You can say “To be or not to be” in just about any country and you’ll get an immediate response from the locals saying that you’re talking about Shakespeare.
Why is Shakespeare so popular 400 years after his death?
William Shakespeare’s poetry and plays, are still among the greatest ever, and his work is unmatched in the history of the English language. Students around the world are still reading his works, and he is quoted by all types of people: crime novelists, business people, teachers, lawyers, etc. This is only because of the high quality of his writing that his popularity has continued. His characters, the worlds he created, the thoughts he expressed are for all people and all time.
William Shakespeare was born in 1564 in Stratford-upon Avon, in England. His father, John, was a glove-maker and his mother, Mary, was a farmer’s daughter. William probably studied Latin, Greek and history, and left school by the time he was 16. Three years later he married Anne Hathaway. They had a daughter called Susanna and twins. Sometime before 1590 he left Stratford and went to London where he worked as an actor and then started writing plays too.
In 1593 the plague, a terrible disease, killed thousands of people and theatres were closed. During this time William started to write short poems called sonnets. Shakespeare helped build a new theatre called The Globe, it opened in 1599 and had space for 3000 people. No women acted in Shakespeare’s time: men and boys played all the parts. William became rich and famous and died – aged 52 – on 23 April 1616.
Timeless themes and unforgettable characters
Shakespeare’s themes are varied (treachery, love, war, honour, political intrigue, are just some of them) but all can be transposed into different times and locations. They are universal themes which can be seen through many other plays, stories or films.
Shakespeare wrote comedies with happy endings, like A Midsummer Night’s Dream and also wrote tragedies with sad endings, like Romeo and Juliet. His history plays are about kings and queens, like Henry V.
Some of his famous characters are Hamlet, Macbeth & Lady Macbeth or Romeo Montagne. Shakespeare wrote around 38 plays. He loved language and invented new words and expressions that we still use today.
Which of the following Shakespeare’s phrases are you familiar with?
– “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.”
– “If music be the food of love, play on”
– “To be, or not to be, that is the question.”
– “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”
– “A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.”
For further information you can go to:
– BBC History – William Shakespeare
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