William Shakespeare is one of the world's most famous prolific playwrights. To understand Shakespeare's plays, one must be familiar with the life and time of Shakespeare.

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celtbutn.gif (1442 bytes) The Man celtbutn.gif (1442 bytes) His Works
celtbutn.gif (1442 bytes) English People celtbutn.gif (1442 bytes) The Theatre
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celtbutn.gif (1442 bytes) The Audience celtbutn.gif (1442 bytes) Romeo & Juliet Study Page

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9th Grade Home Page

William Shakespeare

1564 - 1616

married Anne Hathaway - 3 children

born and died in Stratford-on-Avon

actor, writer, producer, and director

continued to act throughout career

Shakespeare's Work

works performed rather than published

37 plays & numerous poems

wrote tragedy, comedy, history

tragedy Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet
comedy A Midsummer's Night Dream, As You Like It
history Henry IV

created world of illusion and fantasy/make believe

time frames often skewed - don't always mesh

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British People

knew all men were not equal

accepted class differences
knew a hierarchy of rank existed (indicated by dress - livery of house)
did not rise above rank born into
believed world was rational
believed in moderation
believed in astrology - life determined by the stars
Queen Elizabeth I - introduced Golden Age
after long civil war (War of Roses) and period of religious upset
held theatre presentations at court
interest in science and humanities
classical learning of Greeks and Romans
looked to Greek & Roman civilizations for examples of government
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The Theatre

first permanent theatre in London opened a few years before Shakespeare wrote exhibmo.jpg (15779 bytes)
copied layout of the courtyard used for theatre productions
basic, open to the elements (roofless)
no draw curtains, no lights, no special effects, few props, no scenery
stage and courtyard formed a circle or octagon
covered galleries to the left and right of the stage - 3 levels with benches
stage juts out into the pit
inner stage with curtains
second level - balcony
music gallery
pit - open area where audience stood
Globe Theatre - famous theatre seated 2,000-3,000 people
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The Actors

variety of troupes included all ages
Shakespeare's company - Lord Chamberlain's Men, later King's Men
no women - young boys played women's parts
wore elaborate costumes geared to the times
spoke rapidly
no major costume changes

The Audience

all levels of society
expected to be entertained
sophisticated - poetry, character development, situations
less sophisticated - clowns, wordplay, fignting, music & dance
did not expect realism
knew the form and most times the plot
wealthy in the galleries
poorer (groundlings) stood in the pit
vendors sold beverages and snacks in pit - hazelnuts and popcorn favorites

"The Play's the Thing . . ." ( Hamlet)

playwrights borrowed material fro other sources
rewritten from poems, Greek plays, other sources
followed conventional forms (Greek)
differed in stressed themes and characterization
lasted 2-3 hours during daylight hours
numerous troupes with writers and actors

Shakespeare's Plays - Five Act Plays



Act II

Act IV

rising action

falling action

Act I

Act V



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