William Shakespeare, often referred to as “The Bard of Avon,” is universally acknowledged as one of the greatest playwrights and poets the world has ever known.
Born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England in 1564, Shakespeare’s profound influence on the English language and literature has rendered him a timeless icon.
His understanding of human nature, mastery of language, and ability to create complex characters and plotlines continue to captivate audiences worldwide, ensuring his place in history and our hearts.
William Shakespeare Quotes
“If by chance I talk a little wild, forgive me; I had it from my father.“
“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”
Early Life and Education
Shakespeare was the third child of John Shakespeare, a successful glover and local politician, and Mary Arden, a daughter of the gentry. His birth date is traditionally celebrated on April 23, which interestingly, is also the date of his death.
Young Shakespeare probably attended the King’s New School, a free chartered grammar school located in Stratford, where he would have studied Latin and the classics, laying the groundwork for his later literary exploits.
The Lost Years and Marriage
There’s a period from 1585 to 1592, referred to as ‘the lost years’ due to lack of surviving documentation about Shakespeare’s activities during this time. In 1582, at the age of 18, William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, who was eight years his senior. Together, they had three children: Susanna and the twins, Hamnet and Judith. It’s speculated that during these ‘lost years,’ Shakespeare might have started his theatrical career.
Theatrical Career and the Globe Theatre
Shakespeare’s career bloomed in London. By 1592, he was sufficiently known in the theater world to be criticized by contemporaries. He wrote and performed for the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later renamed the King’s Men, one of the most popular acting companies in London.
William Shakespeare was not only a member but also a shareholder of the company, which provided him financial stability. The company built the famous Globe Theatre in 1599, where many of Shakespeare’s plays were first performed.
The Plays and Sonnets
Shakespeare’s body of work includes 39 plays, 154 sonnets, and two long narrative poems. His plays span across tragedy, comedy, and history, remaining relevant and performed even in the 21st century. “Romeo and Juliet,” “Macbeth,” “Hamlet,” “Othello,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and “The Tempest” are some of his most celebrated works.
William Shakespeare’s sonnets, published in 1609, constitute one of the greatest achievements in English literature. Many of them, such as Sonnet 18 (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”) and Sonnet 116 (“Let me not to the marriage of true minds”), are famous for their profound sentiments and linguistic prowess.
Language and Legacy
William Shakespeare’s influence on the English language is as significant as his impact on literature. Often touted as the greatest writer in English, Shakespeare was not just a master wordsmith but also an incredible inventor of words. It is estimated that he introduced somewhere between 1,700 to 3,000 words to the English language. This linguistic creativity has left a profound and enduring legacy.
The Bard’s New Words
It’s important to note that the task of assigning invention of a word to a specific author is complicated. However, many words first recorded in writing from Shakespeare’s works are often attributed to him. Some of these words include “assassination,” “courtship,” “lonely,” “radiance,” “lackluster,” “uncomfortable,” and “bedroom.”
Shakespeare crafted these words either by changing nouns into verbs or verbs into adjectives, connecting words never before used together, or adding prefixes or suffixes to existing words.
Beyond individual words, William Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets are filled with phrases that have worked their way into everyday English speech. Expressions like “all’s well that ends well,” “break the ice,” “dead as a doornail,” “good riddance,” “love is blind,” and “wild goose chase” were all penned by Shakespeare. The everyday use of these phrases highlights the impact of Shakespeare’s linguistic inventiveness on our daily communication.
Impact on Modern English
William Shakespeare’s linguistic contributions significantly shaped the course of Modern English. He took the language of his time—Early Modern English—and molded it into a form much closer to the language we use today.
A Lasting Legacy
William Shakespeare’s works have been translated into every major living language, further testament to his linguistic genius. His new words and idiomatic expressions continue to permeate our language, serving as constant reminders of his profound impact.