William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was born and brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon. Few records of Shakespeare’s private life survive and this has given rise to considerable speculation. At 18, he married Anne Hathaway, who was 26, and six months after the marriage Anne gave birth to a daughter, Susanna. Two years later they had twins Hamnet and Judith. Hamnet died at the age of 11. Scholars refer to the years between 1585 and 1592 as Shakespeare’s “lost years”. After 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor and writer. From 1594, Shakespeare’s plays were performed by only the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, a company owned by a group of players, including Shakespeare, and became the leading playing company in London. After the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603, the company was awarded a royal patent by the new king, James I, and changed its name to the King’s Men.

In 1599, a partnership of company members built their own theatre on the south bank of the River Thames, which they called the Globe. In 1608, the partnership also took over the Blackfriars indoor theatre. The indoor setting, combined with the Jacobean fashion for lavishly staged masques, allowed Shakespeare to introduce more elaborate stage devices. These property purchases and investments also made him a wealthy man. Shakespeare retired to Stratford around 1613 at age 49, where he died three years later. His works about 38 plays 154 sonnets and two long narrative poems. Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were comedies and histories. Then he wrote mainly tragedies, and his last phase, tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights. His last three plays were collaborations, probably with John Fletcher who succeeded him as the house playwright for the King’s Men

His plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy. Some of Shakespeare’s plays were published in quartos (flimsy books made from four leaves – bifolia- of paper folded twice to make eight leaves) from 1594. Where several versions of a play survive, each differs from the other due to copying or printing errors, notes by actors and so on. In 1623, two friends and fellow actors of Shakespeare, published the First Folio (A leaf or folio consisted of two pages of text and/or images, front and back to form a book) a collected edition of his dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognised as Shakespeare’s. The First Folio was prefaced with a poem by fellow dramatist Ben Jonson.

In 1593 and 1594, when the theatres were closed because of plague, Shakespeare published two narrative poems on erotic themes, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, dedicated them to the Earl of Southampton. Influenced by Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the poems show the guilt and moral confusion that result from uncontrolled lust. Published in 1609, the Sonnets were the last of Shakespeare’s non-dramatic works to be printed. Scholars are not certain when each of the 154 sonnets was composed. He seems to have planned two contrasting series: one about uncontrollable lust for a married woman of dark complexion (the “dark lady”), and one about conflicted love for a fair young man (the “fair youth”). The Sonnets are a profound meditation on the nature of love, sexual passion, procreation, death, and time. In the plays, Shakespeare’s standard poetic form was blank verse, composed in iambic pentameter. In practice, this meant that his verse was usually unrhymed and consisted of ten syllables to a line, spoken with a stress on every second syllable. After Hamlet, Shakespeare varied his poetic style further in order to emphasize emotional passages with concentrated and rapid, less regular, and often twisted diction, adopting many techniques to achieve these effects which included run-on lines, irregular pauses and stops, and extreme variations in sentence structure and length.

Shakespeare was a respected playwright in his own day, but during the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 and the end of the 17th century, when classical ideas were in vogue, critics of the time rated Shakespeare below John Fletcher and Ben Jonson. His reputation rose to its present heights after the 19th-century, when his works were rediscovered in Romantic (Wordsworth & Coleridge, Keats and others) and Victorian and later criticism (Carlyle, Dickens, Tennyson, Hardy,). Nowadays they continue to be reinterpreted in very diverse cultural and political contexts throughout the world, for example in MIT project Global Shakespeares.

The early plays were influenced by the works of other Elizabethan dramatists, especially Thomas Kyd and Christopher Marlowe and by the traditions of medieval drama, classical and Italianate comedies, containing tight double plots and precise comic sequences. Gradually, his characters became more complex, and he switched between comic and serious scenes, prose and poetry. The plots of Shakespeare’s tragedies often hinge on fatal errors or flaws that overturn order and destroy the hero and those he loves. See the Complete Works of William Shakespeare.


23 thoughts on “Shakespeare

  1. In my opinion I think that in Robinson Crusoe, written by Daniel Defoe, the sea symbolized the human ability to survive the problems. In Robinson Crusoe the character escapes from dying in the sea several times, perhaps that means that this act of escape from dying makes he stronger.

    In the story “to the lighthouse” of Virginia Wolf I think that the sea and the waves represent an invisible strength that can change the course of our lives.

    To sum up, I think that the sea is like an enemy that you have to defeat, and if you win is a step forward to achieve your goals or dreams.

  2. I have read The Pilgrim’s Progress , by John Bunyan ,and found it very interesting! C.S.Lewis wrote an article about this book ,as an allegory, and the style and thoughts of its author.

    Lewis says that Allegory frustrates itself the moment the author starts doing what could equally well be done in a straight sermon.In other words ,it is only valid when it does what could not be done at all,or done so well, in any other way.But this fault is rare in Bunyan!

    Quoting C.S.Lewis’ words,”In dialogue Bunyan catches not only the candence of speech , but also the tiny twists of thought.”

    For many readers,there may be an ‘unpleasant side’ of The Pilgrim’s Progress, in the view that faith is “limited to a small sect and all are damned beside”.But what people probably dislike the most about the book is the intolerable reality of terror which is never far away:Hell,which we deserve because of our condition as sinners.
    That is why Christian knows his salvation is an urgent matter.And nobody likes to be told such a thing.

  3. I’ve been to Lake District!!
    I went there last summer and I remeber that the guide who showed us the place told us about this theme. He talked about how different writers along the history had treated the connecction between humans and nature and specially in this inspiring place, which they considered it “as a magic place”. He also told us some legends related to this, I made 3 wishes to a magic tree….. still waiting to happen… hahaha
    He mentioned several famous writers (for me totally unknown) but now I can say I know some of them !!

    So, that’s all….
    I promise to focus more on the theme next time!

  4. I love Leticia H’s comment and link (above in the main body of the text and in orange -the only way to have the link operative and the image). Lovely comment. Wait until you read Joyce’s Ulysses. It needs a little effort but it’s the most rewarding book ever.
    As prof. I feel enthusiastic when you send your comments and suggestions and ideas and ideals to OUR blog. Another brilliant site for videos on history is If anyone finds anything worthwhile, please keep us posted (I’m as usual a very busy prof.) Thanks Leticia.

  5. Hey!

    Well, according to the journey structure in a novel, I have a suggestion.

    Last read in the Asun class I read Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë-. When I read it, the got the same idea linked with the journey. Thorugh the journeys, the main character of the novel is growing up in her world of misery. I don’t remember the compostions accurately to make a good comment, but I remember the essential. A similiar idea you can observe when you read “The Mill on the Floss”, by Eliot. (both of them highly recommended, in spite of is size)

    Both main character have some internal pression inside. In the case of Jane Eyre, the misery of all her life, the treatment when she was a child, her life in the boarding school. In the case of Maggie Tulliver, in “The Mill on the Floss”, you can observe the character of the girl Maggie simply when she destroys her dolls when she is punished by her mother. For that reason, both of them drive her life towards an individualism, an individualism touched deeply by the strong feelings that they have.

    All this just to recommend you these novels… So, please, read the another four novels, and take enough time to read these ones.

    Good luck, Alfonso

  6. On the subject “4.3.4. Everybody vs Everybody”, I found some interesting links that you might enjoy. For instance James Blunt – No Bravery:

    You can find the lyrics here.

    Also you may like Nickelback’s – If every one cared:

    For stage6 video spotlight you need Divx Web Player, you can download it hrtr.

  7. Permit me to rectify one of Leticia H.’s comment on Motif 3.3 Immediate Communities: Family Plots

    Firstly, it was FRANCIS BACON (1561-1626) who said “homo homini lupus”, and not fo far away, as you all see. It means that ‘a man is a wolf for another man’. To put it more clearly, Bacon with Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) brought the idea that the man is determined to do something only by their selfish utilitarianism and also by their instinct for conservation. The political society, the state, the autority of the laws are supposed to make everything that is possible to stop the so-called ”bellum omnium contra omnes” (the situation is that in which everybody fights against everybody). I would dare to exemplify this concept: if I am bankrupt than my neighbor or everybody I know also MUST be bankrupt, and if they are not, then, I will make everything I can to be it so. Bacon says that it is not the morality that can save us from becoming monsters, as Leticia H. said, but the authority of the law, the state and the political society.

    Sorry, Leticia H.

  8. Oh … “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog” … What to say about this miagnificent piece of art, it’s “simplicity” hides a great symbolism. It could be the representation of people’s search for answers to all that questions that being alive means. Or maybe those ways, sometimes without any concrete direction, that we follow to our final destination, or the wandering of a lonely man, or maybe it just doesn’t have a meaning … Who knows what it really represent? … We can’t say beacuse each one has a different perception of the same reality. That’s what made of us individuals, those little disagreements.

    In addition to my comment I’m going to add this link to Julian Beever’s Official Web Page, He is a British artist that made 3D and realistic chalk pintings on walls and pavements in different cities arround the world.

  9. Many thanks Gabriela! You are absolutly right. I did not realize the translation was wrong, but yes,I totally agree with you, it was just an error at typing.

    About the quote itself… well, I think we should not just use it for an only case. This quotation is really good and can be used for many topics, but it is true that Hobbe’s interpretation is quite well known. For me, it does not mean it is the only one. Apart from that, Fhilosophy and Ethic are made to accept interpretations and to try to put in in our daily life, if possible.

    For Hobbes, nature is dangerousa and makes the man feel unconfident and messy. But even in this state, the men are still rational. In order to feel more secure and be over the dangerous, idivuduals must give their rights to a third factor: the State or the Republic (also called Leviatan)
    This would mean that everybody would loose their rights (which would never be given back). The leviantan then is omnipotent,the source of law, morality and religion. (…would you like this is your life? what about not having rights?!!)There would be some advantages and some disadvantages.

    The consequence, as Hirschberger said is that ‘The State would be an overcrowling of power resulting of collective egoism’.

  10. I’m totally agree with Alfonso. I just finished “Jane Eyre” and I found that the metaphor of the journey could be applicated in a personal way, just to explain the personal evolution of the main character of the novel Jane.

    I think I can make a comparison between Jane Eyre and Moll Flanders because both characters are women that are in a world where society take a great part in power.

    While Moll Flanders is trying to find a way to make money and have a good position by getting married with a man which could have a great amount of money, Jane is trying to make a new social class, a class where men and woman are equal in their intellectual way.

    Good luck for everybody!


  11. A very nice song about family plots and how you must sometimes play a role (hide your own personality or flaws, even when you don´t consider them as such) in order to enter another family that is not your own is Jake Thackray´s “Lah-Di-Dah” ( [lyrics:

    What I´ve always found interesting is how in literature families are represented as the very heart of society, that at the same time mirrors its hierarchy. Families such as the one in Jane Austen´s “Pride and Prejudice” show a very stable familiar core, rather healthy and friendly relationships between its members. In contrast, Nabokov´s representation of the family is quite worrying: in “Lolita”, the relationship between Humbert and Lolita, supposedly stepfather and daughter, turns into a violently sexual relationship. It´s not the only novel by Nabokov that has this element: in “Ada or the Ardour: a family chronicle”, the plot is centred in Van and Ada´s sexual (and sentimental) relationship, that doesn´t end even though they discover that they´re siblings. In both cases (Jane Austen and Nabokov), the writers try to find in the family (as a scale model of society) an explanation for the behaviours and problems of society; in the first case, of the position of women towards marriage; in the second, the abominable vices and intricate relationships between individuals.

  12. Lately, Asun has been telling us some things related to Puritanism, and different beliefs in some Protestant churches through History…
    I must confess some of her comments sounded strange to me and lead me to take some books from my Dad’s library in order to have clear information about these issues.( I should, for I’m a christian believer, from a protestant background, and attend a Presbyterian Church)
    I’m also aware that most of the students have probably no interest in this matters, so I’ll just tell you briefly about a few points…

    ‘Presbyterian’ just means that in this local congregations are governed by ‘presbyteries’made up of representatives of the congregation.This means that all the power of the church is not set on one person.

    And the term ‘Calvinist’ is used for a church in the sense that it’s not Roman Catholic, but that it comes from the Protestant Reformation, which was helped to expand by people like Calvin and Luther.

    While speaking about a character in Wuthering Heights, the servant Joseph, Asun mentioned that probably because of his fanatical religious comments and continuous talk about Hell, this man would probably be a presbyterian, calvinist or a puritan.
    Asun told us about the ‘superstitious beliefs this people have, in the Devil, etc.’ And she mentioned the famous Salem witch trials as an example of how far this could go…

    Well, concerning this character, Joseph, he’s just a fanatical man.Sadly, you can find that everywhere. The novel itself states this: “He was the wearisomest self-righteous Pharisee that ever ransacked a Bible to rake the promises to himself and fling the curses on his neighbours.By his knack of sermonizing and pious discoursing,(..)”

    On the other hand, I’ve read about the Witch hunt and came to the conclusion that in the Medieval times, and in the 15 and 16th centuries most of the people (not only the so-named religious) were simple-minded and believed that if somebody was possessed he had to be thrown to the fire. Of course that many of these people were innocent and weren’t really possessed, so it was awful and unfair.

    In the ugly case of salem, a couple of imaginative girls who had a fit of hysteria were badly used by a political splinter-group of the ‘puritan’town of Salem to get rid of the opposite group, accusing them op witchcraft. So fanaticism,ambition and lack of qualms, they anded up killing 24 people.

    On the other side, of course I’m not denying that christians do believe in the Devil! The Bible tells us hehas a certain power in this world, and that in very random cases he can possess nonbelievers.

    I recommend a book written by Leland Ryken, professor of English in Wheaton College, about the puritans;
    Worldly Saints: The Puritans as they really were.

  13. Lluvia,
    I really thank you for your comment. It is the first time a controversial issue is addressed in the site and I am really glad that you have been able to speak your mind without fear. This is very important (and I understand how difficult it is to do so in a large class and in a public site). Dialogue is the basis of intercultural relations and religion is one of the most difficult topics that confronts civilizations. There are superstitions on all sides and this is because of lack of knowledge.
    I’m happy that you have done the research, clarified some points, and defended your own views. I hope that some other students in class will follow your lead in speaking their mind respectfully. This is precisely the aim of the site. Congratulations!!

  14. Hello everybody!!!
    According to the link “Man vs Woman” I would like to recommend you a book that I have recently read of Virginia Woolf “Una habitación propia”: it consists on a conference that this famous british writer has exhibited in 1928 about the polemic theme of women and its rights. This is my first book that I have read of this peculiar writer and I liked it a lot.Her way of writing is very different and interesting, so I advice you to read it.
    In spite of some critical aspects of the text, I think that the the most strinking idea is that despite of all the differences that exists between men and women, they need each other and have to learn to take advantage of this difference, in stead of discussing continously who is better. In fact, no one is, we are simply different,even opposite in some way;maybe in this idea consists the main secret of human nature.

  15. In relation to the individual vs society I would like to make a comment about White man vs. black man. Well, along the course we have discussed about the troubles that the men have found to live in society. However, we always have referred about the white men, but what about black men? I think it’s nothing new the differences between white and black men and the objection that black people have found to established in society, even nowadays.
    Making a reference to Bob Dylan’s song and oinciding these days with 40th Martin Luther King’s Anniversary ( who strongly fought to get rights for black people in the USA, I would like to recommend a book by Tony morrison, “Beloved” to get an idea of black people in society ( this novel is set in the time of slavery but It’s a good example to understand this motif and on the other hand I would recommend “Ma. Rainey’s Black Bottom”, to understand how affects family plot in black society, sometimes very different as in white society and basically based in customs and family gaps.
    If you try any of this books, I hope you understand how culture affects in the way of life and thinking of the society.

  16. I don´t know exactly where we have to write our opions about this blog, but I think thant is here. First, I want to say that I´ve understood the whole things that appear in the blog altough I thought I could do it 😀 (because in class texts look more difficult) The only problem can be that there are a lot of links. Maybe, there was more usefull connecting some word to their means instead of connecting to songs, films and so on, because you become crazy 😦 I´ve seen there are a lot of pictures about the Romantic period. When I read Frankestein I always had in my mind one picture, “Mar Glaciar” painted by Friedrich. I want to put it near Ophelia, but I don´t know how 😦 I´m sorry, I´m very bad at working with computers. Congratulation for the blog, It´s original.

  17. Hi,
    I just wanted to mention something about the rise of individualism in the Enlightment and in the first English novels.

    The emergence of capitalism and the religious Reformation brought about change in the way the individual sees himself and the role he has in society. A great increase of economic specialization, and a more democratic political system, enormously increased and individual’s freedom of choice. For people who were truly exposed to the new economic order, the entity on which social arrangements were now based was no longer the family, nor the church, nor the guild, nor anything else, but the individual. He alone was primarily responsible for determining his own social, economic, political and religious role.
    Contractual relationships, made people more individual, as opposed to the old customs traditional and collective relationships.
    Economic individualism explains much of Crusoe’s character. Economic specialization and its associated ideology helps to account for the appeal of his adventures; but it is Puritan individualism which controls his spiritual human being.
    In Robinson Crusoe it is apparent that the economic and secular viewpoint is more dominant than the religious one.
    The Reformation also brought change in the way the individual realates to God. Protestantism and certainly Puritanism brought an idea of a direct relation between individual and God without intermediaries, and one of the consequences of this is the tendency to rigorous moral and religious self-examination, and thus helping the rise of individualism.

  18. I think the theme of loneliness could be interesting because in my opinion this theme configures identity. Maybe to be lonely is ok but only for a moment. People need to live together for many reasons.

  19. Hi, I want to speak about the motif 4.3 ( The indidual vs the other). In my opinion is one the most interesting. I think that it´s very short and it must have more information. I´ve seen the film “Crash” and I think that this film explains the social differences very well, especially with the theme f racism. In this case the theme would be “white man vs black man”.
    In the Black Eyes Peas´ rap sais that “But if you only have love for your own race then you only leave speace to discriminate and to dscriminate only generates HATE”. It´s very significant for me because the racism face different cultures.
    It´s named the film “Amélie” too. I love this film! I think that it represents the theme connections & disconnections very well because Amélie is a girl who hasn´t a fixed destination, and she is going to make it during the film, helping a lot of people and doing “stratagems” (as it´s said in the film) for these encounter with the boy who likes. She tries “to connect” everything what she´s making until arriving to her objetive.
    By the others, I´ve been reading all, and I´ve found it quite interesting and easy to understand ;)!

  20. Today in class we saw and discussed Caspar David Friedrich’s “Cloister Cemetery in the Snow” in relation with motifs and I would like to share a quote from one of my favorite authors, Percy Bysshe Shelley” which I think describes in perfection this painting.

    “The cemetery is an open space among the
    ruins, covered in winter with violets and
    daisies. It might make one in love with
    death, to think that one should be buried in
    so sweet a place.” Adonais (1821) preface

  21. I wanted to propose a link for the introductory part of the course for two reasons:1 because it is an entertaining way of assimilating the material proposed by our tutor; 2 in order to provide opportunities for learning and discovering curiosities (about religion, politics, economy etc) that might be difficult to obtain otherwise, and because it provides ‘connections’ in a brilliant, critical and anticonformist way [YOUTUBE: Zeitgeist(= espiritu del Tiempo)]
    Besides, so that you can also have a laugh at conflicts and politics today you can watch this brief video in English with Spanish subtitles. Enjoy!!![YOUTUBE: Achmed el terrorista muerto]

  22. hi everybody!
    I work in a Radio in Conde de Casal and my boss is looking for young people who wanna practise in this kind of topic.
    i’m writing here because this is a job in the area of communications and it seemed perfect to me to inform you all this way.
    We have locutors coming from every country, from USA to Italy, from Romania to Portugal; programms about cinema, music, art, curiosities and so on.
    we work for free, when we want and about what we prefear.
    the website is not ready yet, but if you want to contact us, you can make it here:

  23. Hello! I’d like to add some information to Motif 3.2. The Individual in Nature: the Ideal Garden which concerns the fact that human beings have always tried to create this so called Garden of Eden for themselves as an escape from reality. I’m talking about ornamental gardens, gardens in which nature, art and even life philosophy join together in an authentic earthy paradise. For more information check this out

    I happen to be particularly aquatinted with one of these gardens which will permit me to illustrate what I said before. If any of you have the opportunity to go to Lisbon (Portugal) you can’t miss going to Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra. It is the trial of one Mr Carvalho Monteiro to construct his own mundus infernus, Dante’s subterranean world. The visitor is guided thought a journey that makes the traveler go 27 meters into the subsoil descending the Initiatic’s Shaft and venture into its darkness before reborn into the Lake of the Waterfall. It really is an unique experience!

    It’s interesting to notice that even in ornamental gardens there is literary intertextuality, for instance, in Quinta da Regaleira there are clear allusions to the great epics of Virgil, Dante, Camões, to the mission of the Knights Templar, classical mythology and the mysteries of alchemy.

    Here is the official web:

    For further reading I’d like to propose the novel of one of my favourite authors, Kate Morton’s “The Forgotten Garden”, and it’s also interesting “The Savage Garden” by Mark Mills.

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