When it comes to Literature, who is not aware of Shakespeare’s name? Over the last five centuries, the world has come across thousands of adaptations of Shakespeare’s work, be that movies like ‘Romeo+Juliet’ or ‘Haider’. Shakespeare is probably the most well known of all writers. He gave tragedies which scare the reader and created the immortal characters of Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo and many many more. He is often considered a Natural and a Raw genius, who has not been shaped by conventional education but naturally formed.
Shakespeare’s life is as interesting as his works and has engaged the researchers all these centuries and even today we come across new facts related to his life. Unlike most famous writers he was born in a small village called Stratford-upon-Avon in England, way back in the year 1564. His birth date is considered to be the same as the date of his death; 23rd of April. Though probably he was christened on 26th April. Shakespeare’s life has been full of ups and downs. Born in a poor family he rose in life with his own genius and hard work. The dramatist married a woman eight years older to him; Anne Hathaway. His dramas hint at an unhappy married life. Most of them being tragic and incomplete love stories. He had three children, out of whom one (Hamnet) died. After his death, all that he left for his wife in the will was his ‘Second Best Bed’. The man seemed to have a sad family life with one of his daughters marrying against his wish. One of the most strange and mysterious aspect of his life was the ‘Lost Years’. He disappeared for Seven years, from 1585 to 1592. The reason and whereabouts of this period are not clear. But it’s often guessed that he went with one of the theatre groups and was trying to escape a persecution. Shakespeare faced a lot of criticism during his lifetime. Robert Greene in one of his works called him an ‘Upstart-Crow’. He never printed his work, in fact it was after his death that his works were printed in the collection called ‘First-Folio’ in the year 1623. He wrote dramas to be performed and was also an actor. He played various roles in his own plays, like the ghost in Hamlet. The theatres he wrote for were the Globe and the Blackfriars. It came as a shock to him when the Globe burned down in the year 1613. He had a small share in that theatre. He died at the age of 52 in the year 1616.
Shakespeare’s works cannot be given specific dates, since they were not meant for publication. It was around the year 1591 that he wrote his first work ‘Henry VI’. He was a dramatist as well as a poet. Having written around 36 plays and 154 sonnets. Most of his works depend on legends and history. In a period when most writers stereotyped women, Shakespeare created the strong characters of Lady Macbeth, Viola and many more. On one hand the beauty of women was put into conventional mould by others and on the other hand Shakespeare created a line like; “ My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun; Coral is far more red than her lips’ red…”. His Lady Macbeth killed the king for power, his Viola disguised as a man to get her love, Shakespeare’s Juliet had the courage to fight against her family for her love. Around 1600 he started writing his great tragedies which are considered to be his best of all works. The four great tragedies are Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, and Othello. The creation of these characters sets the definition of Heroic. Shakespeare is said to have created a large number of characters and it is also said that no two characters created by him are same. The hundreds of characters that he made in his over 30 plays are all unique. They are a result of very sharp observation of human psychology and behaviour. The four tragedies scare the reader. The power of Shakespeare’s character creation compels the reader to slip in the shoes of the character. We feel their emotions, we understand Hamlet’s dilemma of ‘To be or not to be?’, we know what guilt leads Macbeth to see Banquo’s ghost. The proficiency with which Shakespeare wrote all his tragedies is the same with which he writes his comedies like Twelfth Night, As you like It, and the others. It surprises to see that the writer who wrote the serious tragedies can create such mature comedies. He excelled in whatever he wrote. Over the Years, his works have been thoroughly adapted in theatres or as movies, in poems or in novels. Be it movies of Hollywood like ‘O’, ‘Romeo+ Juliet’, or movies in Bollywood like ‘Maqbool’ or ‘Haider’. Shakespeare has been translated in most languages and he has an audience worldwide. His writing is timeless, even today in the contemporary world his writing is understandable and applicable. He gave us the passion of Romeo’s love which went on to be permanent in the world. Not only plays, he also gave us long poems like the Rape of Lucrece, Venus, and Adonis. It is rare to find a writer so raw who has not been trained by conventions and writes as fresh as Shakespeare. He is an unmatched genius, tough to find again, who has been ruling the Literary world for almost five centuries now. He has become an immortal name.
Image credits: A&E Biography