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A Comprehensive Shakespeare Biography

By Lee Jamieson, About.com Guide Shakespeare Biography: The Basics


Born: April 23, 1564 Died: April 23, 1616 Married Anne Hathaway in November 1582 Born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon, England,

but moved to London in the late

1580s.
Shakespeares

37 plays and 154 sonnets are considered the most important and enduring ever written. Although the plays have captured the imagination of theatergoers for centuries, some historians claim that Shakespeare didnt actually write them. Shakespeare's Early Years: Shakespeare was probably born on April 23, 1564, but this date is an educated guess because we only have a record of his baptism three days later. His parents, John Shakespeare and Mary Arden, were successful townsfolk who moved to a large house in Henley Street, Stratford-uponAvon from the surrounding villages. His father became a wealthy town official and his mother was from an important, respected family. It is widely assumed that he attended the local grammar school where he would have studied Latin, Greek and classical literature. His early education must have made a huge impact on him because many of his plots draw on the classics. Shakespeares Family: At 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway from Shottery who was already pregnant with their first daughter. The wedding would have been arranged quickly to avoid the shame of having a child born out of wedlock. Shakespeare fathered three children in all: Susanna: born in May 1583, but conceived out of wedlock Judith and Hamnet: twins born in February 1585 Hamnet died in 1596, at age 11. Shakespeare was devastated by the death of his only son, and it is argued that Hamlet, written four years later, is evidence of this. Shakespeares Theater Career: At some point in the late 1580s, Shakespeare made the four-day ride to London, and by 1592 had established himself as a writer. In 1594 came the event that changed the course of literary history Shakespeare joined Richard Burbages acting company and became its chief playwright for the next two decades. Here, Shakespeare was able to hone his craft, writing for a regular group of performers.

Shakespeare also worked as an actor in the theater company, although the lead roles were always reserved for Burbage himself. The company became very successful and often performed in front of the Queen of England, Elizabeth I. In 1603, James I ascended the throne and granted his royal patronage to Shakespeares company, which became known as The Kings Men. Top 10 Most Important Plays (in chronological order):
Romeo and Juliet (1594-1595) A Midsummer Nights Dream (1595-1596) Much Ado About Nothing (1598-1599) Henry V (1598-1599) Twelfth Night (1599-1600) Hamlet (1600-1601) Measure for Measure (1604-1605) King Lear (1605-1606) Macbeth ( 1605-1606) The Tempest (1611-1612)

Shakespeare the Gentleman: Like his father, Shakespeare had excellent business sense. He had bought the largest house in Stratford-upon-Avon by 1597, he owned shares in the Globe Theater, and profited from some real estate deals near Stratford-upon-Avon in 1605. Before long, Shakespeare officially became a gentleman, partly due to his own wealth and partly due to inheriting a coat of arms from his father who died in 1601. Shakespeares Later Years: Shakespeare retired to Stratford in 1611 and lived comfortably off his wealth for the rest of his life. In his will, he bequeathed most of his properties to Susanna, his eldest daughter, and some actors from The Kings Men. Famously, he left his wife his second best bed before he died on April 23, 1616 (this date is an educated guess because we only have a record of his burial two days later). If you visit Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, you can still view his grave and read his epitaph engraved into the stone: Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear To dig the dust enclosed here. Blessed be the man that spares these stones, And cursed be he that moves my bones. Shakespeare Timeline By Lee Jamieson, About.com Guide

This Shakespeare timeline covers all the significant events that shaped Shakespeares biography. Born in 1564, Shakespeare lived through the massive cultural and socio-political shifts of theElizabethan and Jacobean period. Before his death in 1616, he managed to produce 37 plays and 154 sonnets, considered to be the most important and enduring ever written. This Shakespeare timeline brings together all of these significant events in one place. Shakespeare Timeline
1564

Shakespeare was born on 23 April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon and baptized at Holy Trinity Church.
1571-1578

Shakespeare attended King Edward IV Grammar School in Stratford-upon-Avon between the age of 7 and 14.
1582

Married Anne Hathaway from a Catholic ceremony.


1583

nearby

Shottery

in

November

1582,

possibly

in

His daughter Susanna was born in May she was conceived out of wedlock.
1585

Shakespeares twins, Judith and Hamnet born in February 1585.


1585-1592

During the Shakespeare lost years, Shakespeare disappears from the history books for several years.
1592

By this time, Shakespeare had moved to London and established himself as a popular dramatist. We dont know when Shakespeare moved to London, but it is widely accepted that it happened in the late 1580s.
1594

Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet, his classic tragedy about star-crossed lovers.
1596

Hamnet died at the age of 11. Shakespeare was devastated by the death of his only son, and it is argued that the character of Hamlet Prince of Denmark, written four years later, is evidence of this.
1598

Shakespeare wrote Much Ado About Nothing, one of his best-loved comedies.
1600

Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, possibly in response to the death of his son.

1605

Macbeth first performed at the Globe Theater.


1610-1611

Shakespeare retires from London and moves back to his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon. He spent the rest of life living in New Place, one of the towns largest houses.
1616

Shakespeare's death occurred on April 23, 1616. He was buried two days later in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon. You can still view his grave and read the epitaph engraved into the stone.

How to Study Shakespeare By Lee Jamieson, About.com Guide Do you need to study Shakespeare but don't know where to begin? Our step-by-step study Shakespeare guide contains everything you need to know to read and understand the plays and sonnets. We guide you through step-by-step and build your essential understanding of the Bard and provide you with helpful study Shakespeare resources along the way. 1. How to Understand Shakespeare Words For many, language is the biggest barrier in understanding Shakespeare. Bizarre words like Methinks and Peradventure can cause problems - but this handy modern translation of the top 10 most common Shakespearian words and phrases will help you overcome your confusion. Sonnet Iambic pentameter is meter that Shakespeare nearly always used when writing in verse. Most of his plays were written in iambic pentameter, except for lower-class characters who speak in prose. What is Iambic Pentameter? Iambic Pentameter has:
Ten syllables in each line Five pairs of alternating unstressed and The rhythm in each line sounds like:

stressed syllables

ba-BUM / ba-BUM / ba-BUM / ba-BUM / ba-BUM Most of Shakespeares famous quotations fit into this rhythm. For example: If mu- / -sic be / the food / of love, / play on Is this / a dag- / -ger I / see be- / fore me? Each pair of syllables is called an iambus. Youll notice that each iambus is made up of one unstressed and one stressed beat (ba-BUM).

Rhythmic Variations In his plays, Shakespeare didnt always stick to ten syllables. He often played around with iambic pentameter to give color and feeling to his characters speeches. This is the key to understanding Shakespeare's language.. Feminine Ending Sometimes Shakespeare added an extra unstressed beat at the end of a line to emphasize a characters sense of contemplation. This variation is called a feminine ending and Hamlets famous question is the perfect example: To be, / or not / to be: / that is / the ques- / -tion Inversion Shakespeare also reverses the order of the stresses in some iambi to help emphasize certain words or ideas. If you look closely at the fourth iambus in the Hamlet quote above, you can see how he has placed an emphasis on the word that by inverting the stresses. Occasionally, Shakespeare will completely break the rules and place two stressed syllables in the same iambus, as the following quote from Richard III demonstrates: Now is / the win- / -ter of / our dis- / content In this example, the fourth iambus emphasizes that it is our discontent, and the first iambu s emphasizes that we are feeling this now. Why is Iambic Pentameter Important? Shakespeare will always feature prominently in any discussion of iambic pentameter because he used the form with great dexterity - especially in his sonnets, but you must not be tricked into thinking that he invented it. Rather, it is a standard literary convention that has been used by many writers before and after Shakespeare. Historians are not sure how the speeches were read aloud - whether delivered naturally or with an emphasis on the stressed words. In my opinion, this is unimportant. What really matters is that the study of iambic pentameter gives us a rare glimpse into the inner workings of Shakespeares writing process.

How to Read Shakespeare Aloud


By Lee Jamieson, About.com Guide The idea of performing a Shakespeare speech fills many young actors with fear. However, you should remember that Shakespeare was an actor himself and wrote for fellow performers. Forget criticism and textual analysis because everything an actor needs is right there in the dialogue you just need to know what youre looking for.

Clues in the imagery Elizabethan theater didnt rely on scenery and lighting to create a scene, so Shakespeare had to carefully choose language that created the right landscapes and moods for his plays. For example, read aloud this passage from A Midsummer Nights Dream where Puck describes a place in the forest: I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows, Where oxlips and nodding violet grows. This speech is loaded with words to suggest the dream-like quality of the text. This is a clue from Shakespeare on how to read the speech. Clues in the punctuation Shakespeare's use of punctuation was very different he used it to signal how each line should be delivered. Punctuation forces the reader to pause and slows down the pace of the text. Lines without punctuation naturally seem to gather momentum and emotional energy. Full stop (.) Full stops naturally bring the sense and energy of the line to a close.
Infrequent

commas (,) A comma forces a slight pause in delivery to reflect a tiny development or shift in the characters thought process. For example, read aloud Malvolios line from Twelfth Night: Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Did you notice how the commas forced you to pause and split this sentence into three parts?
Repetition

of commas (,) Commas can also cause a line to gather in emotional intensity. If you see lots of commas together, evenly spaced and splitting the lines into small snappy chunks, then this is Shakespeares way of asking you to emotionally invest in the dialogue and build up its rhythmic intensity, as in this example from King Lear: ... No, no, no life! Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life, And thou no breath at all? Thouit come no more; Never, never, never, never, never. Colon (:) A colon signals that the next line should sound as if it is responding to the previous line, as in Hamlets To be, or not to be: that is the question. Do Not Add Punctuation If youre reading aloud a speech written in verse, you may feel the need to pause at the end of each line. Do not do this unless the punctuation specifically requires you to do so. Try to carry

the sense of what youre saying into the next line and youll soon discover the correct rhythm of the speech. You should think of a Shakespeare play as a blueprint for performance. All the clues are there in the text if you know what youre looking for and with a little practice, youll soon discover that theres nothing hard about reading Shakespeares dialogue aloud. What Is a Sonnet? By Lee Jamieson, About.com Guide Shakespeares sonnets are written in a strict poetic form that was very popular during his lifetime. Broadly speaking, each sonnet engages images and sounds to present an argument to the reader. Sonnet Characteristics A sonnet is simply a poem written in a certain format. You can identify a sonnet if the poem has the following characteristics:
14

lines. All sonnets have 14 lines which can be broken down into four sections called quatrains.
A

strict rhyme scheme. The rhyme scheme of a Shakespearean sonnet is ABAB / CDCD / EFEF / GG (note the four distinct sections in the rhyme scheme).
Written

in iambic Pentameter. Sonnets are written in iambic pentameter, a poetic meter with 10 beats per line made up of alternating unstressed and stressed syllables. A sonnet can be broken down into four sections called quatrains. The first three quatrains contain four lines each and use an alternating rhyme scheme. The final quatrain consists of just two lines which both rhyme. Each quatrain should progress the poem as follows: 1. First quatrain: This should establish the subject of the sonnet. Number of lines: 4. Rhyme Scheme: ABAB 2. Second quatrain: This should develop the sonnets theme. Number of lines: 4. Rhyme Scheme: CDCD 3. Third quatrain: This should round off the sonnets theme. Number of lines: 4. Rhyme Scheme: EFEF 4. Fourth quatrain: This should act as a conclusion to the sonnet. Number of lines: 2. Rhyme Scheme: GG

Shakespeares Greatest Periods of Writing

by Cork Milner In 1611 Shakespeare, after a flurry of writing, which has been termed his greatest period, left London. In that ten-year period from 1599 to 1609, he wrote Twelfth Night, Troilus and Cressida, Hamlet, Othello, Measure for Measure, King Lear, Macbeth, Coriolanus and Anthony and Cleopatra. His last works, written between 1609 and 1613 were Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter' Tale, and The Tempest. It was then, his fingers blackened over the years from continually dipping a quill pen in the inkpot, that Shakespeare retired from the theater. Hamnet Shakespeare's Death In 1596, fifteen years before Shakespeare left London, Hamnet Shakespeare died. He was eleven years old. The reason is unknown, but we can safely assume that Shakespeare grieved deeply for his only male heir. The lines spoken by Constance in King John, which the playwright wrote the following year, no doubt referred to Shakespeare's anguish at losing his only son: Grief fills the room up of my absent child, Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me, Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words, Remembers me of all his gracious parts, Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form; Then have I reason to be fond of grief. Fare you well. Had you such a loss as I, I could give better comfort than you do. Some critics have suggested that in the play Hamlet, when Hamlet talks to his father's ghost at the beginning of the play, it is a psychological inversion of Shakespeare talking to his son's ghost. Coat of Arms The same year as Hamnet's death, the College of Heralds granted Shakespeare's father a dream that had long been denied to him: the Elizabethan status symbol, a coat of arms. The petition was granted for good and loyal service rendered to the Crown. The rough draft of the petition has a drawing of the family crest featuring a falcon with a spear in its claw, and the family motto, Non Sanz Droit (Not Without Right). Shakespeare inherited the title in 1601, at his father's death. He could now write gentleman after his name. Did Shakespeare Write Shakespeare? Homer composed The Iliad. No one has ever doubted his authorship. Yet, to accept Shakespeare as the author of the most poetic masterpieces in the English language has caused endless, and many times furious and vindictive, debates. There are those who say that an uneducated man could no more write Hamlet than a Russian serf could have penned War and Peace. Yet, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, who didn't have university degrees, were monoliths of their time, as was the self-taught Abraham Lincoln.

How Did the Controversy Begin? by Cork Milner


In 1769, a little more than 150 years after Shakespeare's death, Herbert Lawrence wroteThe Life and Adventures of Common Sense. In his book he suggested that Sir Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare's plays. At the time no one believed his theory. Sixteen years later, in 1785,

Reverend James Wilmot began to theorize that Sir Francis Bacon was the true author of the plays. Concerned about offending people with his radical hypothesis he decided not to publish it. In 1848 a New York lawyer by the name of Colonel Joseph C. Hart published a book with the title The Romance of Yachting, in which he managed to slip in between the declarations of his love for nautical life references that Sir Francis Bacon was the author of Shakespeare's plays. The first time a book title was published that referred to the developing Shakespeare controversy was W. H. Smith's, Was Bacon the Author of Shakespeare's Plays? (1856), which was followed by Bacon and Shakespeare (1857). Then along came Delia Bacon (no relationship to Sir Francis) who devoted her entire adult life to desperately trying to solve the mystery of who wrote Shakespeare; instead she drove herself to madness. Strangely, the eminent American author Nathaniel Hawthorne became interested and helped publish her book, The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakespeare Unfolded (1857). Due to the tome's pedantic prose That sanguinary passion which the heat of conflict proves is but the incident: it is the natural principle of absorption hardly anyone read it. It must be noted that none of these early advocates of the Bacon/Shakespeare theory was a trained Shakespearean scholar. There was passion but little research. They based their claim on the presumption that it was impossible for a Stratford rustic to write the great plays attributed to Shakespeare.

Delia Bacon
By Jone Johnson Lewis, About.com Guide Dates: February 2, 1811 - September 2, 1859 Known for: Proposing that William Shakespeare didn't write the plays identified as by Shakespeare Occupation: educator, writer Also known as: Delia Salter Bacon Actual historical evidence of the man William Shakespeare is meager and seems incongruous with the language and the art of the plays and sonnets attributed to his hand. Delia Bacon was one of the earliest to speculate publicly that the author and William Shakespeare might be two different people. Could the man whose will mentions disposition of his second-best bed be the same man who adapted stories found only in Italian or Latin, who knew details of a 1580 visit of Marguerite de Valois and Catherine de Medici to Henry of Navarre's court? Delia Bacon was born in Ohio and moved to Connecticut where she studied at Catherine Beecher's girls' school. She taught school for some years, unsuccessfully tried to start her own school, published a book, Tales of the Puritans, and a play, The Bride of Fort Edward, and had some success as a paid lecturer. An affair with a minister led Delia Bacon to withdraw into private study and reading. She came to the conclusion that Shakespeare's writings were not the product of the "stupid, ignorant, third-

rate player," in her words, but of a group of writers including Sir Walter Raleigh, Edmund Spenser, and most prominently, Francis Bacon. Delia Bacon argued that the political content of the plays and even the sonnets made it safer for these notables to attribute the writing to the actor whose name was Shakspear (he spelled it differently in different records, but never signed his name "Shakespeare.") Encouraged to pursue her theory by Ralph Waldo Emerson but few others, she traveled to England for further research. Nathaniel Hawthorne at one point rescued her from poverty and then helped her to publish her theories in The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakespeare Unfolded(1857). Almost immediately after the book came out, Delia Bacon, in the words of contemporaries, "went insane," and was returned to the United States. She died in Connecticut in 1859. While Bacon's book was treated primarily as a crackpot theory and literary novelty, it opened up speculation into the authorship of Shakespeare's writings. That speculation continues today, although Delia Bacon's theory centering on Francis Bacon has met with considerable counterevidence. The current "leading suspect" is, instead, Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford.

The Baconian Stance by Cork Milner


Francis Bacon (15611626) was classically educated and extremely intelligent, graduating from Cambridge at the astonishing age of 12. He wrote on a variety of subjects, and many of his views were similar to Shakespeare's. In a series of writings called The Promus of Formularies and Elegancies he recorded lines that were amazingly similar to Shakespeare's, such as these two familiar lines: All is not gold that glistens. (Bacon) All that glisters is not gold. (Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice) Those who believe that Sir Francis Bacon was Shakespeare were the first to claim authorship. It all began with the champions of Francis Bacon Baconians, they are called. The Baconians have been thought of as the Indiana Joneses of scholarship. Their adventures led them to grave-yards, castles, monasteries, anywhere in hopes of finding a long-lost manuscript. None has been found. The basis for the belief in Sir Frances Bacon is not the similarity in writing, but in Baconian ciphers, cryptograms, and codes. Baconians say, Bacon, who was a leader in early scientific thought, and who invented ciphers to insure that posterity would remember him as Shakespeare, inserted secret messages in to his plays. Sam Schoenbaum, Shakespeare expert, wrote, A past that has been buried for several hundred years will still yield its secrets for those who will burrow in it and look for them, and God knows what will be found in the future. The Baconians decoded Shakespeare's epitaph on his tombstone, deciphering the first four lines as FRA BA WRT EAR AY, which they interpret as: Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare's Plays. Then the search was on for clues in Shakespeare's plays that would identify the author as Bacon, such as his use of words meaning honor.

These ciphers, cryptograms, and anagrams proved Bacon's authorship of the plays. But t his argument also proved to be so absurd that it was soon dropped, even by the pro-Baconians. Sam Schoenbaum wrote in Shakespeare Lives, Why would a super-subtle mind have resorted to the juvenile devise of incorporating hidden messages in his plays?
One might ask, If Bacon wrote Shakespeare, who wrote Bacon?

What is the longest word in Shakespeare? Honorificabilitudinitatibus is a word Shakespeare made up for Love's Labour's Lost, meaning to be loaded with honor. The word sent the Baconians in a frenzy, searching for a meaning, and finally announcing that the word was the Latin anagram for Hi ludi, tuiti sibi Fr. Bacono nati. This was conjured up to mean, These Bacon's offspring are preserved for the world.

The Oxfordian Stance by Cork Milner


The Oxfordians claim that Edward de Vere (15501604), the seventeenth Earl of Oxford, wrote all of Shakespeare's plays and poems. The Oxfordians base their claim on de Vere's aristocratic background he descended from a long line of earls that were close to the English monarchy and his education, ability, and world experience. Unlike Shakespeare, his biography is well documented. He spent a lot of time in Italy, which gave him the knowledge to write about that country in the plays of Shakespeare. He was also interested in drama and was a patron of Blackfriars Theatre.

Thomas Looney's (an unfortunate name for a researcher he pronounced it Lawney) book Shakespeare Identified in Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford was the first work to claim de Vere wrote Shakespeare's plays. Looney didn't start with de Vere; he first made a list of the qualities that Shakespeare should possess, then matched those qualifications to de Vere.
Writing under his own name, Edward de Vere was recognized as a poet. Yet, nobody thought of him as a great poet, let alone a playwright. He did stop writing poetry to be able to his champions say spend his creative time writing great plays, the plays of Shakespeare. David Bevington, a noted Shakespeare scholar, writes, If Edward de Vere was so eager that someone should Report me and my cause aright to the unsatisfied, why did he leave such enigmatic clues? Was the stigma of being a playwright so huge that he could tell no one, not even write it down for his friends? Ultimately the case collapses on lack of motive as well as lack of evidence, for it presupposes a social history of how playwrights got to be playwrights that is simply not in keeping with historical reality.

Why would de Vere hide the fact that he had written the plays? According to the Oxfordians, it would be unimaginable for a well-known earl of England to write for the common theater: The Elizabethan social code would have been violated if an aristocrat wrote plays under his own name. Oxfordians also claim that, due to the dangerous political metaphors and moralizing in the plays, he would put himself and his name in jeopardy.
Oxfordians feel strongly about their claims and say that those who support Shakespeare are blinded to the evidence by a vested self-interest. More extreme Oxfordians claim that Stratfordians are engaged in an active conspiracy to suppress pro-Oxford evidence. The truth is far more mundane. Oxfordians are not taken seriously by the Shakespeare establishment because most Oxfordians do not follow basic standards of scholarship, and the evidence they present is either distorted, taken out of context, or flat-out false.

Sigmund Freud: I am almost convinced that the assumed name [William Shakespeare] conceals the personality of Edward de Vere. The man of Stratford seems to have nothing at all to justify his claim, whereas Oxford has almost everything.
The Stratfordians maintain that one of the greatest difficulties with the theory that the Earl of Oxford wrote Shakespeare's plays is the fact that de Vere died in 1604, yet still managed to produce some of his greatest plays postmortem. These plays include King Lear (16056), Macbeth (16067), Antony Tale (160911), and The Tempest (1611). and Cleopatra (16067), Coriolanus(1608), Cymbeline (160810), The Winter's

Most Oxfordians concede that these plays postdate de Vere's death but argue that de Vere wrote the plays before he died and that they were brought out as needed for performance, sometimes with added contemporary references to events after 1604 in order to make them look timely. The problem with this argument is that when you examine the body of Shakespeare's plays as a whole, it is possible to trace a definable stylistic development. As David Bevington, professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago, said in a 1989 PBS Frontline documentary about this issue: The argument [that de Vere wrote Shakespeare] has to posit a conspiracy of staggering proportions. Shakespeare, according to this scenario, agreed to serve as a front man for Oxford because the writing of plays was below the dignity of a great man. Shakespeare's friends in the company agreed to serve up his plays in the years after Oxford's death, publicizing the plays as by Shakespeare. Persons who knew Shakespeare well, like Ben Jonson, went along with the fiction, writing economiastac verses for Shakespeare after his death in 1616. The acting company, especially Shakespeare's colleagues John Heminges and Henry Condell, supervised the publication of all of the plays (except Pericles, Cardenio, and The Two Noble Kinsmen, which are regarded as collaborations) in a handsome folio volume in 1616, essentially the first of its kind to recognize a dramatist. Many writers poured out their praise for England's great national poet and playwright, and some of them knew Shakespeare personally. All of these people had to be either deceived by the presumed cover-up or, in many cases, accessories to a hoax. The contest, summed up by Frontline correspondent Al Austin, comes down to this: Those who believe de Vere was Shakespeare must accept an improbable hoax as part of it, a conspiracy of silence involving among others, Queen Elizabeth herself. Those who side with the Stratford man must believe in miracles. Or, it might be added, accept the nature of genius for what it is a rarity of generational proportions.

Was Shakespeare a Pseudonym for Edward De Vere?


An Interview with Matthew Cossolotto About The Case for Edward De Vere

About.com: Why did Edward De Vere need to write under a pseudonym? Why not simply use his real name? Matthew Cossolotto:There were undoubtedly a host of reasons Edward de Vere did not publish his works under his real name. One likely reason is that he may well have been prevented from doing so by the powers that be at Court. In Sonnet 66, Shakespeare complained of art made tongue-tie by authority. Thats one theory. De Vere may well have chosen to remain anonymous and employ a pseudonym because it gave him greater creative freedom and the ability to speak truth to power. If de Vere was revealing embarrassing or even scandalous facts about powerful figures at Court (Queen Elizabeth, Lord Burghley, the Earl of Leicester among others) he may well have concluded that discretion was the better part of valor and not put his name on his works. About.com: So potentially, it would have been dangerous for de Vere to put his name to the plays and poems we now attribute to William Shakespeare?

Matthew Cossolotto: Yes. Sometimes I think of de Vere as the deep throat of Elizabeths Court. Remember, there was no such thing a freedom of the press in those days. If de Veres writings could be construed as critical of the government or specific individuals, especially the Queen, he would not have lasted very long. In addition, there was something of a social taboo that tended to discourage high-ranking noblemen Edward de Vere was the 17th Earl of Oxford after all from publishing works of drama and poetry under their own names. My feeling is that this was not a hard-and-fast sort of thing. I wouldnt argue that this so-called stigma of print was the only reason the Earl of Oxford opted against publishing under his own name. Id say its one of the factors that should be taken into account. About.com: Is there not conclusive evidence to connect William of Stratford to Shakespeares plays? Matthew Cossolotto: No and Id like to point out that the case for William of Stratford has not been conclusively proved. Its based on conjecture, supposition, and creative thinking buttressed by centuries of calcified tradition. But scholars have not found a single letter written by him to anybody. Not one scrap of a play manuscript or even a sonnet has been discovered in Shakespeares handwriting. When Stratford's Shakespeare died in 1616, literary London doesnt seem to have noticed. So the case for the Stratfordian theory is far from settled. I believe there is room for doubt. About.com: Do you believe that the case for De Vere can ever be conclusively proved? Matthew Cossolotto: Yes, I think that the case for Edward de Vere will one day be conclusively established. But for that to happen there will need to be a good deal more money dedicated to research focused on de Vere and less money squandered in the unproductive effort to rehash the same tired evidence for the Stratford candidate. Vast armies of Stratfordian researchers have been digging for centuries and theyve come up with very little. In contrast, a relative handful of poorly funded, intrepid researchers have developed an impressive circumstantial case for the Oxford theory. I hope others will come at this topic with an open mind. The Shakespeare authorship mystery is one of the greatest literary mysteries of all time this is Shakespeare, after all. So the stakes are pretty high. We should make every effort to get this right to make sure that were honoring the true Bard. Matthew Cossolotto was president of the Shakespeare Oxford Society between 2005-2009. In the first part of this interview, Cossolotto discusses the relationship between William Shakespeare and Edward de Vere.

Shakespeare and De Vere


An Interview with Matthew Cossolotto About The Shakespeare-De Vere Relationship

About.com: There is documentary evidence that a man called William Shakespeare existed? How does this man fit into the authorship case for Edward de Vere?

Matthew Cossolotto: Theres no question that a native son of the town of Stratford-upon-Avon with a name similar to William Shakespeare did in fact exist. Nobody questions his existence. The issue is whether this William of Stratford as I like to refer to him was in fact William Shakespeare, the great poet and playwright. As far as Im concerned, the jury is still out as to the exact role that this William of Stratford played in the Shakespeare story. More research is needed. There are several theories: he may have been go-between, a play broker, or a front man for the real author. Personally, I dont think he ever played the traditional front man role as the public face of the writer during his lifetime. About.com: So you dont believe the conventional story: that William Shakespeare left Stratford-upon-Avon to become a prominent actor on the London theater scene? Matthew Cossolotto: No. Theres virtually no contemporaneous evidence that William of Stratford was an accomplished or prominent actor on the London stage. Did he play a few bit parts in some plays? Perhaps. But that does not prove he was William Shakespeare, the great poet and dramatist. It simply suggests he might have been recruited to play a kind of stand in role perhaps because his name was so similar to the famous Shakespeare name In fact, the evidence suggests that William of Stratford spent most of his time in Stratford-uponAvon and very little time in London. After his death in 1616, William of Stratford began to play what I think of as the fall guy role. As Shakespeare wrote in Twelfth Night: Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. After his death, William of Stratford had greatness thrust upon him. Partisans of the Stratford theory are fond of circular reasoning. Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare is a frequent refrain. But partisans of the Stratfordian theory deny even the possibility that William Shakespeare could have been a pseudonym. So they shut down the debate and close their minds instead of opening their minds - Maybe Im nave, but I always thought true scholarship required an open mind. About.com: Are there biographical connections between the life of Edward de Vere and the plays and sonnets? Matthew Cossolotto: Yes. The correspondence between de Vere's known life experiences, his vast education, travels and personal scandals are abundantly reflected in the plays and poems especially so with regard to the Sonnets. Hamlet is often cited by Oxfordians as being particularly autobiographical. The character of Polonius is widely regarded as a parody of Lord Burghley, Queen Elizabeth's Lord Treasurer and most powerful adviser and de Veres father-in-law. In the play, Hamlet and Poloniuss daughter, Ophelia, have a stormy relationship. In reality, de Vere married Burghleys daughter, Anne Cecil, and the couple had a very stormy relationship. Also, a detail is revealed in Hamlet that has no bearing on the plot: Hamlet is captured by pirates on his return to Denmark. Interestingly, the very same thing happened to de Vere upon his return to England after his extended sojourn to the continent. About.com: Stratfordians claim that plays were being written up to c.1613. How is this possible if Edward De Vere died in 1604?

Matthew Cossolotto: The operative word here is "claim." This is a Stratfordian claim without any basis in fact or evidence. The entire Stratfordian composition chronology is a flimsy construct because it was erected around the timeline of the Stratford candidate. The reality is that Stratfordians have no hard evidence about when particular plays were actually composed. Its a guessing game and most responsible scholars acknowledge this. The idea that certain plays (or even one play) was composed after de Veres death in 1604 is nothing more than an assertion. Its not even close to being an established fact. Instead of following the evidence, Stratfordian partisans seem intent on erecting a series of roadblocks against de Veres candidacy. They insist de Veres death in 1604 precludes him from being Shakespeare because some plays were written after 1604. About.com: Ive always been led to believe that evidence exists that The Tempest was written after 1604. Youre saying that this isnt the case? Matthew Cossolotto: No. What proof do they have that The Tempest was written after 1604? None. Zip. Nada. They have conjecture, supposition and convoluted theories about the composition date of The Tempest, but they have no real proof. A performance date or publication date tells you very little about the composition date. Half of the plays published in the First Folio in 1623 had not been published before. Does this prove these plays were composed after William of Stratfords death in 1616? Of course not!

Shakespeare Sonnets
Top 5 Shakespeare Sonnets

By Lee Jamieson, About.com Guide The Shakespeare sonnets are considered by many to be the most romantic poems ever written. We pick out the top 5 Shakespeare sonnets to get you into a romantic mood. 1. Sonnet 18: 'Shall I Compare Thee to a Summers Day?' Sonnet 18 deserves its fame because it is one of the most beautifully written verses in the English language. The sonnets endurance comes from Shakespeares ability to capture the essence of love so cleanly and succinctly. 2. Sonnet 116: 'Let Me Not To The Marriage Of True Minds' Shakespeares Sonnet 116 is one of the best-loved in the folio because it can be read as a wonderfully celebratory nod to love and marriage. Indeed it continues to feature in wedding ceremonies worldwide. 3. Sonnet 29: 'When In Disgrace With Fortune and Men's Eyes' Shakespeares Sonnet 29 is noted as a favourite with Coleridge. It explores the notion that love can cure all ills and make us feel good about ourselves. It demonstrates the strong feelings that love can inspire in us; both the good and bad feelings. 4. Sonnet 73: 'That Time Of Year Thou Mayst In Me Behold'

Sonnet 73 is hailed as one of the Bard's most beautiful sonnets. The speaker in the poem suggests that his lover will love him more, the older he gets, because his physical ageing will remind him that he will die soon. 5. Sonnet 1: 'From Fairest Creatures We Desire Increase' Shakespeare is suggesting in this poem that if the fair youth does not procreate then it would be very selfish; he would be greedily and pointlessly hoarding his beauty and not passing it on to future generations for the world to enjoy.

Shakespeare Plays
Study Guides to Shakespeare Plays

By Lee Jamieson, About.com Guide Shakespeare Plays - Our collection of study guides to Shakespeare Plays are designed to accompany your own reading. They are an ideal way to introduce newcomers and immerse more experienced readers deeper into Shakespeare Plays. 'Macbeth' Photo NYPL Digital Gallery This Macbeth study guide is the ultimate guide to Shakespeare's shortest and most intense play. First performed in around 1605, the play follows the rise and fall of Macbeth who is brought down by his own excessive ambition. Hamlet, written in around 1600, is regarded by many as Shakespeares greatest play perhaps due to the psychological complexity of the central character. 'Romeo and Juliet' Photo NYPL Digital Gallery Your ultimate study guide to one of Shakespeare's best loved plays. Find out why Romeo and Juliet has been so enduring. 'The Tempest' Photo NYPL Digital Gallery Written in 1611, The Tempest is one of Shakespeares last plays and reveals the Bard at his most imaginative and magical. In terms of the quality of language, The Tempest play is Shakespeare at his best. 'Much Ado About Nothing' Photo Lee Jamieson Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeares most memorable romantic comedies. First published in 1600, but probably written in 1598, the play enjoyed as much popularity then as it does today.

The Shakespearian Sonnet


History of the Shakespearian Sonnet
By Lee Jamieson, About.com Guide

It is not known exactly when Shakespeare wrote his sequence of 154 sonnets, but the poems language suggests that they originate from the early 1590s. It is believed that Shakespeare was

circulating his sonnets amongst his close friends during this period, as clergyman Fancis Meres confirmed in 1598 when he wrote: the sweete wittie soule of Ouid liues in mellifluous and hony-toungued Shakespeare, witness his sugred Sonnets among his private friends. The Shakespearian Sonnet in Print It wasnt until 1609 that the sonnets first appeared in print in an unauthorized edition by Thomas Thorpe. Most critics agree that Shakespeares sonnets were printed without his consent because the 1609 text seems to be based on an incomplete or draft copy of the poems. The text is riddled with errors and some believe that certain sonnets are unfinished. Shakespeare almost certainly intended his sonnets for manuscript circulation, which was not uncommon at the time, but exactly how the poems ended up in the hands of Thorpe is still unknown. Who was Mr. WH? The dedication in the frontispiece of the 1609 edition has sparked controversy among Shakespeare historians and has become a key piece of evidence in the authorship debate. It reads: To the only begetter of these ensuing sonnets Mr. W.H. all happiness and that eternity promised by our ever-lasting poet wisheth the well-wishing adventurer in setting forth. T.T. Although the dedication was written by Thomas Thorpe the publisher, indicated by his initials at the end of the dedication, the identity of the begetter is still unclear. There are three main theories regarding the true identity of Mr. W.H. as follows: 1. Mr. W.H. is a misprint for Shakespeares initials. It should read either Mr. W.S. or Mr. W.Sh. 2. Mr. W.H. refers to the person that obtained the manuscript for Thorpe

3. Mr. W.H. refers to the person that inspired Shakespeare to write the sonnets. Many candidates have been proposed including: William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke to whom Shakespeare later dedicated his First Folio Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton to whom Shakespeare had dedicated some of his narrative poems It is important to note that although the true identity of W.H. is of importance to Shakespeare historians, it doesnt obscure the poetic brilliance of his sonnets.

Other Editions In 1640, a publisher called John Benson released a highly inaccurate edition of Shakespeares sonnets in which he edited out the young man, replacing he with she. Bensons revision was considered to be the standard text until 1780 when Edmond Malone returned to the 1690 quarto and re-edited the poems. Scholars soon realized that the first 126 sonnets were originally addressed to a young man sparking debates about Shakespeares sexuality. The nature of the relationship between the two men is highly ambiguous and it is often impossible to tell if Shakespeare is describing platonic love or erotic love. Introducing Shakespeare's Fair Youth Sonnets By Lee Jamieson, About.com Guide The first 126 sonnets are addressed to a young man described as the fair youth and reveal a deep, loving friendship. The speaker encourages the friend to procreate so that his youthful beauty can be carried on through his children. The speaker also believes that the mans beauty can be preserved in his poetry, as the final couplet of Sonnet 17 reveals: But were some child of yours alive that time, [in the future] You should live twice: in it, and in my rhyme. Some believe that the intimacy of the relationship between the speaker and the young man is evidence of Shakespeares homosexuality. However, this is probably a very modern reading of a classical text. There was no public reaction to the relationship when the sonnets were first published by Thomas Thorpe in 1609, suggesting that the expression of a deep friendship through such language was perfectly acceptable in Shakespeare's time. It was perhaps more shocking to the Victorian sensibility. Top 5 Most Popular Fair Youth Sonnets:
Sonnet Sonnet Sonnet Sonnet Sonnet

1: From Fairest Creatures We Desire Increase 18: Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer's Day? 29: When In Disgrace With Fortune and Men's Eyes 73: That Time Of Year Thou Mayst In Me Behold 116: Let Me Not To The Marriage Of True Mind

Dark Lady Sonnets


The Dark Lady Sonnets (sonnets 127 152) follow the fair youthsequence. In sonnet 127, the dark lady enters the narrative and instantly becomes the object of the poets desire. The speaker introduces the woman by explaining that her beauty is unconventional: In the old age black was not counted fair, Or if it were, it bore not beautys name; Therefore my mistress eyes are raven black not born fair, no beauty lack. From the poets perspective, he is treated badly by the dark lady. She is a temptress described in sonnet 114 as my female evil and my bad angel which ultimately causes anguish for the

poet. She seems to be linked to the young man in some way and some sonnets suggest that she is having a passionate affair with him. As the poets frustrations build, he begins to use the word black to describe her evil rather than her beauty. For example, the poet sees the dark lady with another man later on in the sequence and his jealousy boils to the surface. Notice how the word black is used with negative connotations in sonnet 131: One on anothers neck do witness bear Thy black is fairest in my judgements place. In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds, And thence this slander, as I think, proceeds. Top 5 Most Popular Dark Lady Sonnets:
Sonnet Sonnet Sonnet Sonnet Sonnet

127: In The Old Age Black Was Not Counted Fair 130: My Mistress' Eyes Are Nothing Like The Sun 131: Thou Art As Tyrannous, So As Thou Art 142: Love Is My Sin, And Thy Dear Virtue Hate 148: O Me! What Eyes Hath Love Put In My Head