The 400th anniversary of William Shakespare`s death

Tomorrow, it is 400 years since William Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616. He is interesting because he is considered to be the greatest writer in the English language and the world`s pre-eminent dramatist.

He was an English poet, playwright, and actor, and he is often called England`s national poet, and the «Bard of Avon». I wrote about Julius Caesar on March 15 earlier this year, and this is a date to remember thanks to William Shakespeare.

«Beware the ides of March», William Shakespeare said, and that is why people around the world always remember the assassination on Julius Caesar on March 15. This year, the 400th anniversary of the playwright`s death, celebrations will commence in the United Kingdom and across the world to honour Shakespeare and his work.




Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, in 1564. He wrote at least 37 plays and collaborated on several more. His 17 comedies include A Midsummer Nights Dream and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Among his 10 plays are Henry V and Richard III. The most famous among his 10 tragedies are Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear. Shakespeares best-known poems are The Sonnets, first published in 1609.

Shakespeare produced most of his work between 1589 and 1613, and his early plays were primarily comedians and histories, and these are regarded as some of the best work ever produced in these genres.

He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth, considered some of the finest works in the English language.

In the 20th and 21th centuries, his works have been repeatedly adopted and rediscovered by new movements in scholarship and performance. His plays remain highly popular, and are constantly studied, performed, and reinterpreted in diverse cultural and political contexts throughout the world.

Shakespeare signed his last will and testament on 25 March 1616, the following day his new son-in-law, Thomas Quiney was found guilty of fathering an illegitimate son by Margaret Wheeler, who had died during childbirth.

Thomas was ordered by the church court to do public penance, which would have caused much shame and embarrassment for the Shakespeare family. Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616, at the age of 52.

He died within a month of signing his will, a document which he begins by describing himself as being in «perfect health».

No extant contemporary source explains how or why he died.

Shakespeare was buried in the chancel of the Holy Trinity Church two days after his death. The epitaph carved into the stone slab covering his grave includes a curse against moving his bones, which was carefully avoided during restoration of the church in 2008:

Good frend for Iesvs sake forbeare,
To digg the dvst encloased heare.
Bleste be  man  spares thes stones,
And cvrst be he  moves my bones.

(Modern spelling: Good friend, for Jusus’ sake forbear,/ To dig the dust enclosed here. / Blessed be the man who spares these stones,/ And cursed be he that moves my bones.)




Sometimes before 1623, a funerary monument was erected in his memory on the north wall, with a half-effigy of him in the act of writing. Its plague compares him to Nestor, Socrates and Virgil. In 1623, in conjunction with the publication of the First Folio, the Droeshout engraving was published.

Shakespeare has been commemorated in many statues and memorials around the world, including funeral monuments in Southwark Cathedral and Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.

Shakespear`s romantic Merchant of Venice, contains a portrayal of the vengeful Jewish moneylender Shylock, which reflects Elizabethan views but may appear derogatory to modern audiences.

After the lyrical Richard II, written almost entirely in verse, Shakespeare introduced prose comedy into the histories of the late 1590`s, Henry IV, parts 1, and Henry V. His characters become more complex and tender as he switches deftly between comic and serious scenes, prose and poetry, and achieves the narrative variety of his mature work.

This period begins and ends with two tragedies: Romeo and Juliet, the famous romantic tragedy of sexually charged adolescence, love, and death, and Julius Caesar (based on Sir Thomas Norths 1579 translation of Plutarchs Parallel Lives) which introduced a new kind of drama.

according to Shakespearean scholar James Shapiro, in Julius Caesar «the various strands of politics, character, inwardness, contemporary events, even Shakespeare`s own reflections on the act of writing, began to infuse each other.

Many critics belive that Shakespeares greatest tragedies represent the peak of his art. The titular hero of one of Shakespeares most famous tragedies, Hamlet, has probably been discussed more than any other Shakespearean character, especially for his famous soliloquy which begins «To be or not to be; that is the question».

Unlike the introverted Hamlet, whose fatal flaw is hesitation, the heroes, of the tragedies that followed, Othello and King Lear, are undone by hasty errors of judgement. The plot of Shakespear`s tragedies often hinge on such fatal errors or flows, which overturn order and destroy the hero and those he loves.

In Othello, the villain Iago stokes Othellos sexual jealousy to the point where he murders the innocent wife who loves him. In King Lear, the old king commits the tragic error of giving up his powers, initiating the events which lead to the torture and blinding of the Earl of Gloucester and the murder of Lears youngest daughter Cordelia.




In Macbeth, the shortest and most compressed of Shakespear`s tragedies, uncontrollable ambition incites Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth, to murder the rightful king and usurp the throne, until their own guilt destroys them in turn.

In this play, Shakespeare adds a supernatural element to the tragic structure.

Shakespeare was not revered in his lifetime, but he received a large amount of praise. In 1598, the cleric and author Francis Meres singled him out from a group of English writers as «the most excellent» in both comedy and tragedy.

By 1800, Shakespeare was firmly enshrined as the national poet. In the 18th and 19th centuried, his reputation also spread abroad. Among those who championed him were writers like Voltaire, Goethe, Stendhal and Victor Hugo.



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