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William Shakespeare And His Works Essay

3594 words - 14 pages

William Shakespeare, the figure to whom the most influential works of literature in history are credited, was born in April of 1564 (the exact date is approximated as April 23rd, also the date given as his death fifty-two years later) in Stratford, England to John and Mary Shakespeare. He grew up in relatively middle-class surroundings, attending grammar school and studying Latin, logic, and literature, from which he graduated to marry a woman by the name of Anne Hathaway. With Hathaway he had three children, two girls and a son, and as a playwright and poet, Shakespeare went on to enjoy moderate success in his time, writing thirty-seven (known) plays and several works of poetry. Of course his plays would be well underappreciated during his time (as with all great artists), but later, such titles as King Lear, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Macbeth would only begin a list of some of the most appraised scripts ever written (Armstrong, 1-5).

While these plays carry the weight of Shakespeare’s legacy, he was also a dedicated poet. During the years of the black plague in the late 16th century, theaters were closed from 1592 until 1594, and Shakespeare spent his time writing lengthy poetry, including Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucree, and continued work on his sonnets, a volume of poems which he wrote over a span of about a decade. This book of sonnets has raised some of the most captivating questions in all of literature, as their vagueness and mysterious allusions have puzzled critics for centuries, who attempt to use them to piece together parts of Shakespeare’s life, of which relatively little is known. One of the most frequently investigated questions is that of Shakespeare’s sexuality; the sonnets have aroused many theories regarding this topic, which have influenced the interpretation of Shakespeare as we know it today (Miller, 1-3).

The Sonnets published under Shakespeare’s name added up to a total of one hundred and fifty-four, delivered in a numerical order, and all of them in the traditional format of a sonnet, save number one twenty-six. Of the one hundred and fifty-four sonnets, it is theorized that one hundred and twenty-six of these were written to a “young man,” while several more were written to a mysterious “dark lady” (a third subject is thought to be a “rival poet”, to which references are scattered throughout the sonnets randomly). The mythology behind these sonnets begins with the rumor that they were published not by Shakespeare himself, but by a man by the name of Thomas Thorpe in 1609. The sonnets were not originally intended to be published at all on account of their being so intimate and private to the poet regarding his relationship with the two apparent subjects, the “young man” and the “dark lady” (Rowse, xxxiv).

It is rumored that Shakespeare’s sonnets circulated amongst his close friends as he wrote them, sharing them most intimately with his patron. ...

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