Join English Studyz
William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare : Life and Plays, Characters, Quotes and Lines

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare leads all that brilliant group of poets and dramatists who have given undying glory to the age of Elizabeth. He lived in a play loving age; he studied the crowds, gave them what they wanted, and simply reflected their own thoughts and feelings.

William Shakespeare was born on 23 April, 1564 at Stratford-on Avon and was baptised there on the 26th April, 1564. The actual birthday is 23 April. His father, John Shakespeare was a farmer’s son from the neighbouring village of Snitterfield. He was a trader in corn, meat, leather and other agricultural products. His mother, Mary Arden was the daughter of a prosperous farmer.  He attended grammar school at Stratford, where he picked up the “small Latin and less Greek”

Stratford is a charming little village in beautiful War-wickshire, and and near at hand were the forest of Arden.

In 1582 Shakespeare was married to Anne Hathaway, the daughter of a peasant family of Shorttory, who was 8 years older then her husband. In 1587 Shakespeare left his family and went to London and joined himself to Burbage’s company of Players.

The Life of Shakespeare from 1587-1611, the period of his greatest literary activity. He died on 23 April, 1616.

William Shakespeare had two older sisters. Joan and Judith and three younger brothers Gilbert, Richard and Edmund.

Shakespeare had three children Susana, Hamnet and Judith. Son, Hamnet died at the age of eleven.

Shakespeare’s literary career started around 1592.

In 1594 he became a leading member of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, an acting company in London. After the crowning of king James I, in 1603 the company changed its name to the King’s Men.

Most of his plays were written as ‘quarto texts’ on a sheet of paper folded four ways. His first collection of works was printed in 1623.

Shakespeare’s Literary Periods

First Literary Period (1585-1594)

In this period, Shakespeare wrote 26 sonnets and plays. Plays of this period also show the influence of Christopher Marlowe. Plays of this period are – Henry VI (Part – I, II, III), Richard III, Titus Andronicus, Comedy of Errors, Taming of the Shrew, and poems are – Venus and Adonis, Rape of Lucrece were all written during this period.

2nd Literary Period (1594-1600)

In this period he wrote chronicle history plays – Richard II, Henry IV (Part I and IV) and Henry V. Comedies – Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado Nothing, As You Like It and Twelfth Night. This Period shows progress in Shakespeare’s dramatic art.

3rd Literary Literary Period (1601-108)

3rd Literary period was most productive for him. In this period Shakespeare mostly wrote tragedies or romances. Tragedies of this period are – Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra. Comedies of this period are All’s Well that Ends Well and Measure for Measure.

4rth Literary Period (1608-1613)

During this period Shakespeare wrote three plays – Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline and The Tempest. Plays of this period are characterised by a grave cynicism and resignation.

Plays of Shakespeare

  • Love’s Labour’s Lost – 1590
  • Comedy of Errors – 1595
  • Two Gentlemen of Verona – 1589-93
  • A Midsummer Night’s dream – 1595-96
  • Romeo and Juliet – 1595
  • Merchant of Venice – 1598
  • As you Like It – 1599
  • Twelfth Night – 1602
  • Julius Caesar – 1599
  • Hamlet – 1599-1603
  • Macbeth – 1606
  • Othello – 1603
  • King Lear – 1606
  • Antony and Cleopatra – 1606
  • Coriolanus – 1607-08
  • Cymbeline – 1609-10
  • Winter’s Tale – 1610-11
  • Pericles – 1608-09
  • The Tempest -1611
  • Venus and Adonis – 1594
  • Rape of Lucrece – 1594
  • Titus Andronicus – 1590-91
  • Henry VI (Part III) – 1590-91
  • Richard III – 1593
  • Richard II – 1594
  • King John – 1594-95
  • Henry IV Part 1st – 1596
  • Henry IV (Part II) – 1597
  • Merry Wives of Windsor – 1597
  • Much Ado About Nothing – 1598
  • Henry V- 1599
  • Taming of The Shrew  – 1601-02
  • All’s Well That Ends Well – 1603
  • Measure for Measure – 1603
  • Timon of Athens – 1607
  • Cymbeline – 1609
  • Winter’s Tale – 1610-11
  • Henry VIII – Unfinished

Notable points on Shakespeare 

  • Shakespeare works are often divided into three classes called historical plays, legendary plays, fictional  plays
  • For his legendary and historical plays he depended largely on Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland and on North’s translation of Plutarch’s famous lives.
  • Shakespeare’s drama are usually divided into three classes called tragedies, comedies, and historical plays.
  • Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets. These sonnets were published in 1609. These sonnets are divided in two classes, addressed to a man who was Shakespeare’s friend, and to a woman who disdained his love.
Quotes on Shakespeare 
  • “I do not remember that any book or person event in my life ever made so great an impression upon me as the plays of Shakespeare.” – Goethe
  • “An upstart crow beautified with our feathers that with his tiger’s heart wrapped in a player’s hide.” – Robert Green
  • “We can say of Shakespeare, that never has a man turned so little knowledge to such great account.”  T.S Eliot
  • “Brush up your Shakespeare” – Cole Porter
  • “When I read Shakespeare I can struck with wonder that such trivial people should muse and thunder in such lovely language.” –  D.H Lawrence
  • ” Our myriad-minded Shakespeare.” – Samual Taller Coleridge
  • “Sweet swan of Avon.” – Ben Jonson
  • ” If I say that Shakespeare is the greatest of intellects. I have said that all concerning him. but there is more in Shakespeare’s intellect than we have yet seen. It is what I call an unconscious intellect therefore is more virtue in it he himself is aware of.” – Thomas Carlyle
  •  “If we have wish to know the force of human genius we should read Shakespeare. If we wish to see the insignificance of human learning we may study his commentators.” – William Hazlitt
  • “Hamlet’s experience simply could not have happened to a plumber.” – George Bernard Shaw
  • “There Shakespeare, on whose forehead climb, the crowns o’ the world; oh, eyes sublime with tears and laughter for all time.” –  Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  • “And one wild Shakespeare, following Nature’s lights, Is worth planets, filled with stragyrites” – Thomas More
  • “Scorn not sonnet; critic, you have frowned. Mindless of its just honours; with this key. Shakespeare unlocked his heart.” – William Wordsworth
Shakespeare Plays and Their Sources
As You Like ItThomas Lodge’s Rosalynde
HamletSaxo Grammaticus’ Historia Danica
OthelloCinthio’s Hecatommithi
MecbethStories from Holinshed’s
Chronicles of Scotland
Julius Caesar and Other
Roman Plays
Thomas North’s Translation of
Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble
Grecians and Romans
Romeo and JulietArthur Brooke’s Verse Poem – The
Tragical History of Romeo and Juliet
The Comedy of ErrorsPlatus’ Menaechmi
The Two Gentlemen of VeronaJorge de Montemajor’s Pastoral Romance
Diana Enamorada
All’s well that Ends wellWilliam Painter’ Palace of Pleasure
PericlesJohn Gower’s Confessio Amantis
CymbelineBoccaccio’s Decameron
The Winter’s TaleRobert Green’s Pastoral Romance Pandosto
or the Truimph of Time

Shakespearean Comedy

Shakespeare perfected the genre of Romantic Comedy. Most of his comedies are romantic type. The main theme of Shakespeare’s comedy is love. The play frequently ends with a marriage or a celebration.

  • All’s Well that Ends Well
  • The Comedy of Errors
  • Love’s Labour’s Lost
  • The Merchant of Venice
  • Taming of The Shrew
  • Twelth Night
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona
  • The Winter’s Tale
  • As You Like It
  • Cymbeline
  • Measure for Measure
  • Pericles Prince of Tyre
  • The Tempest

Shakespearean Tragedy

According to A.C Bradley, A Shakespearean tragedy can be divided into three parts.

  1. An exposition of the state of affairs
  2. The beginning, growth and vicissitudes of the conflict.
  3. The final catastrophe of or tragic outcome. Shakespearean tragedy is primarily concerned with one person the tragic hero. The tragedy ends with the death of the tragic hero.

Tragedies –

  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Macbeth
  • King Lear
  • Hamlet
  • Othello
  • Titus Andronicus
  • Julius Caesar
  • Antony and Cleopatra
  • Coriolanus
  • Cymbeline
  • Troilus and Cressida

Shakespeare’s History Plays

Michael Hattaway quotes – Shakespeare’s  History plays are related to history mainly by offering representations of historical figures and the creation of theatre out of historical events”.

His historical plays primary source was Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland.

Features –  

  • Shakespeare’s History plays usually have episodic plots.
  • They reflect the political ideology of the chronicle history books as well as the personal bias of the playwright.
  • The may usually contain elements of both tragedy and comedy and exhibit the traits of just one of these genres.

Historical Plays

  • King John
  • Richard II
  • Henry IV, Part 2
  • Henry IV, Part 1
  • Henry IV, Part 3
  • Henry VIII
  • Edward III
  • Henry IV, Part V
  • Henry V
  • Henry Vi, Part 2
  • Richard III

Shakespeare’s Roman Plays

Though Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus are included under tragedies, yet they also sometimes considered by critics in a separate category known as Roman Plays of Shakespeare.

All these plays are set in Rome, deal with similar subjects and make use of the same source – North’s Translation of Plutarch’s Lives.


  • They are all set in ancient Rome and were staged in Roman costumes and Roman sets.
  • Blood, violence and and mayhem are important features of these plays.
  • Suicide is depicted as an important roman custom.
  • Shakespeare depicts the Roman as self-conscious, theatrical and historical and historical aware characters.

Shakespeare’s Problem Plays

Shakespeare’s problem plays do not neatly fit into any of these categories. Critic Frederick S. Boas first used the term, ‘Problem Plays’. The problem plays was already used for writers like Ibsen and G.B Shaw.

All’s Well that Ends Well, Measure for Measure and Troilus and Cressida.

Shakespeare Poems

William Shakespeare wrote 5 poems these are

  1. Venus and Adonis – 1593
  2. Rape of Lucrece – 1594
  3. Passionate Pilgrim – 1598
  4. Phoenix and the Turtle – 1601
  5. The Lover’s Complaint – 1609

Venus and Adonis and Rape of Lucrece are dedicated to Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton. The story of Venus and Adonis is taken from Ovid’s Metamorphosis. It describes the unsuccessful seduction of a handsome youngman Adonis by Venus, the Goddess of Love.

The story of Rape of Lucrece is derived from Ovid’s Fasti, Livy’s History of Rome and perhaps Chaucer’s The Legend of Good Woman. It describes the the rape of a virtuous noble woman Lucrece by the son of king Tarquin, Sextus Tarquinius. Lucrece is the wife of Tarquinius friend.

Shakespeare Sonnets

Shakespeare’s sonnets are addressed to a person called Mr. WH. The two leading candidates are Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton and William Herbert, the third earl of Pembroke. Sonnets from 127-154 are addressed to ‘Dark Lady’

Shakespeare’s Quotes and Lines

“To be or not to be; that is the question” – Hamlet – Act – 3, Scene – 1

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exists ant their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts” – As you Like It, Act – 2 Scene – 7

“Now is the winter of our discontent” – Richard III Act – I, Scene – 1

” Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand?” – Macbeth, Act – 2 – Scene – 1

“The lady doth pretest too much, methinks” – Hamlet, Act – 3, Scene – 2

“Beware the Ides of March” – Julius Caesar, Act – 1 Scene – 2

“If music be the food of love play on” – Twelfth Night, Act – 1, Scene – 2

“The better part of valor is discretion” – Henry IV, Part – 1, Act – 5, Scene – 4

“All that glitters is not gold” – The Merchant of Venice, Act – 2 Scene – 7

“Cry ‘havoc’ and let slip the dogs of war” – Julius Caesar, Act – 3, Scene – 1

“A horse ! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!” – Richard III, Act – 5, Scene – 4

“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” Henry IV, Part – 2, Act – 3, Scene – 1

“Brevity is the soul of wit’ – Hamlet, Act – 2, Scene – 2

“What light through yonder window breaks” – Romeo and Juliet, Act – 2, Scene – 2

‘Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness and have greatness thrust upon them” – Twelfth Night, Act – 2, Scene – 5

“Cowards die many times before their death; the valiant never taste of death but once” – Julius Caesar

“A man can die but once” – Henry IV, Part – 2, Act – 3 ,Scene – 2

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child” – King Lear, Act – 1, Scene – 4

“Frailty thy name is woman” – Hamlet, Act – 1 Scene – 2

“I am one who loved not wisely but too well” – Othello, Act – 5 Scene – 2

“Et tu Brute?” – Julius Caesar, Act – 3, Scene – 1

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” – Hamlet, Act – 2, Scene – 2

“Nothing will come of nothing” – King Lear, Act – 1, Scene – 1

“The Course of true love never did run smooth” – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act – 1, Scene – 1

“We know what we are, but know not what we may be” – Hamlet, Act – 4, Scene – 5

“Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellow” – The Tempest, Act – 2, Scene – 2

‘This is very midsummer madness Twelfth Night, Act – 3, Scene – 4

“Some cupid kills with arrow, some with traps” – Much Ado About Nothing – Act – 3, Scene – 1

“We have seen better days” – Timon Athens – Act – 4 Scene – 2

” I am a man more sinned against than sinning” – King Lear, Act – 3, Scene – 1

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool” – As You Like It

“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none” – All’s Well That Ends Well

“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” – The Tempest

Shakespeare Plays Settings

  • The Comedy of Errors – Ephesus (Turkey)
  • The Taming of the Shrew – Padua (Italy)
  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona – Verona (Italy/Milan)
  • Love’s Labour’s Lost – Navarre (Spain)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Athens (Greece)
  • The Merchant of Venice – Venice (Italy)
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor – Windsor (UK)
  • Much Ado About Nothing – Messina (Italy)
  • As You Like It – Arden (France)
  • Twelfth Night – Illariya (Yugoslavia)
  • Troilus and Cressida – Troy (Turkey)
  • All’s Wells That End’s Well – Rossillion, France (Paris)
  • Measure for Measure – Viena (Austria)
  • Henry VI Part 1st – London (UK)
  • Henry VI Part 2nd – London
  • Henry VI Part 3rd – London
  • Richard III – London
  • Richard II – London & Wales
  • King John – London and France
  • Henry 4th part 1st – London & Wales
  • Henry IV Part II – London
  • Henry V – London
  • Henry VIII – London
  • Titus Andronicus – Rome (Italy)
  • Romeo and Juliet – Verona
  • Julius Caesar – Rome (Italy)
  • Hamlet – Elsinore (Denmark)
  • Othello – Venice (Italy)
  • King Lear – Britain
  • Macbeth – Inverness (Scotland)
  • Antony and Cleopatra – Alexandria (Egypt)
  • Coriolanus – Rome, Syria (Italy)
  • Timon of Athens – Athens (Greece)
  • Pericles – Tyre (Lebanon)
  • Cymbeline – Britain & Italy
  • The Winter’s Tale – Sicilian (Italy) & Bohemia
  • The Tempest – Fictional Island

Read Also –

Hamlet: Quotes and Questions and Answers

Shakespeare Characters

Shakespeare Quotes and Lines

Shakespeare Criticism

Shakespeare Question and Answer

King Lear



The Tempest

As You Like It

error: Content is protected !!