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Shakespeare, the god of a million memorable words

The “Dark Lady” refers to a mysterious figure in William Shakespeare’s sonnets, particularly in Sonnets 127 to 154. She is described as having dark features, such as dark hair and dark eyes. Some scholars speculate that the Dark Lady may have been a real person, while others argue that she could have been a literary invention. There is no definitive evidence to conclusively prove whether Shakespeare was romantically involved with the Dark Lady or whether she was purely a poetic creation. The true identity and nature of Shakespeare’s relationship with the Dark Lady remain open to interpretation.

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By: Sahil Sharifdin Bhat

Hifazat-e Asrar ka fitrat ko hai soda aisa,

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Razdan phir na karegi koi peeda aisa.

(Allama Iqbal on Shakespeare)

According to Guinness World Records, Shakespeare remains the world’s best-selling playwright, with sales of his plays and poetry believed to have exceeded four billion copies in the almost 400 years since his death. He is also the third most translated author in history. [The first and the second are Agatha Christie and Jules Verne, respectively.]  He is undeniably the greatest writer in the English language. He is the national poet of England

The biography of William Shakespeare is based mostly on conjectures and guesswork.  However, he devoted himself assiduously to his art and wrote more than a million memorable words preserved in 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems and several other poems.

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The parish register of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, shows that he was baptized there on April 26, 1564; his birthday is traditionally celebrated on April 23. His father was John Shakespeare and his mother was Mary Arden. He was probably educated at the King Edward VI Grammar School in Stratford, where education was free where he learnt rhetoric, logic, classical literature, arithmetic, music Latin and Classical Greek.

He did not go to university. At the age of 18, he married “Anne Hathaway’’  a woman who was eight years older than he and had three kids with her – Susanna, Judith and Hamnet. His only son, Hamnet died in 1596 at age 11. Little is known about Shakespeare’s activities between 1585 and 1592. He may have taught at school during this period. He was about to get arrested for stealing a deer of a local magnate, sir Thomas Lucy, that is why, he left for London, where he became a poet, playwright and actor. When he moved to London at some point between 1585 and 1592, he did not take his family with him.

In 1592, a writer named Robert Greene insulted Shakespeare in a pamphlet, calling him an inexperienced upstart in the literary world. Although the exact meaning of Greene’s words is unclear, it’s evident he was mocking Shakespeare. After Greene’s death, someone apologized to Shakespeare in another book, praising his talent and influential friends. Despite the general disapproval of theaters in London at the time, Shakespeare had noble supporters, including Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton. Shakespeare dedicated his first published poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece to Southampton, highlighting his growing reputation and connections in the literary world.

How his career in the theatre began is unclear, but from roughly 1594 onward he was an important member of the Lord Chamberlain’s company of players (called the King’s Men after the accession of James I in 1603). They had the best actor, Richard Burbage; they had the best theatre, the Globe (finished by the autumn of 1599); they had the best dramatist, Shakespeare.

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Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616 and was buried in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.

His tomb bears the following epitaph:

Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear

To dig the dust enclosed here.

Blest be the man that spares these stones,

And curst be he that moves my bones.

Dark Lady?

The “Dark Lady” refers to a mysterious figure in William Shakespeare’s sonnets, particularly in Sonnets 127 to 154. She is described as having dark features, such as dark hair and dark eyes. Some scholars speculate that the Dark Lady may have been a real person, while others argue that she could have been a literary invention. There is no definitive evidence to conclusively prove whether Shakespeare was romantically involved with the Dark Lady or whether she was purely a poetic creation. The true identity and nature of Shakespeare’s relationship with the Dark Lady remain open to interpretation.

Fair Youth?

The interpretation of Shakespeare’s sonnets as evidence of his bisexuality is based on the romantic and affectionate language used in the poems addressed to the Fair Youth. However, it’s essential to note that while these interpretations are plausible, they are not definitive proof of Shakespeare’s sexual orientation, as the sonnets are works of literature that can be interpreted in various ways. The sonnets were first published in 1609 and many of them are addressed to a young man referred to as the “Fair Lord” or “Fair Youth.” It is commonly believed that this person may be the same individual to whom the sonnets are dedicated, referred to as “Mr W.H”. The identity of “Mr W.H.” remains uncertain, but two popular candidates are Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton and William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke. Both men were known for their physical attractiveness during their youth and were also patrons of Shakespeare’s work.

His influence on English language

William Shakespeare’s impact on the English language is profound and far-reaching. Beyond his contributions to theater and literature, Shakespeare’s influence permeates everyday language with countless words and phrases he either coined or popularized. From commonplace terms like “manager” and “eyeball” to evocative descriptors such as “gloomy” and “lonely,” Shakespeare’s linguistic innovations have become integral parts of our lexicon.

Remarkably, Shakespeare’s linguistic prowess extended beyond English; he often incorporated quotations from seven languages into his works. With a staggering vocabulary of 40,000 words, unparalleled in his time and enduring to this day, Shakespeare’s linguistic legacy remains unparalleled, shaping the very fabric of the English language for centuries to come. Some scholars claim that he knew approximately 66,534 words, including the 31,534 words he used and the 35,000 words he probably knew but didn’t use.

Shakespeare as a Poet:

Shakespeare’s legacy as a poet is profound and enduring. His mastery of language, depth of emotion, and keen insight into the human condition are evident in his sonnets and longer narrative poems. With 154 sonnets to his name, Shakespeare explored themes of love, beauty, mortality and the passage of time with unparalleled eloquence and complexity. His sonnets, characterized by their intricate rhyme schemes and poignant imagery, have captivated readers for centuries, offering glimpses into the complexities of romantic relationships and the enduring power of poetry to convey deep emotional truths. Additionally, Shakespeare’s narrative poems, such as “Venus and Adonis” and “The Rape of Lucrece,” showcase his ability to weave compelling stories that blend mythological elements with rich characterizations and moral dilemmas, solidifying his reputation as one of the greatest poets in the English language.

Shakespeare as a dramatist:

In addition to his contributions to poetry, Shakespeare’s impact on the world of drama is immeasurable. As a playwright, he revolutionized the English stage, elevating theater to new heights of sophistication and artistic expression. With an extensive body of work that includes tragedies, comedies, histories and romances, Shakespeare demonstrated remarkable versatility and insight into the human experience. His tragedies, such as “Hamlet,” “Macbeth” and “Othello” delve into themes of ambition, betrayal and the complexities of moral choice, showcasing his ability to create unforgettable characters grappling with profound existential dilemmas.

Similarly, Shakespeare’s comedies, such as “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Twelfth Night” and “Much Ado About Nothing” offer audiences moments of levity and laughter while exploring themes of love, mistaken identity and the foibles of human nature. Through his enduring dramas, Shakespeare continues to captivate audiences worldwide, reminding us of the timeless relevance and enduring power of his theatrical vision.

His acting career:

William Shakespeare’s role as an actor is a subject of much speculation and debate among scholars. While there is evidence to suggest that he likely participated as an actor in his own plays and possibly those of others, the extent of his acting career remains uncertain. Some scholars argue that Shakespeare’s intimate knowledge of the stagecraft evident in his plays indicates firsthand experience as an actor. References within his works to acting techniques, stage directions, and the portrayal of characters lend credence to this theory.

Tributes to Shakespeare:

Ben Jonson :

‘‘He was not of an age, but for all time!”

Thomas Carlyle:

‘‘If I say that Shakespeare is the greatest of intellects, I have said all concerning him. But there is more in Shakespeare’s intellect than we have yet seen. It is what I call an unconscious intellect; there is more virtue in it that he himself is aware of.”

William Wordsworth:

“Scorn not the Sonnet; Critic, you have frowned,

Mindless of its just honours; with this key

Shakespeare unlocked his heart.”

William Hazlitt:

“If we wish to know the force of human genius we should read Shakespeare. If we wish to see the insignificance of human learning we may study his commentators.”

George Bernard Shaw:

“Hamlet’s experience simply could not have happened to a plumber.”

  1. S. Eliot:

“We can say of Shakespeare that never has a man turned so little knowledge to such great account.”

  1. H. Lawrence:

“When I read Shakespeare I am struck with wonder that such trivial people should muse and thunder in such lovely language.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“He breathed upon dead bodies and brought them into life. Nor sequent centuries could hit Orbit and sum of Shakespeare’s wit.”

Religion

Shakespeare outwardly adhered to the official state religion, yet his personal religious convictions have remained a topic of debate. His will reflects Protestant sentiments and he was a confirmed member of the Church of England, where he exchanged vows, baptized his children and found his final resting place. Despite this, some scholars suggest that Shakespeare’s familial ties leaned towards Catholicism, a faith practiced clandestinely during a time of religious persecution in England.

For instance, his mother, Mary Arden, hailed from a devout Catholic lineage. The discovery of a purported Catholic declaration signed by his father, John Shakespeare, once lent credence to this theory, although the document has since gone missing, leaving its authenticity in question. Historical records reveal instances where members of Shakespeare’s family, including his father and daughter, skirted church attendance, citing various reasons. While debates persist among scholars regarding Shakespeare’s religious leanings, conclusive evidence remains elusive, with interpretations of his works offering conflicting perspectives on his beliefs.

Quotes by Shakespeare

1) When the age is in, the wit is out.

[Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing]

2) Et tu, Brute!

[Shakespeare: Julius Caesar]

3) When we are born, we cry that we are come

To this great stage of fools.

[Shakespeare: King Lear]

4) Neither a borrower nor a lender be;

For loan oft loses both itself and friend.

[Shakespeare: Hamlet]

5) How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is

To have a thankless child!

[Shakespeare: King Lear]

6) Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin

As self-neglecting.

[Shakespeare: Henry V]

7) Cowards die many times before their deaths;

The valiant never taste of death but once.

[Shakespeare: Julius Caesar]

8) One may smile and smile and be a villain.

[Shakespeare: Hamlet]

9) I will praise any man that will praise me.

[Shakespeare: Antony and Cleopatra]

10) Society is no comfort

To one not sociable.

[Shakespeare: Cymbeline]

Some notable works of Shakespeare include: Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, King Lear, Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night.

To sum up, William Shakespeare, the eminent playwright and poet, revolutionized world literature with his unparalleled works. His insightful exploration of the human condition, mastery of language and enduring characters have left an indelible mark, shaping literary traditions and inspiring generations globally. Allama Iqbal said in a poem titled ‘Shakespeare’ that Nature would never create another man akin to Shakespeare. (The author can be reached at sahilsharifdinenglish@gmail.com)

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The Hills Timeshttps://www.thehillstimes.in/
Welcome to The Hills Times, your trusted source for daily news and updates in English from the heart of Assam, India. Since our establishment in 2000, we've been dedicated to providing timely and accurate information to our readers in Diphu and Guwahati. As the first English newspaper in the then undemarcated Karbi Anglong district, we've forged a strong connection with diverse communities and age groups, earning a reputation for being a reliable source of news and insights. In addition to our print edition, we keep pace with the digital age through our website, https://thehillstimes.in, where we diligently update our readers with the latest happenings day by day. Whether it's local events, regional developments, or global news, The Hills Times strives to keep you informed with dedication and integrity. Join us in staying ahead of the curve and exploring the world through our lens.
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