William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare
Widely regarded as one of
the greatest writers in
English Literature
His Plays
• Protagonists:
• Protagonists:
– The main characters are
usually a young couple(s) that
must overcome an obstacle
• Plot:
• In the characters’
pursuit of love, they
get mixed up in all
sorts of complicated
– The main character is an
admirable hero, but he has one
fatal flaw that will destroy him.
In King Lear, for instance, the
King’s flaw is arrogance. His ego
actually topples his entire
• Plot:
• Tragedies often deal
with revenge, murder,
war, doomed love, and
political conspiracies.
His plays con’t
– Comedies treat heavy subjects
lightly. The Bard (aka
Shakespeare) used metaphors,
insults, and puns to make the
audience laugh and to make them
think more deeply.
• Love Triangles:
• A love triangle happens when two
people have a crush on the same
person. In A Midsummer Night’s
Dream, a love triangle starts a plot
involving fairies, hasty getaways,
magic, and a donkey – seriously!
– The audience feels powerless
because the tragedy is usually
avoidable. For example, if only
Romeo had received the Friar’s
letter, he and Juliet could have
lived happily ever after!
• Supernatural Beings:
• Otherworldly creatures like
witches and ghosts mean
trouble. Hamlet, Macbeth,
and Julius Caesar all have
supernatural beings that
spell catastrophe.
His Plays Con’t
• Mistaken Identities:
• Bad weather:
– Confusing one character for
another leads to many mishaps.
For example, in Shakespeare’s
Twelfth Night, Viola pretends
to be her twin brother in order
to get a job. When her brother
shows up, things get out of
A comedy always ends well,
usually with a marriage or two.
– As a tragedy unfolds, society
gets chaotic – and so does the
weather. Killer storms and
creepy mists are a clue that
something bad is happening.
Most of the characters die.
Including the hero.
The Play Plot
Crisis or
Turning Point
Act II
Rising Action
Act I
Act IV
Act V
Act 1 - Exposition
• Establishes the setting, introduces
some of the main characters, explains
background, and sets up the characters’
main conflict.
Act II - Rising Action
• Consists of a series of complications.
• These occur as the main characters
take action to resolve their
Act III – Turning Point
• The crisis, or turning point, is the moment in
Act III when a choice is made by the main
characters that determines the direction of the
action: upward to a happy ending in a
comedy or downward to sadness in a tragedy.
• It can be the most dramatic and tense
moment when the forces of conflict come
Act IV – Falling Action
• Presents events that result from the action
taken at the turning point.
In a Tragedy, these events push the
characters deeper and deeper into disaster;
with each event we see the characters
falling straight into tragedy.
In a Comedy, things begin to clear up
and a happy resolution is in sight.
Act V – Climax
• The final and greatest scene occurs at the
end of the play – in comedies a marriage
will usually happen, while in tragedies the
main characters usually die.
The loose parts of the plots are all tied up.
The play is over.
Romeo and Juliet
• Written about 1595
• Considered a tragedy
• 17 movies, an opera, and
a ballet have been created
based on this play.
• Was born in the town of StratfordUpon-Avon on the date many
believe is April 23, 1564.
• After Queen Elizabeth I died, the
new King James I allowed Sh. & his
men to be called “The King’s Men”
in return for entertaining the court.
• He died on April 23, 1616.
• His last direct descendant died in 1670.
• William Shakespeare is attributed with writing
& collaborating on 38 plays (of them 18 are
comedies & 10 are tragedies), 154 sonnets, & 5
poems between 1590 & 1613
• Two of his most famous plays were Romeo & Juliet
(based on the initial poem “The Tragical Historye of
Romeus and Juliet” by Arthur Brook) and Hamlet.
Stage Celebrity
• Actor for Lord Chamberlain’s Men
(London theater co.)
• Also > principal playwright for
• 1599> Lord Ch. Co. built Globe
Theater where most of Sh. Play’s
were performed (Sh. Was 1/5 owner
& earned 10% of the total profit.
The Theater
• Plays produced for the general
• Roofless>open air
• No artificial lighting
• Courtyard surrounded by 3 levels
of galleries
• Wealthy got benches
• “Groundlings”>poorer people stood
and watched from the courtyard (“pit”)
• All but wealthy were
• Wealthy women wore masks to
disguise their identities
• Much more interaction than today
• Audience members behaved poorly in the theater.
• They laughed, flirted, and fidgeted.
• They gossiped to each other while waiting for the
show to start.
• The audience didn’t hesitate to show
disappointment if they were not pleased with the
• They would throw rotten fruit or say unkind
Staging Areas
• Stage>platform that extended into
the pit
• Dressing & storage rooms in
galleries behind & above stage
• second-level gallery> upper stage>
famous balcony scene in R & J
• Trap door>ghosts
• “Heavens”> angelic beings
• No scenery
• Settings > references in
• Elaborate costumes
• Plenty of props
• Fast-paced, colorful>2 hours!
• Were very important to actors & crucial to a
performance because there were no scenery.
• More well-established actors/acing groups
owned their own costumes that were
appropriate for many roles.
• Audience could distinguish the more
significant roles by what the actors wore.
• They used wigs, masks, & different colored
• They spent lots of money on costumes that
was decorated with braid, embroidery,
pearls, jewels, lace, & artifical flowers.
• Props included flashing swords & swirling
• Only men and boys
• Young boys whose voices had not
changed play women’s roles
• Would have been considered
indecent for a woman to appear
on stage
Blank Verse
• Much of R & J is written in it:
–unrhymed verse
–iambic (unstressed, stressed)
–pentameter( 5 “feet” to a line)
• ends up to be 10 syllable lines
• Ordinary writing that is not
poetry, drama, or song
–Only characters in the lower
social classes speak this way in
Shakespeare’s plays
–Why do you suppose that is?
Dramatic Foil
• A character whose
purpose is to show off
another character
–Benvolio for Tybalt
•look for others in R & J
• One person speaking on stage
> may be other character on
stage too
–ex > the Prince of Verona
commanding the Capulets and
Montagues to cease feuding
• Long speech expressing the
thoughts of a character alone
on stage. In R & J, Romeo
gives a soliloquy after the
servant has fled and Paris has
• Words spoken, usually
in an undertone not
intended to be heard
by all characters
• Shakespeare loved to use them!!!
–Humorous use of a word with
two meanings > sometimes
missed by the reader because of
Elizabethan language and
sexual innuendo
Direct Address
• Words that tell the reader who is
being addressed:
• “A right fair mark, fair coz, is
soonest hit.”
• “Ah, my mistresses, which of you
all/ Will now deny to dance?”
Comic Relief
• Use of comedy within literature
that is NOT comedy to provide
“relief” from seriousness or
• In R & J, look for moments of
comic relief that help “relieve” the
tragedy of the situation
Dramatic Irony
• A contradiction between
what a character thinks
and what the
reader/audience knows to
be true
Verbal Irony
• Words used to suggest
the opposite of what is
Situational Irony
• An event occurs that
directly contradicts the
expectations of the
characters, the reader, or
the audience
The End