|1. He was, "The Sweet Swan of
Avon who was not only of an age but for all time." (Ben Johnson)
2. He was the first writer in European history to earn a living as a
playwright: an entrepreneur.
3. He is still the most produced playwright on the today’s stages not
only in England, but around the globe.
4. While alive, Shakespeare wrote theatre, not literature. He didn’t
even bother to publish his plays. (There was no money in it.) He was a
working playwright first, the greatest poet in the English language
5. Shakespeare was extraordinarily popular in his day, not just among
the intellectuals in London who were members of Queen Elizabeth’s
court, but also among the illiterate groundlings who reveled in this
new found entertainment:
High Art: a philosophical exploration of the end of innocence and the
limits of human knowledge
Low Art: a ripping good revenge story full of ghosts, madmen, lost
love, graveyards, bloody sword fights and villains with poison
High Art: an ironic commentary on the mortal danger of true love and a
study in the nature of absolute evil
Low Art: a villain persuades his best friend that his wife has been
unfaithful and convinces him to murder her: sex, violence, and betrayal
High Art: a stark study of the nature of evil and its effects on human
Low Art: a ripping, lurid tale full of swordplay, sex, madness,
witchcraft, and buckets of blood
The rapt response of theatre-goers, critics and
general readers has been consistent ever since the plays were written.
Shakespeare’s vision of human nature was not only ahead of its time,
but it has taken the world four centuries to catch up with him, if we
Shakespeare was also a man of his time period, the glorious Elizabethan
age, high point of the Renaissance. He lived in the first modern
|1. The City of London: 50,000
residents, but over one million
people (of a total 3-4 million in England) visit London at some
point each year.
2. The Defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 made England a world power
for the next three hundred and fifty years.
3. London became a center of world trade, one of the capitols of the
rising mercantile economy in Europe
4. The Reformation and the Scientific Revolution
- people in London had spending money
in their pockets for the first time
land was not the only currency of wealth
- Shakespeare lived
during a time when enormous intellectual changes were taking place. The
presumptions about human nature, about God, about the universe, about
the purpose of life which had held society together for a thousand
years were crumbling.
The Reformation led by Martin Luther had split Europe into opposing
ideological camps: Catholic and Protestant.
England herself had become a Protestant country fifty years earlier
during the reign of Elizabeth’s father, Henry VIII. The country since
then had been rent by political intrigue between Catholic and
- Shakespeare was the contemporary of great innovators in the history
of science: Kepler, Galileo, and the great British scientist: Sir