Shakespeare Also Spelled SHAKSPERE, Byname BARD OF AVON, Or SWAN OF AV Essay

ONEnglish poet, dramatist, and actor, often called the English national poet and
considered by many to be the greatest dramatist of all time.

Shakespeare occupies a position unique in world literature. Other poets, such as
Homer and Dante, and novelists, such as Leo Tolstoy and Charles Dickens, have
transcended national barriers; but no writer’s living reputation can compare with that
of Shakespeare, whose plays, written in the late 16th and early 17th centuries for a
small repertory theatre, are now performed and read more often and in more countries
than ever before. The prophecy of his great contemporary, the poet and dramatist Ben
Jonson, that Shakespeare was not of an age, but for all time, has been fulfilled.

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It may be audacious even to attempt a definition of his greatness, but it is not so
difficult to describe the gifts that enabled him to create imaginative visions of pathos
and mirth that, whether read or witnessed in the theatre, fill the mind and linger there.

He is a writer of great intellectual rapidity, perceptiveness, and poetic power. Other
writers have had these qualities, but with Shakespeare the keenness of mind was
applied not to abstruse or remote subjects but to human beings and their complete
range of emotions and conflicts. Other writers have applied their keenness of mind in
this way, but Shakespeare is astonishingly clever with words and images, so that his
mental energy, when applied to intelligible human situations, finds full and memorable
expression, convincing and imaginatively stimulating. As if this were not enough, the
art form into which his creative energies went was not remote and bookish but
involved the vivid stage impersonation of human beings, commanding sympathy and
inviting vicarious participation. Thus Shakespeare’s merits can survive translation into
other languages and into cultures remote from that of Elizabethan England.

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Contents of this article:
Shakespeare the man
Early life in Stratford
Career in the theatre
Private life
Early posthumous documentation
The tributes of his colleagues
Anecdotes and documents
The poet and dramatist
The intellectual background
Poetic conventions and dramatic traditions
Changes in language
Shakespeare’s literary debts
Theatrical conditions
Chronology of Shakespeare’s plays
Poetic and dramatic powers
The early poems
The sonnets
The order of the poems
Artistic invention or real experience
Human experience in the poems
The early plays
Henry VI, 1, 2, and 3
The Comedy of Errors
Titus Andronicus
The Two Gentlemen of Verona
The Taming of the Shrew
Love’s Labour’s Lost
Romeo and Juliet
The histories
The Tragedy of King Richard III
The Tragedy of King Richard II
1 Henry IV; 2 Henry IV
King John
Henry V
The Roman plays
Antony and Cleopatra
The great, or middle, comedies
The outsider
Wit and ambiguity
The great tragedies
King Lear
Timon of Athens
The dark comedies
Troilus and Cressida
All’s Well That Ends Well; Measure for Measure
The late plays
The Winter’s Tale
The Tempest
Henry VIII
Collaborative and attributed plays
Shakespeare’s reading
Understanding Shakespeare
Sympathetic exploration of the texts
Causes of difficulty
Questions of authorship
The claims put forward for Bacon
Other candidates
The case for Shakespeare
Linguistic and historical problems
Textual and editorial problems
Overcoming some difficulties
The contribution of textual criticism
Historical, linguistic, and dramatic studies
Literary criticism
Literary critics and the theatre
The progress of Shakespeare criticism
Shakespeare’s influence
Major Works
Modern editions
Textual studies
Biographies and background studies
Critical studies
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