the age of 15, where he learned not only the classics but also reading and writing. This lack of an educational record has since caused some to doubt whether Shakespeare actually had the skill to author the works with which he is credited.

In 1582, he married the then-pregnant Anne Hathaway, with whom he would have three children. Following the birth of his twins, the last of his three children, he disappeared from records for roughly seven years. Little is known about his life during that time; however, in 1592, Shakespeare was documented as a playwright and an actor in London. Also during the 1590s, he became a partner in the acting company the Lord Chamberlain's Men. In 1603, the company became the King's Men when King James I awarded them the royal patent, which allowed them to perform under royal patronage. Shakespeare died in 1616. It is believed that the date of his death was April 23, but there is no record other than April 25, the date he was buried at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon.

His Plays and Sonnets

The Bard wrote 37 plays from the 1590s to 1612. His early works included histories such as Henry VI, Henry V, and Richard II. He also wrote several comedies during this early period, including Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of the Shrew, and A Midsummer Night's Dream. His later plays included tragedies such as Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Timon of Athens, and Macbeth. Shakespeare is also known for writing a collection of 154 sonnets. These were published in 1609 in Shakespeare's Sonnets.

His Influence

Shakespeare's influence has had an impressive impact on English grammar and language. His manipulation of English grammar allowed the poet to invent more than 1,700 words, including "addiction," "amazement," "courtship," and more. He put words together and used them in ways that hadn't been used before. Today, many of these terms are common, including "barefaced," "fair play," "hot-blooded," "heart of gold," and "naked truth." The works of other writers and artists have also been influenced by Shakespeare, such as the painting Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais, a British artist. Popular culture, including music, movies, and television, are also commonly influenced by the Bard.

Performances of His Plays

Shakespeare's performances frequently took place at the Theatre just outside of London and then at the Globe, which was built in 1599. Shakespeare was one of the managing partners at the Globe, and many of his most popular plays were performed at this open-air theater. During a performance of Henry VIII in 1613, the Globe burned down. It was replaced, however, by a second Globe a year later. Indoor productions during cold or inclement weather often took place at London's Blackfriars theater or, upon royal command, at one of the royal palaces.

Performances featured all-male casts, with men or boys playing both the male and female parts, as during the Renaissance, acting was not a profession for women. Stages were often bare, with the focus placed on the words, costumes, and music, although special effects such as smoke were also used. Costumes were particularly important and were well-crafted. What objects did appear on the stage were those that were integral to the plot, such as a gravestone, for example.