400 Years since Shakespeare’s death

The Droeshout Portrait of William Shakespeare, from the First Folio

The Droeshout Portrait of William Shakespeare, from the First Folio

The bane, or joy, of school children all over the English-speaking world and beyond, William Shakespeare died in Stratford-upon-Avon, England on 23 April 1616,  aged 52.

Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and his works which consist of possibly 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses (some of uncertain authorship) have caused him to be considered the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. His plays have been translated into every major living language in the world and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

The facts of Shakespeare’s life are a bit hazy but there are some excellent biographies and I recommend Shakespeare  and Shakespeare: the world as a stage by Bill Bryson and Shakespeare: the biography by Peter Ackroyd.

Have you got a favourite Shakespeare play or sonnet?  We studied at least one play each year in high school.  You probably did too. I particularly remember Hamlet, The Merchant of Venice and ‘the Scottish play‘.

There is a new series (The Hogarth Shakespeare) of retellings of the stories by prominent authors – Jeanette Winterson’s The gap of time (The Winter’s Tale),  Howard Jacobson’s Shylock is my name (The Merchant of Venice) have been published.  Still to come are Jo Nesbo (with Macbeth), Tracey Chevalier (Othello), Gillian Flynn (Hamlet), Margaret Atwood (The Tempest).

There is a list of all his known/attributed works here in Wikipedia.

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