William Shakespeare

W illiam Shakespeare, is known today as the the author of numerous plays and poems. Some of the best remembered and most commonly performed and read are Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Othello. 


Life Facts

  • Shakespeare was likely born on April 23rd, 1564 although there are no records of the day.
  • He got married to Anne Hathaway when he was 18.
  • Together, they had three children only two of whom survived into adulthood.
  • He worked for and with a popular performing company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.
  • He died on April 23rd, 1616.

Interesting Facts

  • He wrote 38 plays and 154 sonnets.
  • Shakespeare was an actor and writer.
  • He wrote some of the most quoted lines in the English language.
  • Shakespeare’s home in Stratford was called New Place.
  • At least two of Shakespeare’s plays have been lost.


Famous Poems by William Shakespeare

Sonnet 130: ’My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun’ is one of Shakespeare’s most popular sonnet. Here, the speaker compares his lover’s eyes to other beautiful things. But, it doesn’t turn out well. She doesn’t have any similarities to the natural items he points out. Her lips are dull, her breasts aren’t white enough and she walks on the ground. If she was a real goddess, she would never need to. Shakespeare loves a twist ending, and the couplet provides that. His love might be not outrageously beautiful, but that doesn’t make her less important or loveable to him.

 

Sonnet 18: ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ is very likely Shakespeare’s most famous, or at least his most quoted. It begins with the much-loved line “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” The answer is clearly yes, as the following thirteen lines are devoted to doing just that. The listener is better than even the best parts of summer. They are “more lovely and more temperate.” The most important part of the poem comes at the end where a real distinction is drawn between the listener and a perfect, warm sunny day. The summer is temporary, it isn’t going to last. But, luckily for the listener, their beauty is.

 

Sonnet 29: ‘When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes’  is another sonnet focusing on the redeeming power of love, the speaker begins by mourning his own situation. He is lost, outcast, and separate from those he would like to know. Even if he spoke, no one would hear or listen to him. He is not a lucky man, clearly. But, perhaps he is. He has a love that comes to him, in his mind, and improves his outlook. He is like a rising bird, escaping from his earthly troubles and singing to God. 

 

Sonnet 104: ‘To me, fair friend, you never can be old’ is one of the many poems dedicated to the Fair Youth. The speaker, who some believe to be Shakespeare himself, addresses the facts of aging and the possibility that the Fair Youth is effected. Throughout the text, the speaker compliments the Fair Youth on his beauty. He seems not to have aged the whole time the speaker has known him. Over the last three years, he has remained just as fresh and green as when they first met. But, the speaker acknowledges towards the end, he knows this can’t be the case. All people age and time moves so slowly that he just can’t see it.

 

Sonnet 27: ‘Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed’  is a haunting description of mental and emotional unrest. The speaker spends the fourteen lines struggling with his thoughts of a lost love, who is for some unknown reason, far away from him. Shakespeare uses memorable phrases such as “zealous pilgrimage” to relate the love to religious adoration. The last lines are very striking as well. The poem ends immediately after the speaker declares that he can’t find quiet for himself, or “For thee.” The emptiness beyond the final line speaks to weariness and exhausted reverence. 

 


Early Life

The only record of William Shakespeare’s birth is from April 26, 1564, when he was baptized. his birthday is generally celebrated on the 23rd, the same day, years later, that he died. His father was burgess, then an alderman and later bailiff. Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Arden came from money and inherited land from her family. As a boy, it is likely that Shakespeare attended the Stratford grammar school where he probably studied Latin and Classical history. He did not go to university. Instead, he married Anne Hathaway when he was 18. The two had a daughter, Susanna, in 1583 and then twins, Hamnet (who died when he was eleven) and Judith in 1585.

The next years of Shakespeare’s life are something of a mystery. it is not until his name started turning up in reference to theatres that any definitive answers to how he lived his life can be drawn.


Literary Career

From 1594 onward he was a member of the Lord Chamberlain’s Company of Players, later called the King’s Men. Shakespeare became a full-time dramatist working for the company. Unfortunately, these years of his life are also without detail. He spent the next 20 or so years writing the plays and poems with which we associate his name today. In 1593 Venus and Adonis was published. The first quarto of Shakspeare’s plays was published a year later. One of Shakespeare’s final plays was The Two Noble Kinsmen which was written alongside John Fletcher.


Writing Career and Relationships

Today, Shakespeare is considered to be one of, if not the, most important English-language writers of all time. His plays and poems are read all over the world. Shakespeare may be best-known for his plays, such as Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth but he also wrote 154 sonnets and several long poems that proved his skill in this style as well. Throughout all forms of his writing readers will come across skilled metaphors, complex allusions, and syntax and diction which is often hard for contemporary readers or audiences to understand.

His plays were written in what is known as blank verse, or unrhymed iambic pentameter. The poems on the other hand, which were mostly sonnets, used iambic pentameter but also followed a strict rhyme scheme of ABABCDCDEFEFGG.


Influence from other Poets

William Shakespeare was notably influenced by writers such as Ovid and Plutarch, as well as Geoffrey Chaucer and Christopher Marlow.

His influence has been felt on many more writers. His pioneering style has inspired writers in all languages around the world. Some of the best-known names are Walt Whitman, Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, and many more.


Poems by William Shakespeare

Explore poetry by William Shakespeare below, analyzed by the team at Poem Analysis.

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