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  • Dies in 1616, at age of 52
  • Three main categories of S plays: Comedies, tragedies & history plays
  • Examples: R & J, Hamlet (tragedy), Midsummer Night’s Dream; As You Like It, 12th Night (comedy); Macbeth, King Henry IV and V (history)
  • All plays performed outdoors, either at the Globe or the Rose theatre.  No electricity, so everything done on stage by hand.
  • Theatres closed during plague outbreaks, or by order of the King/Queen if the play was considered scandalous
  • ALL actors at this time are male; this includes pre-pubescent boys who can play the role of girls/young women
  • The time period is called The Elizabethan Era, for Queen Elizabeth.  Elizabeth a great supporter of theatre in general, and Shakespeare in particular.
  • Theatre in this time period is most popular form of popular culture; all economic classes included. Peasants (“groundlings”) sit on the ground in front of the stage, while the royals and well-to-do sit higher up, with a commanding view of the stage.
  • Bubonic plague (“The Black Death”) decimates entire cities in Western Europe, including in England.  Shakespeare and his wife lose one of their three children (Hamnet) to the plague.
  • S’s father a respected merchant in Stratford; S starts school at 7, as do most boys (only) in affluent families;
  • S marries, at 18, a woman considered “much” older than himself (26): Anne Hathaway.  At some point, he abandons Stratford and turns up, years later, in London.  These earlier years are “the mystery years”; no scholars know where, exactly, S was living or what he was doing
  • After S’s death, following a short illness, good friends get his plays published.  Prior to this, the language of the plays is not uniform, given last-minute changes and variations.  S’s published plays known as The Folio. 
  • Controversy remains over authorship.  Some experts contend that S’s plays were actually written by someone else.  One possibility: Christopher Marlowe.  (Theory that he faked his own death and went to Italy.)  Others maintain that this is a non-issue, or contend S was the actual author.  Controversy fueled by missing information about S.
  • Twelfth Night plot outline: Viola survives shipwreck, unclear about her twin brother Sebastian’s whereabouts.  She is disguised as a eunuch in order to get close to the Duke, Orsino.  Other key characters: Olivia and Sir Toby Belch.
  • Though the English were starting to establish colonies in North America in the early 1600s, only one Shakespeare play deals, indirectly, with the new world: The Tempest.  (Twelfth Night is set in a fictitious kingdom, Illyria.)
  • Soliloquy=Interior monologue.  As if the character is talking to himself/herself, so that the audience knows what the character is thinking.  Most famous example: Hamlet’s “To be or not to be…”