Little Bits of History

The Bard of Avon

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 23, 2010

What Shakespeare may have looked like (we really don't know)

April 23, 1616: William Shakespeare, one of the best known authors in the English language, dies. He was a poet, playwright, and actor. He was born in Stratford, England in 1564 and married Anne Hathaway in 1582. Soon after his marriage, Shakespeare left for London. Anne stayed in Stratford. Shakespeare went on to become the “Bard of Avon” and is often called England’s national poet.

Shakespeare’s plays are divided into four periods. His first period was filled mostly with comedies influenced by Roman and Italian forces. His second period began with the tragedy Romeo and Juliet and ended with Julius Caesar and was filled with his greatest tragedies and histories. The third period contained mostly tragedies and his last was mainly tragicomedies or romances. Comedies in Elizabethan England were classified as plays ending happily, usually by characters getting married. Tragedies had protagonists who were admirable, but with a character flaw. Histories were not always exactly historically correct.

Shakespeare was the author of 154 sonnets, numerous other poems, and 38 plays. He wrote comedies and tragedies, which is uncommon in itself, and he excelled in both genres. Not only do we have the gift of his brilliant plays, rich in characterization and filled with beautiful turns of phrase, but we also have increased the vocabulary with his neologisms, or newly created words. Lewis Carroll, another British author, was also a master at this type of expansion of the language.

There has been some controversy over the years as to who actually wrote Shakespeare’s plays. However, some proof of his authorship comes from Robert Greens, a critic of the time, who wrote in 1592 that Shakespeare was “an upstart crow.” Ben Johnson, a rival, also discusses Shakespeare’s works. Some of his works were printed during his lifetime, but the proliferation of printed text came after his death.

“This above all: to thine own self be true.”

“All the world ‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.”

“Now is the winter of our discontent.”

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!” – all from William Shakespeare

Also on this day, in 1635 Boston Latin School was founded.