“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t. ” -William Shakespeare, Hamlet (act II, scene II). William Shakespeare is known perhaps as the world’s most renowned playwright, over 400 years subsequent his death. The playwright lived and wrote during the Elizabethan Reign over England. It was during this period that Shakespeare produced his most performed, and likely most famously know drama; The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, more commonly known simply as Hamlet (“Hamlet. ” Gale Student Resources).
The reign of Queen Elizabeth I was an important time for Renaissance England. The country was dealing with the well-known English Reformation, following the reign of King Henry VIII (Robinson). During his reign, Henry VII had begun the undoing of the traditional Catholic Church, in order to obtain a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon (Trueman). Queen Elizabeth I had been raised Protestant, and regardless of her later adoption of the Catholic faith, it was widely believed that, upon her coming to power, Elizabeth would restore England to the Protestant faith (Sharnette).
Elizabeth generally retained the integrity of England’s church, establishing a basis that later influenced Anglicanism (“Elizabethan Settlement. “). Elizabeth was oncerned by the unsteady peace and stability of the country under her power, and religiously-based upset threatened her ideal image (Sharnette). Elizabeth was also burdened with the repair of the English economy (Sharnette). Henry VIII had been aggressive and impulsive concerning politics, and as a result, Elizabeth was charged with the repairs to economic and foreign relationships (Sgroi).
Although costs of living had begun to increase, wages during this time did not rise (M. St. Clare Byrne). Poverty eventually began to stress municipal organizations, but life continued on as normal until much later in England’s history M. St. Clare Byrne). Between the years 1563 and 1601, numerous legislation reforms were enacted in order to relieve unemployment (Sgroi). Many bills were suggested regarding the wearing of certain types of apparel depending on social status, but of the few that passed, most were discontinued within five years (Sgroi).
The Elizabethan Era was also an important time for the progression of formal arts. As aristocratic culture became more interested in the English Theatre, additional theater plots and buildings were constructed (Trumbull). Formal theaters were used mainly during the winter months and were a way for cting troupes to perform despite varying conditions (Trumbull). As of 2016, Shakespeare’s theatrical productions are still performed in his own Globe Theater and by the Royal Shakespeare Company (“Hamlet / Shakespeare’s Globe. ”
Shakespeare’s Globe. . Elizabeth’s reign was not only beneficial to the theater, but also to decorative arts. Without photographs, portraits were captured in the form of paintings, from which miniatures were born (Cibelli). Art forms involving fabrics and embroidery, as well as many kinds of sculptures became more common (Voorhies). During the Elizabethan Era, William Shakespeare rose to become one of the world’s most renowned playwrights. His rise to Renaissance fame included 38 plays, 155 sonnets, and 2 narrative poems (“Shakespeare’s Works. Folger Shakespeare Library).
Indirectly, William Shakespeare still affects the everyday life of many 21st century citizens. Shakespeare coined phrases such as “Own flesh and blood” from Hamlet ( Shakespeare, William, and Kevin Stanton), and even invented words such as “Assassination”, which first appears in Macbeth (Shakespeare, William, Jesse M. Lander, and Kevin Stanton). Because William Shakespeare was believed to be born on April 3rd, 1564, there is limited information regarding his personal life (“The Life of William Shakespeare (1564–1616)”).
He was baptized three days following his birth over 100 miles from London in the small town of Stratford-upon-Avon (“The Life of William Shakespeare (1564-1616)”. It is presumed that Shakespeare attended the local grammar school, the King’s New School, in Stratford-upon-Avon, where lived for much of his life (Callow). Shakespeare’s family struggled with heavy debt throughout his youth, and Shakespeare never received a formal university education (“The Life of William Shakespeare (1564- 1616)”). Shakespeare was born the first of eight children, and went on to live longer than the five that survived into adulthood (Goff).
Shakespeare’s father was a glove maker, specializing in white leather, his mother, the daughter of a local farmer (Goff). After completing his education in Stratford, William married Anne Hathaway, who was eight years older than he and three months pregnant ( “The Life of William Shakespeare (1564-1616)”). Together he and Anne had three children, Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith ( “The Life of William Shakespeare (1564- 1616)”). From 1585 to 1592, Shakespeare disappeared, and due o the lack of historical records, this period is commonly referred to as his “lost years” (Goff).
In 1592, William Shakespeare appeared on the stage ( “The Life of William Shakespeare (1564-1616)”). Having possibly created over 200 works prior to his retirement in 1612, Shakespeare embodied all three dramatic genres in his writing (History. com Staff. “William Shakespeare”). In 1594, Shakespeare began to write and act for a group called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, which was later renamed the King’s Men (“The Life of William Shakespeare (1564-1616)”).
In 1599, with the help of his acting troupe, Shakespeare established the enowned Globe Theater (History. com Staff. “VWilliam Shakespeare. ). Around 1595, Shakespeare wrote some of his most popular plays, including Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (“The Life of William Shakespeare (1564-1616)”). In 1613, following his retirement, Shakespeare returned to Stratford-upon-Avon, where he would sign his will three years later (Goff). On April 23rd, 1616, exactly 52 years after his birth, William Shakespeare died of unknown causes (History. com Staff. “William Shakespeare”). As of 2016, he is entombed inside a church located in Stratford where he has yet o be disturbed (History. com Staff. “William Shakespeare”).
Regarding his passing, fellow dramatist and rival Ben Jonson wrote, “He was not of an age, but for all time. ” (“The Life of William Shakespeare (1564-1616)”). Likely written between 1599 and 1601 and first published in 1603, Hamlet is perhaps Shakespeare’s most well-known and beloved play (Bevington). Hamlet is certainly Shakespeare’s longest, with 4,042 lines and a potential five-hour running time ( “Hamlet: The Facts. ” HEDGEROW THEATRE COMPANY). Shakespeare himself is believed to have played the ghost of Hamlet’s father in some of he first Globe Theater productions ( “Hamlet: The Facts. ” HEDGEROW THEATRE COMPANY).
The plot of Hamlet begins simply, with the murder of his father, the king of Denmark (“The Plot I Hamlet” Royal Shakespeare Company). The production plays into the remarriage of Hamlet’s mother to his uncle, who is at last revealed to be the murderer (“The Plot I Hamlet” Royal Shakespeare Company). Including the dark underlying themes of death, revenge, and madness, the production portrays the insanity and guilt of the death of a loved one (Mabillard).
Shakespeare also tied in a ghost, and is assumed to have been ppealing to royalty’s popular superstitious beliefs (“Shakespeare and Superstition. Gale Student Resources). Eventually, Hamlet dies in a fatal duel with his uncle, Claudius, and with his dying breath reveals to his best friend Horatio that he wishes to have his story told accurately ( “The Plot I Hamlet” Royal Shakespeare Company). The well known Hamlet tragedy has been performed from the 1600’s and is still performed today (“Stage History I Hamlet” Royal Shakespeare Company). The play was first performed on a ship to reduce unease and unruliness, it’s performance carried on to the Globe Theater here it is now regularly performed (“Hamlet / Shakespeare’s Globe. Shakespeare’s Globe).
When produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, the play is performed with fluid changes to a single stage (“Stage History I Hamlet” Royal Shakespeare Company). While the play is now less likely to be performed with the adaptations made in the 17th and 18th centuries, it has a history of finding itself politically censored due to the long speeches and references to invasion (“Stage History I Hamlet” Royal Shakespeare Company). The play’s intriguing and exciting plot is still adapted and performed all around the world (“Hamlet. Gale Student Resources in Context).
Shakespeare’s Hamlet is certainly his most popular. During his lifetime, the play was likely Shakespeare’s most frequently performed and subsequently highest-grossing work (“Stage History I Hamlet” Royal Shakespeare Company). Statistically, Hamlet is performed more on average worldwide than any of Shakespeare’s other plays (Mabillard). Performed for many events and in many situations, it was performed on occasion for European royalty (“Stage History I Hamlet” Royal Shakespeare Company). Shakespeare’s vast success as a playwright allowed him immortality in the world of literary arts.
My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: words without thoughts never to heaven go. ” -William Shakespeare, Hamlet (act III, scene III). The Elizabethan Era was a time of great progression for England, and subsequently, the rest of the world. During this time period, William Shakespeare became one of the most- renowned playwrights to retain a strong literary presence the present day. His most famous work, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, is one of the best-known plays ever written. William Shakespeare, as well as his immortalized works, will live on in the hearts of his readers forever.