The most influential writer in all of English literature, William Shakespeare was born in 1564 to a successful middle-class glove-maker in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Shakespeare attended grammar school, but his formal education proceeded no further. In 1582 he married an older woman, Anne Hathaway, and had three children with her. Around 1590 he left his family behind and traveled to London to work as an actor and playwright. Public and critical success quickly followed, and Shakespeare eventually became the most popular playwright in England and part-owner of the Globe Theater. His career bridged the reigns of Elizabeth I (ruled 1558–1603) and James I (ruled 1603–1625), and he was a favorite of both monarchs. Indeed, James granted Shakespeare’s company the greatest possible compliment by bestowing upon its members the title of King’s Men. Wealthy and renowned, Shakespeare retired to Stratford and died in 1616 at the age of fifty-two. At the time of Shakespeare’s death, literary luminaries such as Ben Jonson hailed his works as timeless.
Shakespeare’s works were collected and printed in various editions in the century following his death, and by the early eighteenth century his reputation as the greatest poet ever to write in English was well established. The unprecedented admiration garnered by his works led to a fierce curiosity about Shakespeare’s life, but the dearth of biographical information has left many details of Shakespeare’s personal history shrouded in mystery. Some people have concluded from this fact that Shakespeare’s plays were really written by someone else—Francis Bacon and the Earl of Oxford are the two most popular candidates—but the support for this claim is overwhelmingly circumstantial, and the theory is not taken seriously by many scholars.
In the absence of credible evidence to the contrary, Shakespeare must be viewed as the author of the thirty-seven plays and 154 sonnets that bear his name. The legacy of this body of work is immense. A number of Shakespeare’s plays seem to have transcended even the category of brilliance, becoming so influential as to profoundly affect the course of Western literature and culture ever after.
Shakespeare did not invent the story of Romeo and Juliet. He did not, in fact, even introduce the story into the English language. A poet named Arthur Brooks first brought the story of Romeus and Juliet to an English-speaking audience in a long and plodding poem that was itself not original, but rather an adaptation of adaptations that stretched across nearly a hundred years and two languages. Many of the details of Shakespeare’s plot are lifted directly from Brooks’s poem, including the meeting of Romeo and Juliet at the ball, their secret marriage, Romeo’s fight with Tybalt, the sleeping potion, and the timing of the lover’s eventual suicides. Such appropriation of other stories is characteristic of Shakespeare, who often wrote plays based on earlier works.
Shakespeare’s use of existing material as fodder for his plays should not, however, be taken as a lack of originality. Instead, readers should note how Shakespeare crafts his sources in new ways while displaying a remarkable understanding of the literary tradition in which he is working. Shakespeare’s version of Romeo and Juliet is no exception. The play distinguishes itself from its predecessors in several important aspects: the subtlety and originality of its characterization (Shakespeare almost wholly created Mercutio); the intense pace of its action, which is compressed from nine months into four frenetic days; a powerful enrichment of the story’s thematic aspects; and, above all, an extraordinary use of language.
Flirting Lessons from Romeo & Juliet
Shakespeare’s play not only bears a resemblance to the works on which it is based, it is also quite similar in plot, theme, and dramatic ending to the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, told by the great Roman poet Ovid in his Metamorphoses. Shakespeare was well aware of this similarity; he includes a reference to Thisbe in Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare also includes scenes from the story of Pyramus and Thisbe in the comically awful play-within-a-play put on by Bottom and his friends in A Midsummer Night’s Dream—a play Shakespeare wrote around the same time he was composing Romeo and Juliet. Indeed, one can look at the play-within-a-play in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as parodying the very story that Shakespeare seeks to tell in Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet in full knowledge that the story he was telling was old, clichéd, and an easy target for parody. In writing Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare, then, implicitly set himself the task of telling a love story despite the considerable forces he knew were stacked against its success. Through the incomparable intensity of his language Shakespeare succeeded in this effort, writing a play that is universally accepted in Western culture as the preeminent, archetypal love story.
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The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet Critical Lens Essay Someone once said, “All literature shows us the power of emotion. It is emotion, not reason that motivates characters in literature. ” This means that all literature is an expression of emotion and it is the emotion that is the main character, and often the setting and theme as well. It is not the reasoning within the story that draws you in, but rather how the story deals with the emotions we all have felt. It provides us with a possible scenario of the impact of focusing only on emotion and losing focus on reason.
The power of emotion driving literary characters to see their emotions through, make us wish we could feel so strongly about something or someone and the way we would all like to think we would see our emotions through. Atticus Finch, from the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, and Romeo Montague from Shakespeare’s drama, The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, both are driven only by their emotions. Both are so driven to see their powerful emotions, no matter what might happen to them, that their emotion and the opposite emotions of everyone else around them becomes the main character, setting and theme in these stories.
You are drawn in to the emotion by asking would I have the courage to stand up to my home town full of racism to seek justice for a black person as Atticus did in To Kill A Mockingbird? Could I be so in love, as Romeo was, that I would be willing to give up everything I had, my family, my position in society, even my own life, for the love of another person? Atticus Finch, from the Harper Lee novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, bases all of his decisions and actions in the Tom Robinson trial, merely as a reaction to powerful emotion.
First he accepts the case based upon the emotional racist state of the town condemning Tom Robinson primarily because he is black. Second, he is driven by his emotional belief in everyone getting a fair trial and having the same access to justice, no matter their race. Atticus is fully aware of the racism that exists in his town, but he did not take the time to consider that the violence and hate of that racism can easily be turned on him and his family. A literary element used in To Kill a Mockingbird is setting. The setting was used to help develop the fact that Atticus does not think too much before he accepted the case.
To Kill a Mockingbird was set in a southern, racist town, at a time when blacks were looked down upon and discriminated against. Just the racism alone was enough to drive Atticus. He wanted this to change, and felt very strongly on this issue. Another literary element used in To Kill a Mockingbird is symbolism. The mockingbird is used to symbolize something that is harmless. They only sing and make music for others to enjoy and to kill one is a sin. Both Boo Radley and Tom Robinson are harmless individuals, who never intend to hurt a soul. Yet Tom’s life is lost, and this is like shooting a mockingbird.
As Scout said, “to hurt Boo Radley too would be like killing a mockingbird. ” Atticus put everything he had: his career, his status in the town and his and his family’s safety on the line to fight for an innocent man and against the prejudice ideas of the south. Romeo Montague, from William Shakespeare’s drama, The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, also bases all of his decisions and actions, including his marriage and death, on his powerful emotional love for Juliet Capulet, ignoring the consequences for him, Juliet and their families. Once again powerful emotion, more than the people in the story, is the main character, setting and theme.
Romeo and Juliet are focused on their deep love for each other, in contrast to all of the hate between their families that surrounds them. Characterization was used in The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, to show Romeo’s strong, rash emotions. From the beginning, Romeo is portrayed as an extremely dramatic and emotional character, from one minute being lovesick over Rosaline, to the next, being madly in love with Juliet, to killing someone that threatens that love, to finally killing himself. Romeo never really reasons what he is doing, he just does it. Another literary element used in The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is hyperbole.
Shakespeare uses hyperbole as an exaggerated way to show how rash and driven by emotion Romeo is. This exaggeration through hyperbole is used to help the reader better see how dramatic and emotional Romeo is. Romeo Montague, from The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is so driven by emotion he is willing to lose his family, status in society, wealth, comfort, freedom and even his life for his deep emotional love for Juliet. “All literature shows us the power of emotion. It is emotion, not reason that motivates characters in literature. ” In literary works, emotion often is the main character, played out by a person.
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This emotional power has a very strong hold on characters’ decisions, without compromising because of the effect or impact on their lives. Two important examples of literature that illustrate this point are Romeo Montague, from Shakespeare’s drama, The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, and Atticus Finch, from Harper Lee’s, To Kill a Mockingbird, both are characters who embody pure powerful emotion, in deeply emotional settings and in stories with deeply emotional themes. They see their emotions through, and let the reader wonder if they would have the strength to put everything they care about on the line for such powerful emotional commitments.
Author: Brandon Johnson
The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet-Critical Lens Essay
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