William Shakespeare 1564-1616
Who is William Shakespeare? • Born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England in April, 1564 • Studied basic Latin and Greek in grammar school • When he was 18 he married Anne Hathaway • Had 3 children: 2 daughters and a son • Son, Hamnet, died when he was 11 years old • Was living in London as an actor and a playwright by 1592. Anne and children stayed in Stratford
Shakespeare’s London • England was becoming a powerful nation under Queen Elizabeth I • London was a bustling, exciting centre of commerce, full of travelers • London’s stages boasted some of the greatest plays and actors to be found – troupes of actors traveled to London from all over to find work in its two famous theatres. • Famous playwrights included Christopher Marlow, Thomas Kyd, and William Shakespeare • This was a sketchy time for actors – their livelihood was always at risk: the religious leaders condemned the theatre “for encouraging immorality and idleness among the London populace” (Simply Shakespeare). Theatres were closed frequently – political unrest, times of plague. • The arts had many rich patrons who paid for plays, including the Queen
The Theatres Two theatres thrived during the mid-late 1500’s:the Rose, and the Theatre Two main acting troupes (archrivals) played at both: The Lord Admiral’s Men, and The LordChamberlain’s Men. Shakespeare was both a founding member of the Chamberlain’s Men, and the company’s main playwright. By 1597 Shakespeare had written Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Chamberlain’s Men had a dispute with the landlords of the Theatre. Since they owned the actual building, they took it apart, and re-built it further south in London. The new theatre was known as The Globe. At The Globe – most of Shakespeare’s greatest plays debuted, including Hamlet, Macbeth, Twelfth Night, and King Lear In 1603 – after the Death of Queen Elizabeth I, Shakespeare’s acting troupe changed it’s name to the King’s Men, and became the official company of the new monarch, James I.
Attending Shakespeare’s Plays • Attending a play in Elizabethan London was very different than attending a play today. • All of London society went to the theatre: merchants, prostitutes, lawyers, laborers, and visitors from other countries. • Your social status dictated what you would pay, and where you would sit. Poorer merchants would be crowded on the floors, with no seats – called ‘groundlings’. Could be up to 1000 people crammed in there. There was no roof, so these people are exposed to the weather. • The more wealthy people would sit in boxes surrounding the stage, no more than 35 ft away. These boxes were stacked vertically, and could hold another 2000 people. The seats directly behind the stage were reserved for royalty and the nobility. Here, they can see everything, and be seen by everyone. • The stage was quite bare, and the audience had to visualize the setting of the plays. The stage was covered with a canopy called ‘heaven’, that was painted with the sun, moon and starts. ‘Hell’ was the area directly below the stage – there was a trapdoor leading underneath. • Actors are exclusively male, and they often doubled up on parts. Young boys played female roles until their voices changed.
HAMLET A Tragedy by William Shakespeare
A Little History… • The story first appears in HistoriaDanica by Saxo Grammaticus – a 12th Century Danish historian – where the Prince Amleth, whose father, the king of Jutland, was murdered by King Fengo, his brother. • There are several differences: • no ghost • no uncertiainty: the murder of Amleth’s father is public knowledge • No problem of conscience: revenge was not a violation of moral or religious lay, but filial obligation • Tale is then retold by Francois do Belleforest in the 1576 publication of HistoiresTragiques. • The actual date of the completion of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is unknown, but wide belief is that it was written in 1601 following both the death of Shakespeare’s son Hamnet, in 1596, and his father, John, in 1601. It was first published in a quarto volume in 1603. This original draft was modified twice, once in 1604 and then again in 1623.
Characteristics of Revenge Plays • Revenge drama is one of the oldest and most popular forms of drama; one that is mimicked and retold throughout the centuries. It embodies the following characteristics: • An individual response to an intolerable wrong or public insult. • Institutional channels are closed and revenge almost always follows a devious path. • The revenger is in the grip of an inner compulsion. • Revengers need their victims to know what is happening and why. • Revenge is a universal imperative more powerful than the pious injunctions of any particular belief system.
Shakespeare’s Elizabethan World • Shakespeare’s Hamlet was written at the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (died 1603), before King James I came into power in England. • At this time, Elizabethans still possess a common concept of both macrocosm and microcosm. • Although there had been great religious upheaval in the last century as initiated by Martin Luther, planted in England by Henry VIII, and then continued by Queen Elizabeth I, the deeply rooted traditions and beliefs of the English population did not change overnight. • The Elizabethan people are still very superstitious, and put a great deal of belief in the Ptolemaic theory of a theocentric cosmos which had planet Earth at its center. Within this belief, is what is known as “The Chain of Being”
The Chain of Being • Everything in the Universe, from God and the Cosmos right down to the soil and rocks of the earth fits into a hierarchy. • This hierarchy extends to incorporate the Order of living things, and binds facts and values of the time. • There is great emphasis on Reason and Order in the Universe, and there is believed to be a tripartite balance between God and the Cosmos, Earth and Nature, and Man and Society. If one of these elements is thrown out of balance, the other two will be affected as well, resulting in unrest and unnatural occurrences until order is restored. • To outrun reason, as Shakespeare’s tragic characters do, is to: violate Nature itself; lose the bearings of common sense and custom; and move into a spiritual realm bounded by irrational hell one way, and rational grace of faith the other.
The Universe and the Supernatural • Elizabethans believe in a very ordered universe: everything in its place, fulfilling the role and function it was meant to. God *Also order of human senses, the Angels King or Queen elements of the earth, and the Man Nobility Father humours within the body. Animals Knights Mother Plants Gentlemen Children Inorganic Matter Poor Servants Chaos As long as each piece stayed in its place, the universe existed in harmony. If someone tried to change the order of things, trouble would ensue and things would fall into chaos. In Elizabethan England, belief in witchcraft, ghosts, fairies, devils, elves and the personification of death was generally accepted.
VersusthePtolemaic Model The Sun Earth The Moon Planets
Four Alchemical Elements Fire (Highest but most volatile element, closest to heavenly matter that composes spiritual ether and stars; its natural state was warm/dry) Air (Second ranking element; Natural state: warm/wet) Water (Earth naturally sinks below water, so water is higher in status. Natural state: cool/wet Earth (Lowest but most stable element, closest to base desires. Natural state: cool/dry)
The Four Bodily HumoursFrom the Latin Humoris: “liquid” • Choler (called Yellow Bile in some models)liquid in the body that caused irritability and anger • Tears (in some models, Black Bile) liquid in the body that caused melancholy, sadness, and depression) • Blood (corresponded to excitement, energy, sexual arousal, happiness, desire for activity) • Phlegm (corresponded to lethargy, boredom, inaction, fatigue, sleepiness) The "humours" gave off vapors which ascended to the brain; an individual's personal characteristics (physical, mental, moral) were explained by his or her "temperament," or the state of thetperson's "humours." The perfect temperament resulted when no one of these humours dominated. By 1600 it was common to use "humour" as a means of classifying characters; knowledge of the humours is not only important to understanding later medieval work, but essential to interpreting Elizabethan drama.
Keep in mind, all of creation was bound together. Whatever affected one thing affected other things in the Chain of Being. This was called a “Correspondence.” Three interlocking parts of the Chain corresponded to each other. These were: • Macrocosm (the universe, nature, and the skies) • Microcosm (the Human body as a map of the Universe) • Body Politic (the kingdom as a social institute, including its government and its citizens).
The Human Body was the Microcosm It connected to every part of creation. -Created in God’s Own Image -Set in the very center of creation -Given the position of primate over the animals -Given both soul and flesh. Immortal, never dying.... What would happen if the human body became corrupted?
Health and Balance When the humors are balanced proportionately in the human body, mankind is healthy, and experiences no negative or inappropriate emotions. When unbalanced, it was another story.
...And to Disorder in Nature Animals attacking people, eating their own young, stealing grain or crops, all these were signs of the fallen nature of the earth, and corresponded to breaks in the Chain of Being and disorder within the microcosm.
The Tragic Hero • The Shakespearean Tragedy is essentially the story of one person, the hero, who is an exceptional being, has greatness, and is a person of high regard (has potential). • The story leads to and includes the death of the hero. • The death of the hero is a significant moment. There is a ritual element: the hero is a sacrifice. • The suffering and calamity are unexpected and contrast with previous happiness or glory.
The hero’s destiny is not entirely or clearly God-given; there is an element of choice. • The calamities of tragedy do not simply happen; they proceed mainly from the actions of humans. • The hero has a tragic flaw (or hamartia) which brings him to ruin; he contributes to his own downfall. So there is a causal connection between character and destiny. • The fate of the hero affects not only himself, but others (In Shakespeare’s tragedies, usually the whole nation or empire). • Regeneration or renewal follows catastrophe; the moral order is restored.
1-Revenge Plot 2-Norwegian Subplot 3-Romantic Subplot Structure of Hamlet 3-Open rejection of Ophelia 1-Play within the play: King’s guilt established 1-Failure to kill Claudius at prayer 1-Death of Polonius: interview with mother; second appearance of ghost Crisis: Act III 1-Plan-Play 2-Return of ambassadors 1-The antic disposition Falling Action: Act IV 1-Banishment 2-Fortinbras crosses Denmark 3-Madness and death of Ophelia 1-Return of Laertes and Hamlet 1-Claudius’ Scheme Complication: Act II 3-Advice to Ophelia; departure of Laertes 2-Dispatch of ambassadors to Norway 1-Appearance of Ghost Catastrophe (Climax) and Outcome: Act V Exposition: Act I 3-Funeral of Ophelia 1-Duel; death of Claudius, Gertrude, Laertes, Hamlet 2-Arrival of Fortinbras Introduction of main characters Establishment of plots
Who’s Who ROYALTY Old King Hamlet: dead Hamlet: son of Hamlet and Gertrude Claudius: brother of Old Hamlet murderer of Old Hamlet new King – marries Gertrude Queen Gertrude COURTIERS (NOBLES) Polonius: Nobleman, aid and confidant of Claudius Laertes: son of Polonius, duels Hamlet at Claduius’ request. Horatio: good friend and confidant of Hamlet Wife is dead Ophelia: daughter, romantic connection to Hamlet. Voltimo Reynaldo Osric Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: old friends of Hamlet’s, but back on Claudius’ request. Over in Norway… King Fortinbras: died in duel with Old King Hamlet Prince Fortinbras SERVANTS The Players Gravediggers SOLDIERS Marcellus Bernardo Francisco
Major Topics/Themes to watch for: • Death Corruption Evil Immorality The Nature of Man • The Search for Identity Fate Parental Expectations Revenge • Supernatural Loyalty Deception The making of moral choices • Hesitation Self-reflection Madness Despair • Hamlet suffers from melancholy and indecision, fatalism, cynicism, general disillusionment with humanity, the question of his sanity or insanity, theavenging of his father’s death. • Soliloquies are largely important and reveal a great deal about Hamlet’s state of mind and character traits • Hamlet contemplates: How should one behave? What should one believe? How can one live in an inherently evil world?
Let’s Review Some Literary Terms • Soliloquy – a speech delivered while the character is alone on the stage in order to reveal his/her inner thoughts to the audience. (similar to a voice over in a film) • Aside – a remark made by a character and intended to be heard by the audience, not the other characters on stage. This is like a brief inner thought. • Imagery - the use of figurative or descriptive language to create a mental picture or emotional response. • Pathos – a feeling of pity or compassion is evoked in the audience. This may be for a specific character or a situation. • Hubris – Pride or overconfidence which often leads to the hero’s destruction. This is a specific tragic flaw.
Foil – a character who reflects or highlights, by comparison, the traits of another character. • Pun – a play on words, usually creating a humourous or ironic effect. • Prose – ordinary language • Blank verse – language that has a consistent rhythm (i.e. iambic pentameter) but does not rhyme. • Rhymed verse – language that has a consistent rhythm and rhyme + Shakespeare varies his use of verse in his plays. Lesser characters are written in prose, while more prominent characters are often written in blank or rhymed verse.