The Works of William Shakespeare
Considered to be the greatest writer in the English language, William Shakespeare produced many brilliant plays and poems in his lifetime. He was born on April 26, 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. He grew up in a large family of six children. He began learning about poetry, history, and languages at an early age in grammar school.
Later in William’s life, he began acting in a company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. He started writing plays for the company and they became very popular. After his first theatre was shut down, he and his company built The Globe Theatre where many of William’s plays were acted out. Shakespeare’s poems and plays spanned many genres including tragedy, comedy, and historical pieces.
Shakespeare wrote poetry in the form of sonnets. Sonnets are poems with 14 lines and follow a specific structure. Shakespearean sonnets would rhyme the first and third line, the second and fourth line, and so on. The Sonnet derived from earlier Renaissance writer and poet, Petrarch. Shakespeare’s most famous sonnet is Sonnet 18 because of Shakespeare's ability to capture the feeling of love clearly and succinctly.
Another famous Shakespearean sonnet is Sonnet 116 which expresses the importance of true love in friendship. Shakespeare also wrote sonnets about philosophical concepts such as aging and time as seen in works such as Sonnet 73.
Shakespeare is perhaps most famous for his plays. Shakespeare’s First Folio of plays are grouped into three categories including tragedies, comedies and histories. His earliest and most well known tragedy is Romeo and Juliet written around 1591. His greatest tragedies were written in the later part of his life and career including King Lear, Macbeth, Hamlet, and Julius Caesar.
Shakespeare was also a brilliant comedic playwright. His most famous comedies are The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Merchant of Venice.
Through his plays about historical figures he helped define the genre of the historic play. His most famous historical works depicted the lives of medieval kings and events in English history. Richard II and Richard III are famous plays about England’s Hundred Years War, and the plays Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI provide a dramatization about the reigns of the monarch which they are named after. Shakespeare’s histories were important in helping to define England's national identity and continue to entertain and inspire writers today.