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William Shakespeare
"To be or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?"
Hamlet (III, i, 56-61)

This famous quotation begins Hamlet's celebrated soliloquy in one of Shakespeare's best known tragedies, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. The play is punctuated by soliloquies where we find out the thoughts and doubts of the main protagonist, Hamlet. Some commentators have read this soliloquy as a debate on suicide.

"The stings of fortune" was a common saying in the Renaissance, which leads some scholars to believe that "slings" is a misprint of "stings". However, "slings" likely means "sling-shot" or "missile", and compliments the reference to "arrows" - both do serious damage.


The play Hamlet is Shakespeare's best known tragedy. Shakespeare was a master of this dramatic form and uses all the key characteristics such as seriousness and dignity, and a conflict between a character and a higher power. Shakespeare takes this further as at times, such as in this famous soliloquy, Hamlet seems to be fighting against his own flaws and indecision.

The philosopher Aristotle believed that tragedy results in a feeling of catharsis (emotional cleansing) for the audience as they respond to the suffering of the characters in the drama.

 

Factoids on Shakespeare

Most quoted writer in English-speaking and world history, according to Oxford English Dictionary survey.

Sometimes referred to as the "Bard of Avon" (or simply "The Bard")

Words on gravestone: "Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear / To dig the dust enclosed here / Blest be the man that spares these stones, / And curst be he that moves my bones."

Patron Henry Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton, believed by many to be the male subject of Shakespeare's love sonnets.

Ben Jonson, contemporary dramatist, dismissed Shakespeare's style and learning as, 'small Latin and less Greek'

Profile

There is in fact comparatively little known about the life of William Shakespeare considering how his work was revered both in his own lifetime and through the centuries. There is much speculation about Shakespeare's life, even debating whether someone else wrote some or all of his plays and poetry.

He was born around 1564 in Stratford upon Avon, UK. He wrote about thirty-eight plays, a collection of sonnets and a variety of other poems. The chronology of much of Shakespeare's writing is often disputed amongst scholars, but he produced most of his work between 1586 and 1616.

His plays are often divided into groups as he excelled in all forms from comedy to tragedy, history plays and sonnets. Many of the characters in his plays are extremely complex, such as Hamlet for example, and he writes with poetic grandeur and philosophical depth.

Shakespeare's works have been translated into every major living language, and his plays are continually performed all around the world.


William Shakespeare
Shakespeare on Moving Words

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet"
Romeo and Juliet - (Act II, Scene II).

"My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go"
Hamlet - (Act III, Scene ii 100-103
)

"Have more than thou showest, speak less than thou knowest, lend less than thou owest"
King Lear - (Act I, Scene iv)


Shakespeare was asked by Queen Elizabeth I to write a speech especially for her.

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