Shakespeare: A Brief Look at the Bard’s Work
A bard is a professional storyteller. They have existed in some shape or form for as long as humans have shared tales and sagas. One such famous bard is William Shakespeare: a playwright and poet from 16th century England. In today’s blog, we’ll talk about this Wordsmith, what defines his writing, and some well-known plays you should acquaint yourself with.
Who is Shakespeare?
William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon on the 26th of April 1564. While the history is a little hazy, it is believed that his plays had made it to London by 1592. Experts suppose his first play was Henry VI: one of many historical pieces Shakespeare would pen in his lifetime.
Working as both an actor and playwright, as well as writing the odd sonnet on the side, Shakespeare retired to Stratford in 1609. This was around the time the bubonic plague had taken hold of London. Thus, closing the playhouses for as many as 60 months.
Despite living and writing more than 400 years ago, Shakespeare is still a rich part of English culture and history. His works are analysed and performed to this day.
What defines his writing?
While Shakespeare utilised other forms of poetry and simple prose, he is best known for his use of “blank verse” also known as Iambic Pentameter. This metrical pattern is a line of verse with five metrical feet. Each “foot” has one short (or unstressed) syllable followed by one long (or stressed) syllable.
A famous quote that highlights this comes from Romeo & Juliet: “two households, both alike in dignity.”
Some Famous Shakespearean Plays
So, you know who the man is and what his writing style is like, but what about what he’s actually written? Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies.
Romeo and Juliet
A tragedy between two star-crossed lovers, Shakespeare tells the story of two archetypal characters and their feuding families. Not only does it pull at the heart-strings, but it also highlights Shakespeare’s abilities as a writer. Throughout the play, different characters utilise different poetic forms. One such example is Romeo’s eventual mastery of the sonnet.
A bit more light-hearted, Twelfth Night tells the tale of a young woman pretending to be her twin brother. Of course, much misunderstanding follows but, like all comedies, it ends happily and with a wedding.
The Tragedy of Macbeth (The Scottish Play)
Macbeth is a dramatisation of the effects of political power. It warns against those seeking power for its own sake, and the dangers of listening to prophecies. Remember, don’t say the title of this play inside a theatre — it’s bad luck!
Midsummer Night’s Dream
This Shakespearean play is comedy of conflicting love, fairies, and talking donkeys. This play explores love, identity, and feminism. And is another example of the supernatural meddling with human affairs.
Considered one of the most influential pieces of literature, Hamlet tells the story of a man set on avenging his murdered father. Hamlet, the titular main character, feigns madness, contemplates life and death, and seeks revenge. It famously has a play within a play.