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MonkeyNotes-King Henry VI, Part 3 by William Shakespeare
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WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

William Shakespeare is usually considered the greatest dramatist
and finest poet the world has ever known. No other writer's plays
and poetry have been produced so many times or in so many
countries or translated into so many languages. One of the major
reasons for Shakespeare's popularity is the variety of rich
characters that he successfully creates, from drunkards and paid
murderers to princes and kings and from inane fools and court
jesters to wise and noble generals. Each character springs vividly
to life upon the stage and, as they speak their beautiful verse or
prose, the characters remind the viewers of their own personalities,
traits, and flaws. Shakespeare also made his characters very
realistic. The dramatist had an amazing knowledge of a wide
variety of subjects, and his well-developed characters reflect this
knowledge, whether it be about military science, the graces of
royalty, seamanship, history, the Bible, music, or sports.

In Shakespeare's time, few biographies were written, and none of
the literary men of the Elizabethan Age was considered important
enough to merit a book about his life. The first portfolio of his
works, collected as a memorial to Shakespeare by members of his
own acting company, was not published until 1623, seven years
after his death. His first biography was written one hundred years
later. As a result, many of the facts of Shakespeare's life are
unknown. It is known that he was born in Stratford-on-Avon in
England, sometime in early 1564, for his Baptism is recorded on
April 26 of that year. His mother Mary had eight children, with
William being the third. His father, John Shakespeare, was a fairly
prosperous glovemaker and trader who owned several houses in
Stratford and became the town's mayor when Shakespeare was a
boy. The young Shakespeare probably studied in the local
grammar school and hunted and played sports in the open fields
behind his home.

The next definite information about William Shakespeare is that
the young man, at age 18, married Anne Hathaway, who was 26,
on November 28, 1582. In 1583, it is recorded that Anne gave birth
to their oldest child, Susanna, and that twins, Hamnet and Judith,
were born to the couple in 1585. By 1592, the family was living in
London, where Shakespeare was busy acting in plays and writing
his own dramas. From 1592 to 1594, the plague kept most London
theaters closed, so the dramatist turned to writing poetry during
this period, and his poems, which were actually published unlike
his plays, became popular with the masses and contributed to his
good reputation as a writer. From 1594 to the end of his career,
Shakespeare belonged to the same theatrical company, known first
as Lord Chamberlain's Men and then as the King's Company. It is
also known that he was both a leader and stockholder in this acting
organization, which became the most prosperous group in London,
and that he was meeting with both financial success and critical
acclaim.

In 1954, Shakespeare was popular enough as an actor to perform
before Queen Elizabeth. By 1596, he owned considerable property
in London and bought one of the finest houses in Stratford, known
as New Place, in 1597. A year later, in 1598, he bought ten percent
of the stock in the Globe Theatre, where his plays were produced.
In 1608, he and his colleagues also purchased The Blackfriars
Theatre, where they began to hold productions during the winter,
returning to the Globe during the summer months. Throughout the
rest of his life, Shakespeare continued to purchase land, homes,
and businesses. He obviously was a busy man between handling
his business ventures, performing on the stage, and writing or
collaborating on the thirty-seven plays that are credited to him.

Shakespeare's most productive years were from 1594 to 1608, the
period in which he wrote all of his great tragedies, such as
Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Romeo and Juliet.
During these fourteen years, he furnished his acting company with
approximately two plays annually. After 1608, it appears he went
into semi-retirement, spending more time in Stratford and creating
only five plays before his death on April 23, 1616. He was buried
before the altar in the Stratford Church, where his body still lies
today. Many literary students and visitors make a pilgrimage to
this shrine each year in order to honor William Shakespeare, still
recognized after 400 years as the world's greatest poet and
dramatist.

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