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William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare is probably the greatest English dramatist that the world has ever known. He lived in an important period of history for mankind - the Renaissance.

The name of this period is based on the French word “renaissance” – the restoring to life. It was a very important period of development for mankind. It meant a change in the way of thinking and people began to believe in their own reasoning and senses. Townspeople were the major representatives of progress because it was easier for them to free themselves from feudal order. It was the period of Christopher Columbus and his discovery of new lands. Discoveries in natural science and astronomy threatened the Church´s authority.

It was also the time when the greatest works of ancient artists and philosophers were admired. The beauty of the human body was discovered, based on harmonious bodily proportions. During the Middle Ages, God was a pattern, while in the Renaissance it was the human. Famous artists of that period were Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Rafael Santi, or Tizian.

One of the most important ways of thinking of the Renaissance was humanism. Humanists acknowledged man as a centre of the universe. Humanism´s new ideal was education. Linguistics and natural science flourished. Renaissance humanists had to fight against the dogmatism of the Catholic Church and feudal backwardness. Renaissance originated in Italy in the 13th and 14th centuries. It came to Central Europe as late as the 15th century. Among Renaissance monuments can be included, for example, the chateau in Litomysl, chateau Telc, or Belvedere in Prague.

Great Britain is renowned as being the homeland of some of the world´s greatest writers. The first English Renaissance writer was Geoffrey Chaucer. He lived in the 14th century and wrote the Canterbury Tales. The Renaissance as a new way of life penetrated England in the 16th century and the most famous representative of this period was the dramatist William Shakespeare.

The Renaissance was the time of the Tudors. In that time, England was known as “Merry England” for different celebrations and festivals. Amateur actors would come to town and their performances gave people a release from the problems of everyday life. There were no permanent theatres so a lot of travelling companies went from town to town and performed their plays, usually from everyday life. The actors would put up a temporary stage in a courtyard of an inn. We suppose that W. S. experienced all of that in his young days. All of it must have been a wonderful experience for his personality.

When Shakespeare came to London, it was a very exciting time – the new age had started. Shakespeare and his groups of players managed to win the patronage of the Lord Chamberlain, and their company came to be called the Lord Chamberlain´s men. The company was made up of about a dozen actors. There were no women. Actors who played women´s role wore masks and special high-heeled shoes. Each actor played two or three roles in one play. The group did not spend much time rehearsing and the actors did not get the whole text, only the words of their own parts.

Shakespeare´s plays were very popular with Elizabeth I. When James I. came to the throne, he recognized Shakespeare´s company as a leading group of actors and from that time they were known as the King´s Men.

We don´t know when William Shakespeare was born or where he lived, but we suppose that he was born in April of 1564 in Stratford upon Avon. He went to the local grammar school and was brought up as an orthodox Protestant. He married Ann Hathaway from Shottery in 1582. He was eighteen and Ann was eight years older. They had three children. Despite his love for his family, he went to London in 1587. In London, Shakespeare started as an actor and after some time he became a writer of plays. After Shakespeare´s company was recognized as a leading group of actors, he would often return home to Stratford and enjoy time spent with his family. In 1616, Shakespeare fell ill with a temperature. He did not recover and died on the day of his birthday (the 23rd of April) in 1616.

Shakespeare´s dramatic works can be divided into tragedies, comedies, historical plays, and romances. His plays are still topical after centuries, because they are realistic and depict characteristic features of man.

The most famous comedies are: “Merry Wives of Windsor”, “Much ado About Nothing”, “As You Like It”, “The Merchant of Venice”, “The Taming of the Strew”, and “The Twelfth night”. His greatest tragedies are: “Macbeth”, “Othello”, “Romeo and Juliet”, and “King Lear”. The most famous historical plays are “Titus Andronikkus”, “Julius Caesar”, “Richard III”, and “Henry IV”.

Shakespeare also wrote other forms of poetry like sonnets in his own special form, or longer poems including “The Rape of Lucrece“ and “Venus and Adonis“.

From my point of view, Shakespeare was the best dramatist in the world. He wrote a lot of beautiful works and it is worth reading at least some of them.

Romeo and Juliet is Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy. It is about the unhappy love and death of Romeo and Juliet, the only children of two powerful houses of Verona - the House of Montague and the House of Capulet. These two houses hate each other and Romeo Montague meets Juliet at a ball. He falls in love with her although he knows that she is Capulet. They love each other very much and ask Friar Laurence to marry them. Their love and marriage are secret and by an unfortunate coincidence Romeo kills Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt. The Prince of Verona sends Romeo into exile outside Verona and young Juliet is forced to get married to a young nobleman, Paris. She asks Friar Laurence for help again and he gives her magic drops. After swallowing them she falls asleep for several hours and looks as if she is dead. Romeo learns about Juliet’s death and hurries to the Capulet’s Monument. He does not know about the trick and kills himself. Then Juliet wakes up and when she sees Romeo dead, she kills herself too. Both the Montague and Capulet Houses reconcile only after the death of their beloved children.

In Hamlet, Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle, has succeeded (nastupuje) Hamlet’s father and marries the Queen. The ghost of the dead king appears to Hamlet at Elsinor Castle and tells him about his murder (that Claudius and the Queen killed him). Hamlet wants to revenge his Father’s death. He pretends to be mad because he does not know how to find some proof against the murderers. He tries to test the story of the murder with a theatrical performance during which the murder is re-enacted and, by seeing the story, King Claudius betrays himself. He sends Hamlet to England to be killed. Later Hamlet returns to Denmark. Claudius is alarmed and wants to destroy Hamlet. When Hamlet kills Polonius, Ophelia’s father, by mistake, Claudius sends Laertes, Ophelia’s brother, into a fencing match with Hamlet. Hamlet is wounded by Laertes’s poisoned sword. He manages to stab Claudius and Laertes is dying too. Hamlet’s mother drinks poisoned wine destined for Hamlet. This is a tragedy of the sufferings and the hesitation of an honest, strong, and responsible man who is not able to kill or punish without having a clear proof of guilt.

Přidal: Dan_T 4. 12. 2009
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