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William Shakespeare

lunes, 7 de octubre de 2013

William Shakespeare

From The Oxford Companion to English Literature, ed. Margaret Drabble.
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SHAKESPEARE, William (1564-1616), dramatist, man of the theatre, and poet, baptized in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, on 26 Apr. 1564. His birth is traditionally celebrated on 23 Apr., which is also known to have been the date of his death. He was the eldest son of John Shakespeare, a glover and dealer in other commodities who played a prominent part in local affairs, becoming bailiff and justice of the peace in 1568, but whose fortunes later declined. John had married c. 1557 Mary Arden, who came from a family of higher social standing. Of their eight children, four sons and one daughter survived childhood.

The standard and kind of education indicated by William's writings are such as he might have received at the local grammar school, whose records for the period are lost. On 28 Nov. 1582 a bond was issued permitting him to marry Anne Hathaway of Shottery, a village close to Stratford. She was eight years his senior. A daughter, Susanna, was baptized on 26 May 1583, and twins, Hamnet and Judith, on 2 Feb. 1585. We do not know how Shakespeare was employed in early manhood; the best authenticated tradition is *Aubrey's: 'he had been in his younger yeares a Schoolmaster in the Country.' This has fed speculation that he is the 'William Shakeshafte' named in the will of the recusant Alexander Houghton, of Lea Hall, Lancashire, in 1581, and in turn that he had Catholic sympathies.

Nothing is known of his beginnings as a writer, nor when or in what capacity he entered the theatre. In 1587 an actor of the Queen's Men died through manslaughter shortly before the company visited Stratford. That Shakespeare may have filled the vacancy is an intriguing speculation. The first printed allusion to him is from 1592, in the pamphlet *Greenes Groats-Worth of Witte, ostensibly by R. *Greene but possibly by *Chettle. Mention of 'an upstart Crow' who 'supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you' and who 'is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a country' suggests rivalry, and parody of a line from 3 *Henry VI shows that Shakespeare was established on the London literary scene. He was a leading member of  the Lord Chamberlain's Men soon after their refoundation in 1594. With them he worked and grew prosperous for the rest of his career as they developed into London's leading company, occupying the *Globe Theatre from 1599, becoming the King's Men on James I's accession in 1603, and taking over the Blackfriars as a winter house in 1608. He is hte only prominent playwright of his time to have had so stable a relationship with a single company.

Theatrical life centred on London, which necessarily became Shakespeare's professional base, as various records testify. But his family remained in Stratford. In 1596 his father applied, successfully, for a grant of arms, and so became a gentleman; in August William's son Hamnet died, and was buried in Holy Trinity churchyard. In October Shakespeare was lodging in Bishopsgate, London, and in May of the next year he bought a substantial Stratford house, New Place. His father died in 1601, and in the following year William paid £320 for 127 acres of land in Old Stratford. In 1604 he lodged in London with a Huguenot family called Mountjoy. In the next year he paid £440 for an interest in the Stratford tithes, and there in June 1607 his daughter Susanna married a physician, John Hall. His only granddaughter, Elizabeth Hall, was christened the following February; in 1608 his mother died and was buried in Holy Trinity.

Evidence of Shakespeare's increasing involvement with Stratford at this time suggests that he was withdrawing to New Place, but his name continues to appear in London records; in Mar. 1613, for instance, he paid £140 for a gatehouse close to the Blackfriars Theatre, probably as an investment. In the same month he and the actor R. *Burbage received 44 shillings each for providing an impresa to be borne by the Earl of Rutland at a court tourney. In Feb. 1616 his second daughter Judith married Thomas Quiney, causing her father to make alterations to the draft of his will, which he signed on 25 Mar. He died, according to the inscription on his monument, on 23 Apr., and was buried in Holy Trinity. His widow died in 1623 and his last surviving descendant, Elizabeth Hall, in 1670.

Shakespeare's only writings for the press (aprt from the disputed 'Funeral Elegy' of 1613) are the narrative poems *Venus and Adonis and *The Rape of Lucrece, published 1593 and 1594 respectively, each with the author's dedication to Henry Wriothesley, earl of Southampton, and the short poem *'The Phoenix and the Turtle', published 1601 in Robert Chester's Loves Martyr, a collection of poems by various hands. His *Sonnets, dating probably from the mid-1590s, appeared in 1609, apparently not by his agency; they bear a dedication to the mysterious 'Mr W.H.' over the initials of the publisher, Thomas Thorpe. The volume also includes the poem 'A Lover's Complaint'.

Shakespeare's plays were published by being performed. Scripts of only half of them appeared in print in his lifetime, some in short, sometimes manifestly corrupt, texts, often known as 'bad quartos'. Records of performance are scanty and haphazard: as a result dates and order of composition, especially of the earlier plays, are often difficult to establish. The list that follows gives dates of first printing of all the plays other than those that first appeared in the 1623 Folio.

Probably Shakespeare began to write for the stage in the late 1580s. The ambitious trilogy on the reign of Henry VI, now known as *Henry VI Parts 1, 2, and 3, and its sequel *Richard III, are among his early works. Parts 2 and 3 were printed in variant texts as The First Part of the Contention betwixt the Two Famous Houses of York and Lancaster (1594) and The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York (1595). Henry VI Part I may have been written after these. A variant quarto of Richard III appeared in 1597. Shakespeare's first Roman tragedy is *Titus Andronicus, printed 1594, and his earliest comedies are *The Two Gentlemen of Verona, *The Taming of the Shrew (a derivative play, The Taming of a Shrew, was printed 1594), *The Comedy of Errors (acted 1594), and *Love's Labour's Lost (printed 1598). All these plays are thought to have been written by 1595.

Particularly difficult to date is *King John: scholars still dispute whether a two-part play, The Reign of John, King of England, printed 1591, is its source or (as seems more probable) a derivative. *Richard II, printed 1597, is usually dated 1595. For some years after this, Shakespeare concentrated on comedy, in *A Midsummer Night's Dream and* The Merchant of Venice (both printed 1600), *The Merry Wives of Windsor (related to the later history plays, and printed in a variant text 1602), Much Ado about Nothing (printed 1600), *As You Like it (mentioned in 1600), and Twelfth Night, probably wirtten in 1600 or soon afterwards. *Romeo and juliet (ascribed to the mid-1590s)is a tragedy with strongly comic elements, and the tetralogy begun by Richard II is completed by three comical histories: *Henry IV Parts I and 2, each printed a year or two after composition (Part 1 1598, Part 2 1600), and *Henry V, almost certainly written 1599, printed, in a shortened, possibly corrupt, text, 1600.

In 1598 *Meres, a minor writer, published praise of Shakespeare in Palladis Tamia: Wit's Treasury, mentioning 12 of the plays so far listed (assuming that by Henry the 4 he means both Parts) along with another, Love's Labour's Won, apparently either a lost play or an alternative title for an extant one.

Late in the century Shakespeare turned again to tragedy. A Swiss traveller saw *Julius Caesar in London in September 1599. *Hamlet apparently dates from the following year, but was only entered in the register of the Stationers' Company in July 1602; a short text probably reconstructed from memory by an actor appeared in 1603, and a good text printed from Shakespeare's manuscript in late 1604 (some copies bear the date 1605). A play that defies easy classification is *Troilus and Cressida, probably written 1602 printed 1609. The comedy *All's Well that Ends Well, too, is probably of this period, as is *Measure for Measure, played at court in December 1604. The tragedy *Othello, played at court the previous month, reached print abnormally late in 1622. *King Lear probably dates, in its first version, from 1605; the quarto printed in 1608 is now thought to have been badly printed from Shakespeare's original manuscript. The text printed in the Folio appears to represent a revision dating from a few years later. Much uncertainty surrounds *Timon of Athens, printed in the Folio from uncompleted papers, and probably written in collaboration with T. *Middleton. *Macbeth, probably adapted by Middleton, is generally dated 1606, *Antony and Cleopatra 1606-7, and *Coriolanus 1607-9.

Towards the end of his career, though while still in his early forties, Shakespeare turned to romantic tragecomedy. Pericles, printed in a debased text 1609, certainly existed in hte previous year; it is the only play generally believed to be mostly, if not entirely, by Shakespeare that was not included in the 1623 Folio. Forman, the astrologer, records seeing both *Cymbeline and *The Winter's Tale in 1611. *The Tempest was given at court in Nov. 1611.

The last three plays associated with Shakespeare appear to have been written in collaboration with J. *Fletcher. They are *Henry VIII, known in its own time as All Is True, which 'had been acted not passing 2 or three times' before the performance at the Globe during which the theatre burnt down on 29 June 1613.; a lost play, *Cardenio, acted by the King's Men in 1613 and attributed to the two dramatists in a Stationers' Register entry of 1653; and *The Two Noble Kinsmen, which appears to incorporate elements from a 1613 masque by F. Beaumont, and was first printed 1634. No Shakespeare play survived in authorial manuscript, though three pages of revisions to a manucript play, Sir Thomas *More, variously dated about 1593 or 1601, are often thought to be by Shakespeare and in his hand.

It may have been soon after Shakespeare died, in 1616, that his colleagues *Heminges and Condell began to prepare Mr William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, better known as the First Folio, which appeared in 1623. Only once before, in the 1616 *Jonson folio, had and English dramatist's plays appeared in collected form. Heminges and Condell, or their agents, worked with care, assembling manuscripts, providing reliable printed copy when it was available, but also causing quartos to be brought wholly or partially into line with prompt-books. Their volume includes a dedicatory epistle to William and Philip Herbert, earls of Pembroke and Montgomery, an address "To the great Variety of Readers' by themselves, and verse tributes, most notably the substantial poem by Jonson in which he declares that Shakespeare 'was not of an age, but for all time'. Above all, the Folio is important because it includes 16 plays which in all probability would not otherwise have survived. Its title-page engraving, by Droeshout, is, along with the half-length figure bust by Gheerart Janssen erected in Holy Trinity, Stratford, by 1623, the only image of Shakespeare with strong claims to authenticity. The Folio was reprinted three times in the 17th cent.; the second issue (1664) of the third edition adds Pericles and six more plays. Other plays, too, have been ascribed to Shakespeare, but few scholars would add anything to  the accepted canon except part (or even all) of *Edward III, printed anonymously 1596.

Over 200 years after Shakespeare died, doubs were raised about the authenticity of his works (see BACONIAN THEORY). The product largely of snobbery—reluctance to believe that a man of humble origins wrote many of the world's greatest dramatic masterpieces—and of the desire for self-advertisement, they are best answered by the facts that the monument to William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon compares him with *Socrates and *Virgil, and that Jonson's verses in the Folio identify the author of that volume as the 'Sweet Swan of Avon'.

The documents committed to print between 1593 and 1623 have generated an enormous amount of varied kinds of human activity. The first editor to try to bring them into order, reconcile their discrepancies, correct their errors, and present them for readers of his time was the dramatist *Rowe, in 1709. His 18th-cent. successors include *Pope (1723-5), *Theobald (1733), Dr *Johnson (1765), *Capell (1767-8), and *Malone (1790; third variorum 1821 by James Boswell the younger, out of Malone's edition). The most important 19th-cent. edition is the Cambridge Shakespeare (1863-6l, rev. 1891-3), on which the Globe text (1864) was based. The American New Variorum edition, still in progress, began to appear in 1871. Early in the 20th cent. advances in textual studies transformed attitudes to the text. Subsequent editions include *Quiller Couch's and J. Dover *Wilson's New Shakespeare (Cambridge, 1921-66), G. L. Kittredge's (1936), Peter Alexander's (1951) and the Riverside (1974). The Arden edition appeared originally 1899-1924; it was revised and largely replaced 1951-81. A new series, Arden 3, started to appear in 1995. The Oxford multi-volume edition (paperbacked as World's Classics) started to appear in 1982, and the New Cambridge in 1983. The Oxford single-volume edition, edited by S. Wells and G. Taylor, was published in 1986.

Great critics who have written on Shakespeare include *Dryden, Samuel Johnson, S. T. *Coleridge, *Hazlitt, A.C. *Bradley, and (lesss reverenly) G. B. *Shaw. The German Shakespeare Jahrbuch has been appearing since 1865; othe major periodicals are Shakespeare Survey (annual from 1948), Shakespeare Quarterly (from 1950), and Shakespeare Studies (annual from 1965). The standard biographical studies are E. K. *Chambers, William Shakespeare: A Study of Facts and Problems (2 vols., 1940), and S. *Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life (1975). The play scripts have been translated into over 90 languages and have inspired poets, novelists, dramatists, painters, composers, choreographers, film-makers, and other artists at all levels of creative activity. They have formed the basis for the English theatrical tradition, and they continue to find realization in readers' imaginations and in richly varied transmutations, on the world's stages.

1599: Un año en la vida de William Shakespeare

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