Shakespeare bullet point notes

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* The average Shakespeare play had 30,000 words in it – more than the average person could need in their lifetime. He invented 1,700 new words – he turned verbs into nouns and nouns into verbs.

* 100 years earlier Chaucer was writing the Canterbury Tales in English, while the upper classes spoke French and Latin.

* Caxton invented the printing press in 1470.

* Shakespeare wrote about foreign places a lot, but he was only transported by his imagination. E.g. in the entire Merchant of Venice he never mentions it’s built over water.

* Language in Shakespeare’s plays is a mixture of vulgar and sophisticated. In 1592 he was said to have been stealing others’ works.

* Shakespeare and Marlowe were born in the same year. Marlowe went to University at Cambridge, Shakespeare didn’t – however he was an actor and Marlowe wasn’t, so Shakespeare had the advantage of knowing what it would be like for an actor delivering these lines. But, Marlowe is the only playwright who can match him.

* Shakespeare never invents any new plots.

* The “Chronicle of England, Scotland and Wales” of 1587 is a source of many events in a lot of his plays, e.g. King Lear.

* There is a rhythm in Shakespeare – the “iambic pentameter”. When he wanted to make the audience feel uneasy he reverses the rhythm, e.g. in Macbeth.

* When the plague arrived in London all the theatres closed down by law, so Shakespeare wrote poetry – The Sonnets.

* Shakespeare is obsessed with love and our obsession with it, but we don’t know anything about his love life. Romeo & Juliet: love is inexplicable, mind-blowingly powerful. Romeo loves Rosalind until he meets Juliet. Love can “tear us apart”.

* Shakespeare was the first playwright to become rich by it.

* “The Lord Chamberlains Men” formed.

* With wealth he was freed from patronage – can write whatever he likes.

* Turns world upside down – fools say wise words and kings become paupers.

* “We are a seething mass of passions about to break out” in Shakespeare. Sex and violence just beneath the surface. Thin line between barbarism and civilization.

* Treachery in a lot of his plays e.g. Macbeth. Not only do plays deal with political intrigue but in a period of political intrigue. All of the plays had to be approved by the censors.

* He avoided references to religion in his plays.

* He has been translated into 80 languages. 300 film versions of his plays.

* Death of his son Hamnet aged 11 in 1596. In Hamlet a ghost asks his son to take revenge. It is his longest and most ambitious play, and about weakness and power.

* Only difference between comedy and tragedy is in comedy the characters conquer the events, while in tragedy events conquer characters.

* 1603 when James I was crowned, within 10 days S got royal patronage. (His company became “The King’s Men”.)

* Ben Johnson was his drinking companion, who said: “A man not of his age but for all ages.”

* 1613 – suddenly stops writing. Had written 38 plays. Leaves London and goes back to Stratford.

* 1616 – dies same day as he was born.

* 1623 – “The First Folio” published – it was up to his friends to publish all his plays. Only half his plays were printed in his life.

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