Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1590 and 1613. His early plays were mainly comedies and histories, genres he raised to the peak of sophistication and artistry by the end of the sixteenth century. Next he wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth, considered some of the finest examples in the English language. In his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights. Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime, and in 1623 two of his former theatrical colleagues published the First Folio, a collected edition of his dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognised as Shakespeare’s.
William Shakespeare (1564–1616), `The Bard of Avon’, English poet and playwright wrote the famous 154 Sonnets and numerous highly successful oft quoted dramatic works including the tragedy of the Prince of Denmark, Hamlet; “Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend, And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. This above all: to thine ownself be true, And it must follow, as the night the day,Thou canst not then be false to any man. Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!” Lord Polonius, Hamlet Act I, Scene 3
Shakespeare’s acting career was spent with the Lord Chamberlain’s Company, which was renamed the King’s Company in 1603 when James succeeded to the throne. Among the actors in the group was the famous Richard Burbage. The partnership acquired interests in two theatres in the Southwark area of London, near the banks of the Thames – the Globe and the Blackfriars.
The 1598 decision to build the famous playhouse came about as the answer to many of The Lord Chamberlain’s Men’s problems.
With the end of a lease on the Blackfriars Theatre in 1597, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men (Shakespeare, J & R Burbage, G Byran, John Hemminges, Augustine Phillips, Thomas Pope and Will Sly) had no where else to readily perform their plays.
William Shakespeare wrote his will in 1611, bequeathing his properties to his daughter Susanna (married in 1607 to Dr. John Hall). To his surviving daughter Judith, he left £300, and to his wife Anne left “my second best bed.” William Shakespeare allegedly died on his birthday, April 23, 1616.
Despite this, Shakespeare is credited by the Oxford English Dictionary with the introduction of nearly 3,000 words into the language. His vocabulary, as culled from his works, numbers upward of 17,000 words (quadruple that of an average, well-educated conversationalist in the language). In the words of Louis Marder, “Shakespeare was so facile in employing words that he was able to use over 7,000 of them—more than occur in the whole King James version of the Bible—only once and never again.”
Sometime after 1612, Shakespeare retired from the stage and returned to his home in Stratford. He drew up his will in January of 1616, which included his famous bequest to his wife of his “second best bed.” He died on April 23, 1616, and was buried two days later at Stratford Church.
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