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The play A Midsummer Night's Dream was written (around 1594 to 1596) by William Shakespeare, one of the world's greatest playwrights—if not the best! Born in 1564 and he died fifty-two years later just after the turn of the century. He attended school, finishing the eighth grade. but William studied difficult subjects in school and was a seemingly bright young man, based upon what he would later accomplish:
[William] would have studied primarily Latin rhetoric, logic, and literature.
It was not until Shakespeare was about 21 or so that he began his dramatic career in London—something that would define him for the remainder of his life and for hundreds of years after his death. He took some stories that were old even at that time—like Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet, and breathed new life into them in a way only the Bard could do. He also wrote historical plays, comedies, and even a play for his new King, James I, called Macbeth, which praised one of James' ancestors.
What seems most appealing about Shakespeare's plays is first the wonderful way he wrote. Hamlet itself is one of the most quoted of Shakespeare's plays, giving us "To be or not to be," "Unto thine own self be true," and "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark," to name a few. The other appealing aspect of Shakespeare's work is that he was able to capture a common sense of the human condition so that even today, his heroes and villains still speak to a modern audience.
Shakespeare's work has permeated every corner of society. The Taming of the Shrew was put to music in Kiss Me Kate by Cole Porter in the 1940s. Sesame Street, the PBS program for children, has a famous "spoof" of Hamlet's "To be or not to be," performed by Patrick Stewart (a renowned Shakespearean actor). Whereas Hamlet struggles as to whether or not to live, the "Sesame" version studies what is a "B" and what is not, in the segment called "B or not a B." Disney movies have been influenced by Shakespeare. For instance, The Lion King has been closely compared to Hamlet; Beauty and the Beast includes a quote straight from Macbeth: "screw your courage to the sticking place"—a line Gaston sings as he pursues the beast with the villagers. Could the Bard ever have imagined he would still be puzzling critics and audiences today with his works? Could he have visualized that modern audiences still laugh uproariously at A Midsummer Night's Dream when performed live on stage? (I have seen this!) Shakespeare began as an actor, playing the Ghost in Hamlet. However, it was with the pen that he was most gifted.
It is assumed that the young Shakespeare left school around fifteen years of age. He may have worked for his father to help his sire through financial difficulties. In his lifetime, William Shakespeare performed for Queen Elizabeth I, and later for her heir to the throne, James I (formerly James VI of Scotland and Elizabeth's cousin). In this capacity, Shakespeare was a member of the Chamberlain's Men (for the Queen) and the King's Men (for James).
Shakespeare's son died when he was eleven, but his daughter Susanna survived and married. She was heir to Shakespeare's relatively vast holdings upon her father's death. Shakespeare's last play was Henry VIII. It was not until his death that friends of the dramatist collected his plays and printed them in the First Folio. Not only was he a popular playwright, but he was admired by many of his peers.
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