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William Shakespeare

Biography of William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was born on the 23rd or 24th of April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon which is one hundred miles northwester of London. His baptism was on the 26 of April 1564 in “The Holy Trinity”, a small church of the town
John Shakespeare, his father worked as a glover an later as a mayor. Mary Aden of Wilmeot (later Mary Shakespeare) who was the daughter of a rich aristocrat was his mother.
William had three brothers and two sisters. He was a pupil of the local grammar-school where he learnt a little bit Latin and Greek until 1579. Even if he was an attentive pupil the school was not very demanding for him.
In 1582, when he was 18, he married Anne Hathaway, who was the daughter of a rich landowner and got three children with her.
Susanna Shakespeare was the first one. She was born in 1583. After then twins followed, Hamnet and Judith in 1585, but the son died at age eleven.
In 1587 Shakespeare left his family and went to London. There he was a member of “the Lord Strange’s Men” and later he founded his own company “The Lord Chamberlain’s Men”. He (Anne Hathaway)
also became one of the owners of the “Globe Theatre London”
in 1599. In 1610 he went back to Stratford as a very famous and rich man. He died on the 23rd of April 1616 and was buried in the same church where he was baptized.

William Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets, other poems and in only twenty years he wrote three dozen plays. That was the reason for his celebrity, but only as a dramatist and poet but never as an actor.
It never was proved that he wrote 35 dramas and collaborated in lot of other ones.
The first performance of one of his most famous works “Romeo and Julia” took place in 1595. The other most famous act of William Shakespeare is “Hamlet”. Both plays are tragedies.
Some of his well-known comedies are include “Much Ado About Nothing” and “As You Like It”.
“Henry IV” (part 1 and 2) is considered one of his earliest and most famous historical plays.
He wrote about the idea of the Renaissance and some of his works are the best love-poems in the world. His language and choice of words also are very famous and his plays are even shown today.
The sonnet in general
“Sonare” is a Latin word and mean “to sound”.
The beginning of the 13th century was the lyrical start of sonnets in Italy. Giacomo da Lentini who was a student of “lingua volgare”, a Sicilian school of poets, was probably one of the “innovators” of the sonnet.
But the sonnets became first famous as “minnesong” by Francesco Petrarca in the 14th century. Thanks to Michelangelo who was also a famous poet of the sonnets, the sonnets were step by step known throughout Europe.
A sonnet is a kind of poem with a fixed and logical structure.
It is divided into fourteen lines which are separated further into four strophes. The first two ones are quatrains and the last two ones terzetto. In the quatrains the rhyme scheme is an “embracing rhyme” (“umarmender Reim”) and in the terzettos a “Schweifreim”. In Italian sonnets it is usual to use the Alexandrines which have six beats and six abatements and in the middle (after six syllable) a break. If the line ends with an abatement, it will be masculine and if it ends with a beat, it will be a feminine line. The sonnet has a closed form so the message has a fixed entanglement.

Shakespeare’s sonnets
At first only the Italian sonnet existed, but at the beginning of the 16th century Thomas Wyatt translated some Italian sonnets, and the Earl of Surrey created a new structure with new rhyme scheme, meter and the division.
Even if William Shakespeare didn’t coin English sonnets a lot of people connect it with him because he is the most famous poet of the English sonnet.
In England, the word “sonnet” is known as “little song”. Its origin are the Provencal word “sonet” and the Italian word “sonetto”.
The English sonnet has a different structure than the Italian. It is divided into fourteen lines which are written down in four strophes. The first three ones are quatrains the last one is a couplet.
The “changing rhyme” (“Wechselreim”) is the rhyme scheme of the quatrains and the couplet is a “pair rhyme” (“Paarreim”).
Usually the sonnet is used as an iambic pentameter that means that there are five beats and five abatements.
There exist a lot of speculations about Shakespeare’s sonnets because there are no facts which prove anything.
William Shakespeare wrote in his sonnets about love, beauty and mortality, but for whom he wrote is not clear till today. The only thing we know is that the first 126 ones he wrote were addressed to a friend with the initials “Mr. W.H.”, the 127 until 152 to a “Dark Lady” and the last ones are general love sonnets. The first sonnets were also the reason why many people thought that he was homosexual. But today we know that it was just a “spiritual love” and not a “real love”.
It is unknown if William Shakespeare wanted to publicise his sonnets or if Thomas Thorpe, the publisher, did it without Shakespeare’s knowledge. It is also possible that Thorpe had written the sonnets by himself.

Sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, And often is his gold complexion dimm’d; And every fair from fair some time declines, By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow' st; Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
William Shakespeare “Sonnet 18” deals with the beauty of human beings. It is greater than nature. He wrote it for a friend with the initials “Mr. W.H.”.
He compares the beauty of human beings with nature. In the first lines Shakespeare finds out that nature is never constant, changes often and so the beauty of the nature alters. For example the clouds hide the sun and the beauty of the sun changes. In contrast to nature the beauty of human beings is “more lovely and more temperate” (l.2). Although the body ages real beauty can exist forever in the lines of a poem which is the theme of the next lines. So nature cannot approach the friend’s beauty. But the last two lines tell us that a poem cannot exist without humans because someone only lives for so long as another person is engaged with it.
The sonnet is written down in fourteen lines which are divided into three quatrains and a couplet. The rhyme scheme of the quatrains is a “changing rhyme” and the couplet is a “pair rhyme”.
Shakespeare starts with a rhetorical question (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” l. 1) which is the beginning of the comparison. He compares natural events, like the symbol of the beginning of the summer “buds of May” (l. 3). Summer time is also a “too short […] date” (l.4) which proves that nature changes and does not continue forever. Same fact is when clouds hide “the eye of heaven” which is a metaphor for the sun. Also he uses some “time adverbs” like “sometime” (l. 5), “often” (l. 6) and “some time” (l. 7) which underline the “VANITAS”-idea. “VANITAS” is a Latin word and mean “caducity” which was an often used theme in the time of Baroque in which William Shakespeare lived. Furthermore he uses anaphora like “And” (l. 6 and 7), “Nor” (l. 9 and 10) and “So long” (l. 13 and 14).
“But” (l.9) symbolizes the reversal point of the poem because after that he uses again words for eternity like “eternal summer” (l. 9) and “eternal lines to time” (l. 12). So the poet makes a great difference of “VANITAS” especially in nature in contrast to eternal human life in his poems. Shakespeare’s opinion is that as long as a men will read and understand the feelings, destiny and beauty of the person he deals with in his sonnets, will the beloved one live forever. Nature passes away but the human being will have eternal life as long as somebody will read and study the poetical works.

Sonnet 138
When my love swears that she is made of truth I do believe her though I know she lies, That she might think me some untutored youth Unlearned in the world's false subtleties.
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young, Although she knows my days are past the best, Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue; On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed.
But wherefore says she not she is unjust, And wherefore say not I that I am old? O, love's best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love loves not to have years told.
Therefore I lie with her, and she with me, And in our faults by lies we flattered be.
In “Sonnet 138” William Shakespeare tells us something about his love with a woman which consists only of lies. It was a sonnet for the “Dark Lady”.
An old man wants to be loved by a younger woman. He does not tell her how old he is and she does not blame him for it. She treats him like a young man without any experience and he likes her behaviour. So both are lying and he ask himself why he did behave like a fool and why she did not tell him that he was too old for her. So he learns that in the name of love people are lying because it is more comfortable and easier for everybody.
The sonnet is also divided into fourteen lines which are separated into three quatrains and a couplet. The rhyme scheme of the quatrains is a “changing rhyme” and the couplet is a “pair rhyme”.
Shakespeare starts his sonnet with a conditional clause (“When my love…” l.1) which is the beginning of the examples of their lying to each other. “I do believe her though I know she lies” is an antithesis, because if you know that somebody lies, you do not believe him or her, but he thinks that foolishness is a symbol of youth (“That she might think me some untutored youth…”, l.3f.). “my days are past the best” is a euphemism for his approaching death and a confession that he is old. He will describe her lies as a “false-speaking tongue” which is a metaphor. Continuing with rhetorical questions (“But wherefore says she not she is unjust,” (l.9) andAnd wherefore says not I that I am old?” l.10) he shows that he thinks about all this but it is more comfortable to say nothing. This is the reversal point of the sonnet, because he begins to think about it. The end “And in our faults by lies we flattered be.” (l. 14) underlines that they would never talk about their mistakes and that they would lie so the truth never comes out.
Comparison of “Sonnet 18” with “Sonnet 138”
Both sonnets are typical Englisch sonnets with the same rhyme scheme, meter and division.
Shakespeare uses some examples to make his meaning clear in both sonnets.
In the 9th line there is a reversal point that starts with “But” and turns the poem in a new direction.
The main difference between “Sonnet 18” and “Sonnet 138” is the theme: You see the first one is about beauty and the caducity of it. This poem is written for William Shakespeare’s friend and is a comparison of him and nature.
The second one is about love, love lies and so a disappointment of love. He wrote it for the “Dark Lady” who was probably a love of William Shakespeare and so it is a love poem. But even if there are two different themes, the structure and scheme are the same.

Sources: (picture 1) (14/01/2007) (picture 2) (14/01/2007) (picture 3) (14/01/2007) (07/01/2007) (07/01/2007) (07/01/2007) (07/01/2007) (07/01/2007) (07/01/2007) (07/01/2007) (07/01/2007) (07/01/2007) (07/01/2007)
Borgmeier, R., William Shakespeare- The Sonnets- Die Sonette- Englisch/Deutsch, Stuttgart, 2003
Biographie von William Shakespeare mit Erklärung, was ein Sonnett ist und eine Gedichtinterpretation von seinen Sonnetten Nummer 18 und 128 inklusive Vergleich dieser. (2108 Wörter)
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