The Latymer School History Magazine - page 30

Title page of
the first edition
Shakespeare was a
playwright and poet who
lived during the late 16
th
and
early 17
th
centuries during a
time known as the English
Renaissance, following the
Italian Renaissance. Yet 200
years on and almost all of
you have studied many of his
plays: Romeo and Juliet, A
Midsummer Night’s Dream,
The Tempest and The
Scottish Play. Shakespeare
wrote about any genre be
comedy, historical or tragedy
with many of his plays falling
into more than one genre.
During his life, Shakespeare
saw many kings come and
go. However, none of his
historical plays (which were
all about kings) featured
those that lived or reigned
during his lifetime. Surely
one writing plays about kings
would write about kings
reigning during their own
life? However, he might have
been scared to write
truthfully about the monarch
ruling at the time as this
could easily lead to him
being charged with high
treason, which more
often than not ended
in death. No one
wanted to see a play
which only praised
the monarch.
Therefore the only
way he could satirise
the Establishment
was to write about
kings that had
already died.
The two monarchs
that reigned during
his life were Elizabeth
I and James I. It is
very noticeable that
plays written during
Elizabeth’s reign
were quite optimistic
and happy; for
example A
Midsummer Night’s
Dream has a very comedic
and happy ending. On the
other hand, plays written
during James I reign were
more depressing and
despondent such as
Macbeth, where almost all of
the main characters die by
the end. Possible reasons for
this may include the fact that
during James I, the infamous
Gunpowder Plot
occurred. This
meant that spirits
were not
particularly high
and the art
therefore
reflected the
mood. What
made it worse
was that those
suspected were
tortured
mercilessly until
they confessed;
after they were
brutally executed
using the hung,
drawn and
quartered
technique.
Shakespeare’s works
influenced much of theatre
and drama that we know
today. One of Shakespeare’s
most famous pieces, Romeo
and Juliet, influenced the
way we view romance plays.
Until that time, romance
could not include tragic
elements or be identified
with the 'tragedy' genre.
His works are said to have
influenced many great
authors such as Charles
Dickens. Shakespeare also
influenced the English
language with the invention
of new words and phrases
that we use today; the
phrase “a foregone
conclusion” was first used in
Othello. Samuel Johnson’s
“Dictionary of the English
Language” quoted
Shakespeare more than any
other author.
We read and see
Shakespeare’s pieces very
often but now hopefully you
know the inspiration for his
work, some good and some
bad as well as the influences
he has on us and our
language today.
THE IMPACT OF SHAKESPEARE
By Izaac Mammadov
30
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