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The Amazing and Wonderful Shakespeare!




William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

~Born in Stratford-on-Avon, England


Shakespeare’s Life


v     He was born April 23, 1564

v     His father was a glover (leather worker)

v     He uses many references in his writing, to nature- compared man’s struggle with animals

v     He made many references to the Avon River

v     Went to school from 6am to 5pm in the summer and from 7am to 5pm in the winter. He studied only 3 subjects- Latin, Greek, and religion.

v     Hornbook: a piece of wood, that looked like a cutting board. It had a piece of paper with the lesson on it. To protect any writing on this paper a thin sheet of animal horn was placed atop the paper.

v     All English families had to go to church, attendance was taken.

v     At 18 he married a 26 year old woman named Anne Hathaway. They had 2 children. Lived in Hathaway. No direct decedents because none of his grandchildren had children.

v     1588- England defeats Spain and rules the world. There is a strong feeling of nationalism. This led him to write history plays.

v     He acted before he wrote. He had to learn to project his voice, sing, dance, and fight. (Small acting groups so you had to be able to play several characters.)

v     The Earl of Southampton was Shakespeare’s patron (paid Shakespeare to write).

v     Globe theatre was where Shakespeare first acted, where his plays were first performed, he became part owner in it

v     Other writers disliked him because he would rather stay home and write then hang out in the taverns

v     Shakespeare was so popular that publishers stole work from other authors and put Shakespeare’s name on them so they could make more money (Corrupted Editions)

v     He was a good businessman

v     He was buried inside the church

v     He put a curse on his tomb so that whoever tried to investigate his death would die a sudden death


Shakespeare’s Works


1.      Wrote 34 plays and 154 sonnets (full length 5 act plays)

3 Types of Plays:

a.       Histories

b.      Tragedies

c.       Comedies

2.      Long story poems. When the plague hit England, the theatres were closed. This is why he wrote this type of poem.

3.      Wrote 154 sonnets that he dedicated to the “dark lady.” He also wrote for the Earl of Southampton.

4.      Holinshed’s Chronicles: a history book used by Shakespeare, he took many ideas from this book.

5.      First play he ever wrote was Henry VI

6.      Sonnets were written as personal feelings for someone special. Shakespeare’s were stolen and published.

7.      His writing style:

a.       He used many adjectives

b.      Many nature and bible references

c.       He repeated things (words, letters, or sounds)

d.      He used onomatopoeia (words that sound like what they mean)

8.      Wrote patriotic speeches (in plays)

9.      Balanced the scenes


Terms to Know:

Feud: ongoing dispute/ fight between two families


Conflict: clash of forces (problem)


Antagonist: the problem causer


Protagonist: the problem solver


Tragic Flaws: a personality defect that leads to a characters downfall or death


Literary tragedy: any work in which a characters tragic flaw leads to his death


Dramatic irony: a situation in which the reader knows something the character does not


Soliloquy: a speech by an actor alone on stage to tell us his thoughts


Star-crossed lovers: they never had a chance, the fates were against them


Chorus: one person who comes out on stage and introduces the play


Wherefore: means why


Nice: simple minded

Drama Background

I.        Greeks:

A.     Several thousand years old

B.     Amphitheaters- open (no roof)

C.     Purpose

1.      Honor Gods/ explain, teach religion

2.      Teach history

3.      Social time

D.     Little Scenery, few props, few costumes, wore masks (symbols of drama- smiling mask (comedy), frowning mask (tragedy)).


II.     Medieval Period: 900-1200 AD

~ At this time the church was the government. Mainly Roman Catholic. The church was strict and powerful.

A.     Church dislike plays because:

1.      Too busy with wars

2.      Honored too may Gods (Pagans)

3.      People enjoyed plays too much

B.     Church used plays to teach Bible stories (“Miracle Plays”)

C.     People enjoyed seeing these plays & that was not ok (you were not allowed to enjoy yourself back then). Morality Plays: designed to teach a lesson. Characters names were good, bad, love, hate, etc. The names were traits. Sometimes very violent with lots of blood.

D.     Late 1400’s- beginning of regular drama (plays as we know them today). Non-church related dramas, more for entertainment.


III.   Renaissance: means a rebirth of interest in science, exploration, education, arts, religious freedom, and architecture.


IV.  Elizabethan Era: named after Queen Elizabeth

A.     Theater: 8 sided, 8 feet high, wood seats

1.      Uncomfortable

2.      No curtain

3.      Little scenery

B.     Audience:

1.      Groundlings: those who stood or sat on the ground around the stage

2.      Balconies: seats, for knights, shop owners, and tradesmen

3.      Dandies: young men who dressed in their finest clothes to impress the young ladies. (To be seen-not to see the play). They sat on the edges of the stage.

C.     No actresses- men played all the roles

D.     Shakespeare: Reasons he is still read today

1.      A good story teller, he knew how to write so that average people could understand. He wrote something for everyone. He was not insulting to people. He kept things balanced so everyone could understand.

2.      He had a new and fresh way with words. Invented new words for our language (ie. Foul play)

3.      The single most important reason is the fact of universal themes. The basic story is something that could have happened in any time period.


Shakespeare’s Time

1.      Rural

2.      Big Beautiful Tudor houses (made of wood, damp & cold)

3.      Wood furniture, not much carpet, straw mattresses (not comfortable)

4.      Usually one central room: heated by two fireplaces

5.      Candlelight, torches, whale oil lamp

6.      Lots of food (red meat)

7.      Traveled by foot

8.      Crime was common, robbery, fights were settled by duels

9.      Most common book was the Bible and Shakespeare quoted it often, and referred to Bible stories

10.  They loved new words, and Shakespeare brought new words into his writing

11.  Sonnet: a poem with 14 lines with 10 syllables, it expressed emotions (14 lines, 10 syllables per line). It had to have a certain rhyme scheme (not easy to do). Shakespeare wrote 154 of them.

12.  He wrote when Elizabeth was queen

13.  Stage had 3 levels and a trap door. The top level would be for musicians.

14.  Like violence


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It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Do you think that's true? Shakespeare was a good story teller, he knew how to write so that average people could understand. He wrote something for everyone. He was not insulting to people. He kept things balanced so everyone could understand. His plays have been redone and changed numerous times. Do you think that Shakespeare would be flattered or insulted on how his work has been changed, edited, idealized, and trademarked on film, in books, and in much more?


Click on the below link to follow a webquest on Shakespeare and the adaptations done on his plays

Web Quest on Imitation and Shakespeare


Click here for Cyberinquiry on Shakespeare