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     Volume 6 Issue 15 | April 20, 2007 |

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View from the Bottom

Shahnoor Wahid

If there be no great love in the beginning, yet heaven may decrease it upon better acquaintance, when we are married and have more occasion to know one another: I hope, upon familiarity will grow more contempt .”

Well, who else but William Shakespeare could pour so much of humour and hilarity in the lines to remind us of the flip side of the relationship called marriage (These are lines from The Merry Wives of Windsor)? I have quoted these lines taking great risks of facing the wrath of my happily married friends and foes. I am sure all familiarity between married couples do not breed contempt, they even do worse. Well, that is altogether an interestingly different topic to dwell on at some later time. For the time being let us concentrate on Shakespeare.

April is the most significant month in the life of William Shakespeare. It is believed that he was born on 23 April 1564, and died on 23 April 1616. This English poet and playwright is widely read all over the world including Bangladesh. He is no doubt one of the greatest writers and dramatists of the English language. He wrote about 38 plays, 154 sonnets and a good number of poems. He is considered to be England's national poet and is popularly referred to as the "Bard of Avon."

A short take

Some biographers believe Shakespeare penned most of his works between 1586 and 1612. According to one biographer, 'Shakespeare's works have been translated into every major living language, and his plays are continually performed all around the world. Shakespeare is the most quoted writer in the literature and history of the English-speaking world, and many of his quotations and neologisms have passed into everyday usage in English and other languages.

'William Shakespeare is also spelled Shakspere, Shaksper, Shaxper, and Shake-speare, as spelling in Elizabethan times was not fixed. Shakespeare may have attended King Edward VI Grammar School in central Stratford, but no school records of the time survive. The school probably would have provided an intensive education in Latin grammar and literature, although Elizabethan-era grammar schools varied in quality.

At the age of eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway, aged twenty-six, on 28 November 1582. After his marriage Shakespeare left few traces in the historical record until he appeared on the London theatrical scene. Indeed, the period from 1585 (when his twin children were born) until 1592 (When Robert Greene called him an "upstart crow") are known as Shakespeare's "lost years" because no evidence survives to show exactly where he was or why he left Stratford for London.

London and theatrical career

By 1592 Shakespeare was a playwright in London; his reputation was high enough for Robert Greene to denounce him as "an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: "and being an absolute Johannes factotum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey." (The italicised line parodies the phrase, "Oh, tiger's heart wrapped in a woman's hide" which Shakespeare wrote in Henry VI, part 3.)

By late 1594 Shakespeare was an actor, writer and part-owner of a playing company known as the Lord Chamberlain's Men. By 1596 Shakespeare had moved to the parish of St. Helen's, Bishopsgate, and by 1598 he appeared at the top of a list of actors in Every Man in His Humour written by Ben Jonson. By 1598, his name also began to appear on the title pages of his plays, presumably as a selling point.

Later years

Shakespeare appears to have retired to Stratford in 1613. He died on 23 April 1616 at the age of 52. Supposedly Shakespeare died on his birthday, if the tradition that he was born on April 23 is correct. Shakespeare is buried in the chancel of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon. Each year on his claimed birthday, a new quill pen is placed in the writing hand of the bust. He may have written the epitaph on his tombstone:

“Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear,To dig the dust enclosèd here. Blest be the man that spares these stones,And cursed be he that moves my bones. ”

Well, that was a very short account of the illustrious career of William Shakespeare. Here I would like to share a quotation from one of his plays, which might remind valued readers of the situation at home:

“If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?"

Merchant of Venice

William Shakespeare was a genius all right, but, by God, his signature is more illegible than mine! At least here I excel over him!

(Source: Internet)

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