William Shakespeare's Poetry
Support for studying English GCSE and A Level
William Shakespeare - Biography
William Shakespeare was baptised (Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England) on 26 April 1564 and died on 23 April 1616 (Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England). He was a poet, playwright and actor. Shakespeare is regarded as the world’s greatest dramatist.
Shakespeare’s parents were John and Mary. He was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, but the date of his birth is unknown; yet it is often observed as 23rd April. Shakespeare was the third of eight children. He was probably educated at the King's New School (free school) in Stratford, but no records of this exist.
Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway at the age of eighteen – she was twenty-six and already pregnant. They had three children: Susanna, Hamnet and Judith (twins). Hamnet died at the age of eleven, but the cause of death is unknown – possibly from the bubonic plague.
It is not known exactly why Shakespeare moved to London. His first biographer mentions that it was to escape prosecution for deer poaching. Perhaps it was just to start his theatrical career.
Shakespeare has been attributed with writing 39 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses. Authorship has been questioned by some critics, but most would argue he was one of the greatest writers (if not the greatest) of the English language.
William Shakespeare - 'Sonnet 116' - Annotation
Annotation prompts for William Shakespeare's 'Sonnet 116'.
'Sonnet 116' is taken from Shakespeare's collection of 154 sonnets -- published 1609. They were dedicated "Mr. W.H" -- identity unknown. Critics have speculated that the initials could refer to various people. Two most likely candidates: William Herbert (the Earl of Pembroke), who was the dedicatee of the First Folio of Shakespeare's works / Henry Wriothesley (Earl of Southampton) with initials reversed -- he was known for his good looks and the dedicatee of Shakespeare's poems Venus & Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. Shakespeare was baptised 26.04.1564 / died 23.04.1616. This sonnet -- one of Shakespeare's most famous -- presents love as unwavering. Love is an abstract concept and difficult to describe. Study the ways Shakespeare defines, then redefines love.
There is a lot of debate about who the poem was aimed at. Is the love plutonic / sexual? Is the love described in the poem between a man and a woman? Does this poem hold an idyllic view of love? Are we right to assume that this poem is from Shakespeare's perspective? He is regarded as the greatest writer of the English language. He has written 38 plays / 154 sonnets. He married Anne Hathaway and had 3 children.
The annotation prompts are a supportive tool, intended to encourage further analysis and interpretation.