Shakespeare was a poet and a dramatist who was born at Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. His father was a prosperous tradesman and his grandfather a yeoman. His mother Mary Arden was the daughter of a local farmer who belonged to the local noble family of Arden, after whom the forest to the north of Stratford was named.
Shakespeare was sent to a grammar school where he learned ‘small Latin and less Greek’. He married Anne Hathaway in 1582. He went to London in or about 1587 to seek his fortune there. By 1592, Shakespeare had established himself as a dramatist in London. When the London theatres were closed between 1592 and 1594 owing to epidemics of plague, he seems to have used the opportunity to make a reputation as a narrative poet.
While in London, Shakespeare continued to prosper as a dramatist and in the winter of 1594 was a leading member of Lord Chamberlain’s Men with whom he remained for the rest of his career. He also purchased the property in London and Stratford. He became a shareholder
in the Globe Theatre. After the accession of James-I, the theatre came under royal patronage. This gave Shakespeare status in the royal household. Though he retired to the New Place-the largest house he had bought in Stratford in 1610, he continued his connection with London by purchasing a house in Blackfriars in 1613. The same year the Globe Theatre was gutted down while his play Henry-VIII was being staged.
Shakespeare was certainly one of the most successful writers of his time whose income has been estimated at about $200 a year, a considerable amount for those days.
Shakespeare wrote 37 plays and 154 sonnets. 126 of these sonnets are addressed to a man-his patron and friend, and the remaining 26 are addressed to a dark lady. In addition to this, he wrote two narrative poems: (A) Venus and Adonis, and (B) Lucrece. His plays are generally divided into four periods:

  1. The First Period (1588-1593): It was the period of apprenticeship and experiments. The plays of this period are:
    (i) Revision of old plays like:
    (a) Henry-VI
    (b) Titus Andronicus
    (ii) The first comedies like :
    (a) Love’s Labour Lost
    (b) Two Gentlemen of Verona
    (c) The Comedy of Errors
    (d) A Midsummer Night’s Dream
    (iii) The first tragedy
    Romeo and Juliet
  2. The Second Period (1594-1600): It was the period
    of great comedies and chronicle plays such as
    (a) Richard-II
    (b) King John
    (c) The Merchant of Venice
    (d) Henry-IV, Part I
    (e) Henry-IV, Part II
    (1) Henry-V
    (g) The Taming of the Shrew
    (h) The Merry Wives of Windsor
    (i) Much Ado About Nothing
    (j) As You Like It
    (k) Twelfth Night
  3. The Third Period (1601-1608): This was the period wherein he wrote his great tragedies and somber comedies
    such as:
    (a) Julius Caesar
    (b) Hamlet
    (c) All’s Well that Ends Well
    (d) Measure for Measure
    (e) Troilus and Cressida
    (f) Othello
    (g) King Lear
    (h) Macbeth
    (i) Antony and Cleopatra
    (j) Coriolanus
    (k) Timon of Athens
  4. The Fourth Period (1608-1612): This was the period
    of dramatic romances such as
    (a) Cymbeline
    (b) The Tempest
    (c) The Winter’s Tale
    (d) Pericles
    (e) Henry-VIII

Characteristics of Shakespeare’s Works

Taken together, Shakespeare’s plays constitute the greatest single body of work to which no other writer has contributed so far. The amazing salient feature of his plays is their astonishing variety. He might have been surpassed here and there but no one has ever rivaled him in the range and versatility of his powers. He rises head over
shoulders among other writers in originality and prowess. He possessed a superlative degree the faculty of digesting thought into phraseology which was so memorable and perfect that he is most often quoted by the other writers. The fact remains that he is unparallel in the art and vitality of characterization. His command of the language and his vocabulary are mind-boggling.

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