W.S. was born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, six years after Elizabeth I became Queen. He was one of eight children of Mary Arden and John Shakespeare, who was a successful tradesman. W.S. attended the local grammar school in Stratford, which was the most common form of education. He would also have learnt the Catechism and studied the Bible. Although he was brought up with these orthodox Protestant teachings, he managed to remain open-minded and a freethinker.
Stratford-upon-Avon was a flourishing market town, which became busy on fair days. In Elizabeth times, England was known as Merry England for different celebrations and festivals. Acting was part of local village culture. Amateur actors would come to town and their performances gave people a release from the problems of everyday life. William as a young boy had plenty of opportunity to see plays and players from various travelling companies, so all this must have been a wonderful experience for his personality and imagination.
When he was 18, he married Ann Hathaway, who was eight years older. They had three children. In spite of his love for his family, he went to London because only there he can make a career. He worked there first as an actor, then as a reviser and writer of plays. The theatres were very popular being the only places where people could hear honest comments about life. The company of his fellow players was made up of about a dozen actors, and the company came to be called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men because of patronage of the Lord Chamberlain. His plays may well have been popular with Queen Elizabeth I, who loved music and drama. When James I came to the throne, the company was known from then as the King’s Men. In those times Shakespeare made enough money to build a comfortable life.
In 1616 he made his will and a month later he fell ill with a temperature. He did not recover and died on the same day as his birth. He was exactly 52 years old.
W. S. wrote a lot of dramas, both comedies and tragedies – for example Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, King Lear, and, above all, Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark.
Prince Hamlet is heir to the Danish throne and is in love with Ophelia, the daughter of Polonius, the Lord Chamberlain. Hamlet’s father, the King of Denmark, suddenly dies. Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, immediately marries the dead king’s brother, Claudius, who makes himself king. Hamlet is confused and deeply unhappy about these events. When the play opens, some guards are talking about a ghost they have seen on the castle walls. The ghost looks like Hamlet’s father.
Hamlet hears about the ghost and decides to see for himself. At midnight, the ghost appears and tells Hamlet that he was murdered by Claudius. The ghost makes Hamlet promise to take revenge for his murder and Hamlet agrees to kill Claudius.
However, Hamlet cannot make up his mind to do it. He wants proof of his father’s murder and asks a group of actors to perform a play about the murder of a king by his brother. When Claudius sees the play, he rushes out of the room during the murder scene. Hamlet is now convinced that his uncle is guilty and goes to accuse his mother.
While Hamlet is telling his mother that he knows the truth, he hears a noise behind a curtain. He thinks Claudius is secretly listening to their conversation. He stabs and kills the person behind the curtain who is, in fact, Polonius, Ophelia’s father. Now King Claudius has a good excuse to send Hamlet away and he orders him to go to the England.
Hamlet leaves for England, not realising that Claudius has secretly planned his murder during the journey. Meanwhile Ophelia, who has been rejected by Hamlet, drowns herself from grief in a stream. Hamlet manages to escape and returns to Denmark.
Ophelia’s brother, Laertes, wants revenge for the deaths of his father and sister, so he challenges Hamlet to a duel. King Claudius gives Laertes a poisoned sword to use against Hamlet in the duel but the plan goes wrong and both Hamlet and Laertes are wounded by the same sword.
As the poison from the sword slowly begins to take effect on Hamlet and Laertes, Queen Gertrude drinks from a cup of poisoned wine, which Claudius prepared for Hamlet. As Laertes is dying, he tells Hamlet the truth about the poisoned sword. In the final scene, Hamlet stabs his uncle with the same sword just before he dies.