Coriolanus (Google eBook)

Front Cover
Penguin, Sep 1, 1999 - Drama - 192 pages
28 Reviews
"I feel that I have spent half my career with one or another Pelican Shakespeare in my back pocket. Convenience, however, is the least important aspect of the new Pelican Shakespeare series. Here is an elegant and clear text for either the study or the rehearsal room, notes where you need them and the distinguished scholarship of the general editors, Stephen Orgel and A. R. Braunmuller who understand that these are plays for performance as well as great texts for contemplation." (Patrick Stewart) The distinguished Pelican Shakespeare series, which has sold more than four million copies, is now completely revised and repackaged. Each volume features:
* Authoritative, reliable texts
* High quality introductions and notes
* New, more readable trade trim size
* An essay on the theatrical world of Shakespeare and essays on Shakespeare's life and the selection of texts




  

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Review: Coriolanus

User Review  - Fiona - Goodreads

I picked this up to read before seeing the NT Live screening of the recent Donmar Warehouse production. I read half before I saw it and half afterwards and it changed the way I read it. I read ... Read full review

Review: Coriolanus

User Review  - Kyle - Goodreads

Loved the story, and I enjoyed the essay that was at the end. I don't think the notes were as good as the Riverside, but who wants to lug that massive tome around. Read full review

Contents

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE OF STRATFORDUPONAVON GENTLEMAN
Books About Shakespeares Theater
Books About Shakespeares Life
Books About the Shakespeare Texts
I1Enter a company of mutinous Citizens with staves clubs and other weapons
I2Enter Tullus Aufidius with Senators of Corioles
I3Enter Volumnia and Virgilia mother and wife to Martius They set them down on two low stools and sew
I4Enter Martius Titus Lartius with a Trumpeter Drum and Colors with Captains and Soldiers as before the city Corioles To them a Messenger
III1Cornets Enter Coriolanus Menenius all the Gentry Cominius Titus Lartius and other Senators
III2Enter Coriolanus with Nobles
III3Enter Sicinius and Brutus
IV1Enter Coriolanus Volumnia Virgilia Menenius Cominius with the young Nobility of Rome
IV2Enter the two Tribunes Sicinius and Brutus with the Aedile
IV3Enter a Roman and a Volsce
IV4Enter Coriolanus in mean apparel disguised and muffled
IV5Music plays Enter a Servingman

I5Enter certain Romans with spoils
I6Enter Cominius as it were in retire with Soldiers
I7Titus Lartius having set a guard upon Corioles going with Drum and Trumpet toward Cominius and Caius Martius enters with a Lieutenant other S...
I8Alarum as in battle Enter Martius and Aufidius at several doors
I9Alarum A retreat is sounded Flourish Enter at one door Cominius with the Romans at another door Martius with his arm in a scarf
I10A flourish Cornets Enter Tullus Aufidius bloody with two or three Soldiers
II1Enter Menenius with the two Tribunes of the People Sicinius and Brutus
II2Enter two Officers to lay cushions as it were in the Capitol
II3Enter seven or eight Citizens
IV6Enter the two Tribunes Sicinius and Brutus
IV7Enter Aufidius with his Lieutenant
V1Enter Menenius Cominius Sicinius Brutus the two Tribunes with others
V2Enter Menenius to the Watch on guard
V3Enter Coriolanus and Aufidius with others
V4Enter Menenius and Sicinius
V5Enter two Senators with Ladies Volumnia Virgilia Valeria passing over the stage with other Lords
V6Enter Tullus Aufidius with Attendants
Copyright

Common terms and phrases

About the author (1999)

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE was born at Stratford upon Avon in April, 1564. He was the third child, and eldest son, of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden. His father was one of the most prosperous men of Stratford, who held in turn the chief offices in the town. His mother was of gentle birth, the daughter of Robert Arden of Wilmcote. In December, 1582, Shakespeare married Ann Hathaway, daughter of a farmer of Shottery, near Stratford; their first child Susanna was baptized on May 6, 1583, and twins, Hamnet and Judith, on February 22, 1585. Little is known of Shakespeare’s early life; but it is unlikely that a writer who dramatized such an incomparable range and variety of human kinds and experiences should have spent his early manhood entirely in placid pursuits in a country town. There is one tradition, not universally accepted, that he fled from Stratford because he was in trouble for deer stealing, and had fallen foul of Sir Thomas Lucy, the local magnate; another that he was for some time a schoolmaster.

From 1592 onwards the records are much fuller. In March, 1592, the Lord Strange’s players produced a new play at the Rose Theatre called Harry the Sixth, which was very successful, and was probably the First Part of Henry VI. In the autumn of 1592 Robert Greene, the best known of the professional writers, as he was dying wrote a letter to three fellow writers in which he warned them against the ingratitude of players in general, and in particular against an ‘upstart crow’ who ‘supposes he is as much able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes Factotum is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country.’ This is the first reference to Shakespeare, and the whole passage suggests that Shakespeare had become suddenly famous as a playwright. At this time Shakespeare was brought into touch with Edward Alleyne the great tragedian, and Christopher Marlowe, whose thundering parts of Tamburlaine, the Jew of Malta, and Dr Faustus Alleyne was acting, as well as Hieronimo, the hero of Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy, the most famous of all Elizabethan plays.

In April, 1593, Shakespeare published his poem Venus and Adonis, which was dedicated to the young Earl of Southampton: it was a great and lasting success, and was reprinted nine times in the next few years. In May, 1594, his second poem, The Rape of Lucrece, was also dedicated to Southampton.

There was little playing in 1593, for the theatres were shut during a severe outbreak of the plague; but in the autumn of 1594, when the plague ceased, the playing companies were reorganized, and Shakespeare became a sharer in the Lord Chamberlain’s company who went to play in the Theatre in Shoreditch. During these months Marlowe and Kyd had died. Shakespeare was thus for a time without a rival. He had already written the three parts of Henry VI, Richard III, Titus Andronicus, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Comedy of Errors, and The Taming of the Shrew. Soon afterwards he wrote the first of his greater plays – Romeo and Juliet – and he followed this success in the next three years with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard II, and The Merchant of Venice. The two parts of Henry VI, introducing Falstaff, the most popular of all his comic characters, were written in 1597–8.

The company left the Theatre in 1597 owing to disputes over a renewal of the ground lease, and went to play at the Curtain in the same neighbourhood. The disputes continued throughout 1598, and at Christmas the players settled the matter by demolishing the old Theatre and re-erecting a new playhouse on the South bank of the Thames, near Southwark Cathedral. This playhouse was named the Globe. The expenses of the new building were shared by the chief members of the Company, including Shakespeare, who was now a man of some means. In 1596 he had bought New Place, a large house in the centre of Stratford, for £60, and through his father purchased a coat-of-arms from the Heralds, which was the official recognition that he and his family were gentlefolk.

By the summer of 1598 Shakespeare was recognized as the greatest of English dramatists. Booksellers were printing his more popular plays, at times even in pirated or stolen versions, and he received a remarkable tribute from a young writer named Francis Meres, in his book Palladis Tamia. In a long catalogue of English authors Meres gave Shakespeare more prominence than any other writer, and mentioned by name twelve of his plays.

Shortly before the Globe was opened, Shakespeare had completed the cycle of plays dealing with the whole story of the Wars of the Roses with Henry V. It was followed by As You Like it, and Julius Caesar, the first of the maturer tragedies. In the next three years he wrote Troilus and Cressida, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Hamlet, and Twelfth Night.

On March 24, 1603, Queen Elizabeth died. The company had often performed before her, but they found her successor a far more enthusiastic patron. One of the first acts of King James was to take over the company and to promote them to be his own servants, so that henceforward they were known as the King’s Men. They acted now very frequently at Court, and prospered accordingly. In the early years of the reign Shakespeare wrote the more sombre comedies, All’s Well that Ends Well, and Measure for Measure, which were followed by Othello, Macbeth, and King Lear. Then he returned to Roman themes with Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus.

Since 1601 Shakespeare had been writing less, and there were now a number of rival dramatists who were introducing new styles of drama, particularly Ben Jonson (whose first successful comedy, Every Man in his Humour, was acted by Shakespeare’s company in 1598), Chapman, Dekker, Marston, and Beaumont and Fletcher who began to write in 1607. In 1608 the King’s Men acquired a second playhouse, an indoor private theatre in the fashionable quarter of the Blackfriars. At private theatres, plays were performed indoors; the prices charged were higher than in the public playhouses, and the audience consequently was more select. Shakespeare seems to have retired from the stage about this time: his name does not occur in the various lists of players after 1607. Henceforward he lived for the most part at Stratford, where he was regarded as one of the most important citizens. He still wrote a few plays, and he tried his hand at the new form of tragi-comedy – a play with tragic incidents but a happy ending – which Beaumont and Fletcher had popularized. He wrote four of these – Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest, which was acted at Court in 1611. For the last four years of his life he lived in retirement. His son Hamnet had died in 1596: his two daughters were now married. Shakespeare died at Stratford upon Avon on April 23, 1616, and was buried in the chancel of the church, before the high altar. Shortly afterwards a memorial which still exists, with a portrait bust, was set up on the North wall. His wife survived him.

When Shakespeare died fourteen of his plays had been separately published in Quarto booklets. In 1623 his surviving fellow actors, John Heming and Henry Condell, with the co-operation of a number of printers, published a collected edition of thirty-six plays in one Folio volume, with an engraved portrait, memorial verses by Ben Jonson and others, and an Epistle to the Reader in which Heming a

A. R. Braunmuller is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he teaches courses on English and European drama from 1500 to the present. He has written critical volumes on George Peele and George Chapman and has edited plays in both the Oxford (King John) and Cambridge (Macbeth) series of Shakespeare editions. He is also general editor of The New Cambridge Shakespeare


Stephen Orgel is the Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor of the Humanities at Stanford University and general editor of the Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture. He has edited Ben Johnson's masques, Christopher Marlowe's poems and translations, and many other classics. His books include The Authentic Shakespeare (2002), Impersonations: The Performance of Gender in Shakespeare's England (1996) and The Illusion of Power (1975).

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE was born at Stratford upon Avon in April, 1564. He was the third child, and eldest son, of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden. His father was one of the most prosperous men of Stratford, who held in turn the chief offices in the town. His mother was of gentle birth, the daughter of Robert Arden of Wilmcote. In December, 1582, Shakespeare married Ann Hathaway, daughter of a farmer of Shottery, near Stratford; their first child Susanna was baptized on May 6, 1583, and twins, Hamnet and Judith, on February 22, 1585. Little is known of Shakespeare’s early life; but it is unlikely that a writer who dramatized such an incomparable range and variety of human kinds and experiences should have spent his early manhood entirely in placid pursuits in a country town. There is one tradition, not universally accepted, that he fled from Stratford because he was in trouble for deer stealing, and had fallen foul of Sir Thomas Lucy, the local magnate; another that he was for some time a schoolmaster.

From 1592 onwards the records are much fuller. In March, 1592, the Lord Strange’s players produced a new play at the Rose Theatre called Harry the Sixth, which was very successful, and was probably the First Part of Henry VI. In the autumn of 1592 Robert Greene, the best known of the professional writers, as he was dying wrote a letter to three fellow writers in which he warned them against the ingratitude of players in general, and in particular against an ‘upstart crow’ who ‘supposes he is as much able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes Factotum is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country.’ This is the first reference to Shakespeare, and the whole passage suggests that Shakespeare had become suddenly famous as a playwright. At this time Shakespeare was brought into touch with Edward Alleyne the great tragedian, and Christopher Marlowe, whose thundering parts of Tamburlaine, the Jew of Malta, and Dr Faustus Alleyne was acting, as well as Hieronimo, the hero of Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy, the most famous of all Elizabethan plays.

In April, 1593, Shakespeare published his poem Venus and Adonis, which was dedicated to the young Earl of Southampton: it was a great and lasting success, and was reprinted nine times in the next few years. In May, 1594, his second poem, The Rape of Lucrece, was also dedicated to Southampton.

There was little playing in 1593, for the theatres were shut during a severe outbreak of the plague; but in the autumn of 1594, when the plague ceased, the playing companies were reorganized, and Shakespeare became a sharer in the Lord Chamberlain’s company who went to play in the Theatre in Shoreditch. During these months Marlowe and Kyd had died. Shakespeare was thus for a time without a rival. He had already written the three parts of Henry VI, Richard III, Titus Andronicus, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Comedy of Errors, and The Taming of the Shrew. Soon afterwards he wrote the first of his greater plays – Romeo and Juliet – and he followed this success in the next three years with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard II, and The Merchant of Venice. The two parts of Henry VI, introducing Falstaff, the most popular of all his comic characters, were written in 1597–8.

The company left the Theatre in 1597 owing to disputes over a renewal of the ground lease, and went to play at the Curtain in the same neighbourhood. The disputes continued throughout 1598, and at Christmas the players settled the matter by demolishing the old Theatre and re-erecting a new playhouse on the South bank of the Thames, near Southwark Cathedral. This playhouse was named the Globe. The expenses of the new building were shared by the chief members of the Company, including Shakespeare, who was now a man of some means. In 1596 he had bought New Place, a large house in the centre of Stratford, for £60, and through his father purchased a coat-of-arms from the Heralds, which was the official recognition that he and his family were gentlefolk.

By the summer of 1598 Shakespeare was recognized as the greatest of English dramatists. Booksellers were printing his more popular plays, at times even in pirated or stolen versions, and he received a remarkable tribute from a young writer named Francis Meres, in his book Palladis Tamia. In a long catalogue of English authors Meres gave Shakespeare more prominence than any other writer, and mentioned by name twelve of his plays.

Shortly before the Globe was opened, Shakespeare had completed the cycle of plays dealing with the whole story of the Wars of the Roses with Henry V. It was followed by As You Like it, and Julius Caesar, the first of the maturer tragedies. In the next three years he wrote Troilus and Cressida, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Hamlet, and Twelfth Night.

On March 24, 1603, Queen Elizabeth died. The company had often performed before her, but they found her successor a far more enthusiastic patron. One of the first acts of King James was to take over the company and to promote them to be his own servants, so that henceforward they were known as the King’s Men. They acted now very frequently at Court, and prospered accordingly. In the early years of the reign Shakespeare wrote the more sombre comedies, All’s Well that Ends Well, and Measure for Measure, which were followed by Othello, Macbeth, and King Lear. Then he returned to Roman themes with Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus.

Since 1601 Shakespeare had been writing less, and there were now a number of rival dramatists who were introducing new styles of drama, particularly Ben Jonson (whose first successful comedy, Every Man in his Humour, was acted by Shakespeare’s company in 1598), Chapman, Dekker, Marston, and Beaumont and Fletcher who began to write in 1607. In 1608 the King’s Men acquired a second playhouse, an indoor private theatre in the fashionable quarter of the Blackfriars. At private theatres, plays were performed indoors; the prices charged were higher than in the public playhouses, and the audience consequently was more select. Shakespeare seems to have retired from the stage about this time: his name does not occur in the various lists of players after 1607. Henceforward he lived for the most part at Stratford, where he was regarded as one of the most important citizens. He still wrote a few plays, and he tried his hand at the new form of tragi-comedy – a play with tragic incidents but a happy ending – which Beaumont and Fletcher had popularized. He wrote four of these – Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest, which was acted at Court in 1611. For the last four years of his life he lived in retirement. His son Hamnet had died in 1596: his two daughters were now married. Shakespeare died at Stratford upon Avon on April 23, 1616, and was buried in the chancel of the church, before the high altar. Shortly afterwards a memorial which still exists, with a portrait bust, was set up on the North wall. His wife survived him.

When Shakespeare died fourteen of his plays had been separately published in Quarto booklets. In 1623 his surviving fellow actors, John Heming and Henry Condell, with the co-operation of a number of printers, published a collected edition of thirty-six plays in one Folio volume, with an engraved portrait, memorial verses by Ben Jonson and others, and an Epistle to the Reader in which Heming a

A. R. Braunmuller is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he teaches courses on English and European drama from 1500 to the present. He has written critical volumes on George Peele and George Chapman and has edited plays in both the Oxford (King John) and Cambridge (Macbeth) series of Shakespeare editions. He is also general editor of The New Cambridge Shakespeare


Stephen Orgel is the Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor of the Humanities at Stanford University and general editor of the Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture. He has edited Ben Johnson's masques, Christopher Marlowe's poems and translations, and many other classics. His books include The Authentic Shakespeare (2002), Impersonations: The Performance of Gender in Shakespeare's England (1996) and The Illusion of Power (1975).

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE was born at Stratford upon Avon in April, 1564. He was the third child, and eldest son, of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden. His father was one of the most prosperous men of Stratford, who held in turn the chief offices in the town. His mother was of gentle birth, the daughter of Robert Arden of Wilmcote. In December, 1582, Shakespeare married Ann Hathaway, daughter of a farmer of Shottery, near Stratford; their first child Susanna was baptized on May 6, 1583, and twins, Hamnet and Judith, on February 22, 1585. Little is known of Shakespeare’s early life; but it is unlikely that a writer who dramatized such an incomparable range and variety of human kinds and experiences should have spent his early manhood entirely in placid pursuits in a country town. There is one tradition, not universally accepted, that he fled from Stratford because he was in trouble for deer stealing, and had fallen foul of Sir Thomas Lucy, the local magnate; another that he was for some time a schoolmaster.

From 1592 onwards the records are much fuller. In March, 1592, the Lord Strange’s players produced a new play at the Rose Theatre called Harry the Sixth, which was very successful, and was probably the First Part of Henry VI. In the autumn of 1592 Robert Greene, the best known of the professional writers, as he was dying wrote a letter to three fellow writers in which he warned them against the ingratitude of players in general, and in particular against an ‘upstart crow’ who ‘supposes he is as much able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes Factotum is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country.’ This is the first reference to Shakespeare, and the whole passage suggests that Shakespeare had become suddenly famous as a playwright. At this time Shakespeare was brought into touch with Edward Alleyne the great tragedian, and Christopher Marlowe, whose thundering parts of Tamburlaine, the Jew of Malta, and Dr Faustus Alleyne was acting, as well as Hieronimo, the hero of Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy, the most famous of all Elizabethan plays.

In April, 1593, Shakespeare published his poem Venus and Adonis, which was dedicated to the young Earl of Southampton: it was a great and lasting success, and was reprinted nine times in the next few years. In May, 1594, his second poem, The Rape of Lucrece, was also dedicated to Southampton.

There was little playing in 1593, for the theatres were shut during a severe outbreak of the plague; but in the autumn of 1594, when the plague ceased, the playing companies were reorganized, and Shakespeare became a sharer in the Lord Chamberlain’s company who went to play in the Theatre in Shoreditch. During these months Marlowe and Kyd had died. Shakespeare was thus for a time without a rival. He had already written the three parts of Henry VI, Richard III, Titus Andronicus, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Comedy of Errors, and The Taming of the Shrew. Soon afterwards he wrote the first of his greater plays – Romeo and Juliet – and he followed this success in the next three years with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard II, and The Merchant of Venice. The two parts of Henry VI, introducing Falstaff, the most popular of all his comic characters, were written in 1597–8.

The company left the Theatre in 1597 owing to disputes over a renewal of the ground lease, and went to play at the Curtain in the same neighbourhood. The disputes continued throughout 1598, and at Christmas the players settled the matter by demolishing the old Theatre and re-erecting a new playhouse on the South bank of the Thames, near Southwark Cathedral. This playhouse was named the Globe. The expenses of the new building were shared by the chief members of the Company, including Shakespeare, who was now a man of some means. In 1596 he had bought New Place, a large house in the centre of Stratford, for £60, and through his father purchased a coat-of-arms from the Heralds, which was the official recognition that he and his family were gentlefolk.

By the summer of 1598 Shakespeare was recognized as the greatest of English dramatists. Booksellers were printing his more popular plays, at times even in pirated or stolen versions, and he received a remarkable tribute from a young writer named Francis Meres, in his book Palladis Tamia. In a long catalogue of English authors Meres gave Shakespeare more prominence than any other writer, and mentioned by name twelve of his plays.

Shortly before the Globe was opened, Shakespeare had completed the cycle of plays dealing with the whole story of the Wars of the Roses with Henry V. It was followed by As You Like it, and Julius Caesar, the first of the maturer tragedies. In the next three years he wrote Troilus and Cressida, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Hamlet, and Twelfth Night.

On March 24, 1603, Queen Elizabeth died. The company had often performed before her, but they found her successor a far more enthusiastic patron. One of the first acts of King James was to take over the company and to promote them to be his own servants, so that henceforward they were known as the King’s Men. They acted now very frequently at Court, and prospered accordingly. In the early years of the reign Shakespeare wrote the more sombre comedies, All’s Well that Ends Well, and Measure for Measure, which were followed by Othello, Macbeth, and King Lear. Then he returned to Roman themes with Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus.

Since 1601 Shakespeare had been writing less, and there were now a number of rival dramatists who were introducing new styles of drama, particularly Ben Jonson (whose first successful comedy, Every Man in his Humour, was acted by Shakespeare’s company in 1598), Chapman, Dekker, Marston, and Beaumont and Fletcher who began to write in 1607. In 1608 the King’s Men acquired a second playhouse, an indoor private theatre in the fashionable quarter of the Blackfriars. At private theatres, plays were performed indoors; the prices charged were higher than in the public playhouses, and the audience consequently was more select. Shakespeare seems to have retired from the stage about this time: his name does not occur in the various lists of players after 1607. Henceforward he lived for the most part at Stratford, where he was regarded as one of the most important citizens. He still wrote a few plays, and he tried his hand at the new form of tragi-comedy – a play with tragic incidents but a happy ending – which Beaumont and Fletcher had popularized. He wrote four of these – Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest, which was acted at Court in 1611. For the last four years of his life he lived in retirement. His son Hamnet had died in 1596: his two daughters were now married. Shakespeare died at Stratford upon Avon on April 23, 1616, and was buried in the chancel of the church, before the high altar. Shortly afterwards a memorial which still exists, with a portrait bust, was set up on the North wall. His wife survived him.

When Shakespeare died fourteen of his plays had been separately published in Quarto booklets. In 1623 his surviving fellow actors, John Heming and Henry Condell, with the co-operation of a number of printers, published a collected edition of thirty-six plays in one Folio volume, with an engraved portrait, memorial verses by Ben Jonson and others, and an Epistle to the Reader in which Heming a

A. R. Braunmuller is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he teaches courses on English and European drama from 1500 to the present. He has written critical volumes on George Peele and George Chapman and has edited plays in both the Oxford (King John) and Cambridge (Macbeth) series of Shakespeare editions. He is also general editor of The New Cambridge Shakespeare


Stephen Orgel is the Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor of the Humanities at Stanford University and general editor of the Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture. He has edited Ben Johnson's masques, Christopher Marlowe's poems and translations, and many other classics. His books include The Authentic Shakespeare (2002), Impersonations: The Performance of Gender in Shakespeare's England (1996) and The Illusion of Power (1975).

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE was born at Stratford upon Avon in April, 1564. He was the third child, and eldest son, of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden. His father was one of the most prosperous men of Stratford, who held in turn the chief offices in the town. His mother was of gentle birth, the daughter of Robert Arden of Wilmcote. In December, 1582, Shakespeare married Ann Hathaway, daughter of a farmer of Shottery, near Stratford; their first child Susanna was baptized on May 6, 1583, and twins, Hamnet and Judith, on February 22, 1585. Little is known of Shakespeare’s early life; but it is unlikely that a writer who dramatized such an incomparable range and variety of human kinds and experiences should have spent his early manhood entirely in placid pursuits in a country town. There is one tradition, not universally accepted, that he fled from Stratford because he was in trouble for deer stealing, and had fallen foul of Sir Thomas Lucy, the local magnate; another that he was for some time a schoolmaster.

From 1592 onwards the records are much fuller. In March, 1592, the Lord Strange’s players produced a new play at the Rose Theatre called Harry the Sixth, which was very successful, and was probably the First Part of Henry VI. In the autumn of 1592 Robert Greene, the best known of the professional writers, as he was dying wrote a letter to three fellow writers in which he warned them against the ingratitude of players in general, and in particular against an ‘upstart crow’ who ‘supposes he is as much able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes Factotum is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country.’ This is the first reference to Shakespeare, and the whole passage suggests that Shakespeare had become suddenly famous as a playwright. At this time Shakespeare was brought into touch with Edward Alleyne the great tragedian, and Christopher Marlowe, whose thundering parts of Tamburlaine, the Jew of Malta, and Dr Faustus Alleyne was acting, as well as Hieronimo, the hero of Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy, the most famous of all Elizabethan plays.

In April, 1593, Shakespeare published his poem Venus and Adonis, which was dedicated to the young Earl of Southampton: it was a great and lasting success, and was reprinted nine times in the next few years. In May, 1594, his second poem, The Rape of Lucrece, was also dedicated to Southampton.

There was little playing in 1593, for the theatres were shut during a severe outbreak of the plague; but in the autumn of 1594, when the plague ceased, the playing companies were reorganized, and Shakespeare became a sharer in the Lord Chamberlain’s company who went to play in the Theatre in Shoreditch. During these months Marlowe and Kyd had died. Shakespeare was thus for a time without a rival. He had already written the three parts of Henry VI, Richard III, Titus Andronicus, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Comedy of Errors, and The Taming of the Shrew. Soon afterwards he wrote the first of his greater plays – Romeo and Juliet – and he followed this success in the next three years with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard II, and The Merchant of Venice. The two parts of Henry VI, introducing Falstaff, the most popular of all his comic characters, were written in 1597–8.

The company left the Theatre in 1597 owing to disputes over a renewal of the ground lease, and went to play at the Curtain in the same neighbourhood. The disputes continued throughout 1598, and at Christmas the players settled the matter by demolishing the old Theatre and re-erecting a new playhouse on the South bank of the Thames, near Southwark Cathedral. This playhouse was named the Globe. The expenses of the new building were shared by the chief members of the Company, including Shakespeare, who was now a man of some means. In 1596 he had bought New Place, a large house in the centre of Stratford, for £60, and through his father purchased a coat-of-arms from the Heralds, which was the official recognition that he and his family were gentlefolk.

By the summer of 1598 Shakespeare was recognized as the greatest of English dramatists. Booksellers were printing his more popular plays, at times even in pirated or stolen versions, and he received a remarkable tribute from a young writer named Francis Meres, in his book Palladis Tamia. In a long catalogue of English authors Meres gave Shakespeare more prominence than any other writer, and mentioned by name twelve of his plays.

Shortly before the Globe was opened, Shakespeare had completed the cycle of plays dealing with the whole story of the Wars of the Roses with Henry V. It was followed by As You Like it, and Julius Caesar, the first of the maturer tragedies. In the next three years he wrote Troilus and Cressida, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Hamlet, and Twelfth Night.

On March 24, 1603, Queen Elizabeth died. The company had often performed before her, but they found her successor a far more enthusiastic patron. One of the first acts of King James was to take over the company and to promote them to be his own servants, so that henceforward they were known as the King’s Men. They acted now very frequently at Court, and prospered accordingly. In the early years of the reign Shakespeare wrote the more sombre comedies, All’s Well that Ends Well, and Measure for Measure, which were followed by Othello, Macbeth, and King Lear. Then he returned to Roman themes with Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus.

Since 1601 Shakespeare had been writing less, and there were now a number of rival dramatists who were introducing new styles of drama, particularly Ben Jonson (whose first successful comedy, Every Man in his Humour, was acted by Shakespeare’s company in 1598), Chapman, Dekker, Marston, and Beaumont and Fletcher who began to write in 1607. In 1608 the King’s Men acquired a second playhouse, an indoor private theatre in the fashionable quarter of the Blackfriars. At private theatres, plays were performed indoors; the prices charged were higher than in the public playhouses, and the audience consequently was more select. Shakespeare seems to have retired from the stage about this time: his name does not occur in the various lists of players after 1607. Henceforward he lived for the most part at Stratford, where he was regarded as one of the most important citizens. He still wrote a few plays, and he tried his hand at the new form of tragi-comedy – a play with tragic incidents but a happy ending – which Beaumont and Fletcher had popularized. He wrote four of these – Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest, which was acted at Court in 1611. For the last four years of his life he lived in retirement. His son Hamnet had died in 1596: his two daughters were now married. Shakespeare died at Stratford upon Avon on April 23, 1616, and was buried in the chancel of the church, before the high altar. Shortly afterwards a memorial which still exists, with a portrait bust, was set up on the North wall. His wife survived him.

When Shakespeare died fourteen of his plays had been separately published in Quarto booklets. In 1623 his surviving fellow actors, John Heming and Henry Condell, with the co-operation of a number of printers, published a collected edition of thirty-six plays in one Folio volume, with an engraved portrait, memorial verses by Ben Jonson and others, and an Epistle to the Reader in which Heming a

A. R. Braunmuller is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he teaches courses on English and European drama from 1500 to the present. He has written critical volumes on George Peele and George Chapman and has edited plays in both the Oxford (King John) and Cambridge (Macbeth) series of Shakespeare editions. He is also general editor of The New Cambridge Shakespeare


Stephen Orgel is the Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor of the Humanities at Stanford University and general editor of the Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture. He has edited Ben Johnson's masques, Christopher Marlowe's poems and translations, and many other classics. His books include The Authentic Shakespeare (2002), Impersonations: The Performance of Gender in Shakespeare's England (1996) and The Illusion of Power (1975).

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