Magazine topic: 
Books

Who was William Shakespeare?

by : 
Jane Bristow

William Shakespeare is known across the world as the writer of plays such as Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet, and as one of the most famous British people ever. Sometimes known simply as ‘the Bard’, he lived over four hundred years ago – not bad for the son of a man who made a living from making gloves.

Part of the fascination is that despite being so well-known we don’t actually have much information about him; even his name is spelt differently each time it appears, ranging from ‘Shak-peare’ to ‘Shaksper’. Over the years people have argued long and hard about whether he wrote the plays, although these days he’s generally accepted as the author of about thirty-eight plays, some of which were written in partnership with others. He also wrote lots of famous poetry.

Baptised on 26th April, 1564, his actual birthday isn’t known but conveniently England’s national day, St George’s Day, is the 23rd of April so over the years this is when his birth has been celebrated. Whether or not this is true he certainly died on this same date in 1616, having made a successful career in London first as an actor with a group called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men and then as a writer.

In the UK Shakespeare is taught throughout school, making it easy to forget that lots of the plays are actually very funny; some parts are also incredibly rude which means they’re sometimes not covered in lessons. At the time they were written plays were enjoyed by rich and poor alike - it was like going to the cinema - and only later on did the theatre become more exclusive.

Some famous quotations from Shakespeare include now common phrases which he probably invented such as the ‘green-eyed monster’ (meaning jealousy) mentioned in Othello and the idea of being ‘eaten out of house and home’ for someone who’s got a greedy guest from Henry IV. There’s also some imaginative insults such as saying someone is ‘like a toad; ugly and venomous’ in As You Like It or ‘fat as butter’ in Henry IV. The most famous quote of them all is of course the much more serious ‘To be or not to be’ from Hamlet. Basically whether you want witty one-liners or grim drama Shakespeare has something for everyone.

Today you can still visit the house where he was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, as well as where his wife Anne Hathaway was born. In London you can watch plays staged at Shakespeare’s Globe which is a reconstruction of the theatre he worked for. Not only is the theatre partly open to the elements but you can get ‘groundling’ tickets and stand just in front of the stage like the poorest would have done in the 16th century.

Discussion

Do you know any of Shakespeare's plays? Who's the most famous writer from your country?

Comments

Natalija's picture
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Natalija 5 May, 2013 - 16:22

Hi, 47mervan
I think that educational system in my country isn't very different to yours. We also start school at 7, and have 8 grades of a primary school, and after that, we have exams in Serbian and maths, and if we have good grades and enough points at the exam, we'll enter the good high school. So, there're almost no differences:).
I think that the French high school is a great choice, I wish you luck:). So, since you're from Mardin, you'll have to move to Istanbul. Is that difficult for you?
I also watch Indian films sometimes, they're very funny and good, and I like Rihanna too.
My goal in the life is to enter some good British university; I dream about Oxford, but it's very hard to get there. I'm giving my best to succeed. What about you? Do you know what would you like to study after university?

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ellen's picture
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ellen 5 May, 2013 - 16:04

Hello 47mervan
Your comments it is very nice.
Turkey it is very nice country.
I know Turkey language.
And you?
You know Azerbaijan language?
You know Azerbaijan with the brotherly country of Turkey.
How many hours a week you can pass the English language? Have you got sister and brother? Which you singers like?
You are dark hair or blonde hair ? You are tall, or undersized? Have you got some animal?
Please answer.......................................................................... -

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47mervan's picture
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47mervan 4 May, 2013 - 21:32

Hi something nice
You are right about your thinks of Mardin but also Mardin has a lot of mosque,church and historic buildings.İn my opinion the Mardin is the city of civilization because many civilizations have lived in mardin.Someone of them:Osmalılar,Akkoyunlular,Karakoyunlular,Artukulular and a lot more.So every year many tourist come to Mardin in the other countries.I think i am so lucky because i am live in Mardin.
And the other topic
İn the our country the education system different yours
When you 7 years old,you go to primary school andy ou study eight year in primary school.After then you have an exam.This exam has 100 question.If you get high mark you can go a good high school.I lived in east of country.the education in the west better than in the east.So i want to win the Galatasaray Lisesi(this is French's high school) in İstanbul(the istanbul in the west)
My favourite film is Taare Zameen Par (Every Child is Special).This is an Indian film.I like it so much(when i watch it i was crying almost.)
I like listen the music in my free time.I like the pop music.I listen Rihanna the most.My favourite song is U
Umberella
What is your goal in your live?

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Natalija's picture
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Natalija 4 May, 2013 - 13:05

Hi, mervan47:)
I think Mardin is a beautiful city, I think it's famous for amazing Arabian architecture and monuments, right?
Do you know what kind of high school you'll go? I'm attending the second grade of Gymnasium.
I like films very much, and I watch them whenever I have time. I like romantic films, dramas and thrillers the most. My favourite films are Breakfast at Tiffany's and The black swan. What's your favourite film? What kind of music you listen to the most?

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ellen's picture
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ellen 3 May, 2013 - 17:55

Hello 47mervan
Your comments it is very nice.
Turkey it is very nice country.
I know Turkey language.
And you?
You know Azerbaijan language?
You know Azerbaijan with the brotherly country of Turkey.
I like very Turkey.
How old are you?
Please.

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47mervan's picture
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47mervan 1 May, 2013 - 19:18

Hi ellen
You asked me the authors in our country.
I think the best writers are in the Turkey
Oğuz ATAY
Elif ŞAFAK
Orhan PAMUK
İskender PALA
And if you are curious about the poem you can read Can Yücel and Atilla İlhan

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47mervan 1 May, 2013 - 19:09

Hello something nice
Thanks for The Museum of İnnocence:)I am 15 years old.I from Turkey- Mardin.I like playing basketball and cycling with my brother.I used to watching TV but this year i have an important exam.I should study hard because next year i am going to high school.Do you like film?What kind of movie do you like?Can you write?

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Natalija's picture
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Natalija 30 April, 2013 - 20:25

Hi, 47mervan,
Thanks for your recommendation, I'll look for those books you've recommended to me. I heard for Masumiyet Muzesi-it's The Museum of innocence in English), and I'll read it. I know it has many personages, and the book is has many pages, but I also heard good things about it.
And Elif Safak seems to be a good writer too. How old are you? What do you like doing in your free time, except reading?
Greetings:)

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47mervan 30 April, 2013 - 16:14

hello something nice
i believe Masumiyet Müzesi(i don t now this book s name in english) the best book of Orhan Pamuk you can look ıt on the net
you can read Elif Şafak.Because she also write in english and everyone like her books.You can read this books:
Aşk
İskender
Baba ve Piç

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KLEA B's picture
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KLEA B 27 April, 2013 - 21:05

Of course i know a lot of Shakespeare's plays but my favourite are'' Hamlet'' and '' Romeo and Juliet ''. The reason why i love Shakespeare's plays is because they talk about actually problems like love between two persons but when the families are not agree . To conclude , he is a legend and no one can replace him!

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irida15 26 April, 2013 - 14:00

I know a lot of Shakespeare's plays. I like most tragedy and comedy plays like Romeo and Juliet, All's well that ends well, As you like it, Hamlet , Othello ...
I think in my country the most famous writer is Ismail Kadare. Some of his books are really amazing.

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merlin's picture
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merlin 22 April, 2013 - 15:01

i know a lot of shakspear plays my favorite one is romeo and juliet also hamlet .i and my class we will put on stage the drama romeo and juliet it s very interesting and the idea for this activity i saw here in british council.

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MALINE's picture
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MALINE 14 April, 2013 - 00:33

One of the most important writers in México was "Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz", she only could study if she became a nun and she did.

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1nada1's picture
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1nada1 1 April, 2013 - 20:33

I studied Shakspear last month, so I know lot of William's plays.
Here, in Italy, there are lots of writer: Manzoni, Dante, Boccaccio...

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ornela-k's picture
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ornela-k 31 March, 2013 - 12:12

I now some Shakespeare plays,in my country most famous are Hamlet,Romeo and Juliet an, Dream of a summer night

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LadyLily5000 30 March, 2013 - 19:45

Shakespeare and De Cervantes died on 23rd April, and that day was declared as the Book's Day. Those two great writers deserve it.
Here in Montenegro, there aren't many well known and worth of mention writers. Well, maybe Čedo Vuković. But we mostly do Serbian stories and poems. And the best writer is (for me, and for many other people too, I hope) Ivo Andrić, who won the Nobel price for his book ,,The Bridge on the Drina".

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neandertaleli's picture
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neandertaleli 9 April, 2013 - 14:55

i'm interested in this book that you mentioned at last
if you have an electronic version of this book,please write me immediately

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JoEditor's picture
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JoEditor 11 April, 2013 - 09:44

Hi neandertaleli,
Thanks for your comment. Sorry, we don't have electronic versions to share with you. 
All the best, Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Team) 

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Natalija's picture
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Natalija 28 March, 2013 - 13:50

Hi, Miley!
I've also heard that gossips, but as you've already said, perhaps we'll never know the truth. Nevertheless, his work will be famous for the future generations and like Katalea said, Shakespeare's plays will never die.
I like using To be or not be when about eating candies, nice to hear that I'm not the only one;).

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Little Princess's picture
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Little Princess 23 March, 2013 - 16:55

I have already read Romeo and Juliet, and Hamlet, of course. He is great writer and I love him. :)

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lili's picture
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lili 22 March, 2013 - 16:44

Actually you shouldn't ask if we know any of Shakespeare-s plays becouse we all know them and we all have read even one of his famous poetry.I am from Albania and right now at my school we are doing a project for Shakespeare and my teacher told me to find some information about Shakespeare and i saw this report.Right now (5:41 PM) I am learning Shakespear-s biography for our play.I like his works even though i heaven't saw all his works.......:):)

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Jona 25 March, 2013 - 21:16

Also at my school we are doing a project about Shakespeare,his life and his plays.
I wish you good luck!

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Miley 22 March, 2013 - 12:40

Oh. Of course i know many Shakespeare' s plays and i think they are amazing! But nowadays i have heard a gossip about Shakespeare, that he has copied his plays from someone else..i don't believe this is true but we will ever know the truth right? TO BE OR NOT TO BE...i love this phrase and i use it a lot for example: to eat or not to eat candy s....to study or not to study..something funny like this..in my country we have a lot of famous writer so I am not going to talk about this

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Natalija's picture
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Natalija 22 March, 2013 - 12:24

I really appreciate Shakespeare's work. He wrote so many plays, but I like Hamlet the most. I have watched a theatre performance several times.
Serbia has many famous writers, but I think that Bora Stankovic is the most famous. I really like his books, he used to write very realistic and its' books are great.

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47mervan's picture
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47mervan 5 April, 2013 - 16:23

of course HAMLET the best shakespeare`s play.ı love ıt so much.
in our country ORHAN PAMUK the best author for me

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Natalija's picture
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Natalija 22 April, 2013 - 21:27

Hi, 47mervan:)
I like Orhan Pamuk very much; he won the Nobel prize for literature in 2007., and I've read the majority of his books, my favourite ones are Benim Adım Kırmızı (My Name is Red) and Cevdet Bey ve Oğulları (Cevdet Bey and His Sons).
What books of him do you like the most? Who're the other Turkish writers you can recommend us to read?
Greetings:).

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Jona 20 March, 2013 - 18:45

I have already read a lot of Shakespeare's plays and they are amazing.
The most famous writer in my country is Ismail Kadare.He was candidate for Nobel prize and his novels are translated in many languages.I like his novels.

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