William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in England on April 23, 1564. His father was John Shakespeare, a well-to-do general storekeeper. Shakespeare went to a good school, very much like yours, except he studied some Latin and Greek and became familiar with Greek and Roman plays and poetry.
We don’t know much about his early life, since no one wrote a biography of him while he was alive, but we do know that he married Anne Hathaway in 1582 when he was eighteen, and that they had three children: Susanna, Hamnet, and Judith. Nothing is known of why he decided to go to London, but the next mention we have of him is in 1594, when he was a member of the Lord Chamberlain’s men, a professional acting company. Through looking at some of the records of the theatre, we can find out that his first play was probably The Comedy of Errors, written in 1591, and that A Midsummer Night’s Dream was written probably between 1594 and 1596.
Shakespeare died on his birthday, April 23, in 1616 at the age of fifty-two. His only son, Hamnet, had died at the age of eleven, and his wife died seven years after her son’s death. Although his two daughters married and had children, the line died out, so there aren’t any descendants of Shakespeare alive today.
What are still alive are his plays, which are still being performed after almost 400 years, in countries all over the world—in German, French, Russian, and Japanese. Every ten years or so, the film industry “rediscovers” Shakespeare and makes lavish movies of some of his most famous plays.
Michael Hoffman directed a film version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1999, which stared Kevin Kline as Bottom, Michelle Pfeiffer as Titania, and Rupert Everett as Oberon. The text of the play is stripped down a bit in the production, but the reactions and responses of the characters have helped to portray the missing lines.
Question: Can you name some of Shakespeare’s plays which have been made into movies recently and some famous actors in them?
Answer: Hamlet with Kenneth Branagh; another Hamlet with Mel Gibson; Richard III with Ian McKellen; Twelfth Night with Nigel Hawthorne, Much Ado about Nothing with Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, and Michael Keaton; Henry V with Kenneth Branagh; Romeo and Juliet with Clare Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio; Othello with Laurence Fishburne and Kenneth Branagh; Love’s Labour’s Lost with Alicia Silverstone, Nathan Lane, and Kenneth Branagh; and The Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons.