Shakespeare Essay, Research Paper
Shakespeare, William (The Poetry)Shakespeare would be well known for his poetry alone. His first published works were the narratives Venus and Adonis (1593) and The Rape of Lucrece (1594). The love poem The Phoenix and the Turtle appeared in 1601. But his major achievement is the Sonnets (1609, written in the 1590s). In them Shakespeare exercises his talent for compressing meaning, fully realized in his later work. Addressed (numbers 1-126) to the unidentified W.H. and (numbers 127-152) to the mysterious dark lady, the SONNETS treat the themes of time, mutability, and death, and their transcendence through love and art. The chronology of the plays is uncertain, but style and content analysis give a reasonable approximation of their order. They fall roughly into three periods. In the first are history plays, beginning with the three parts of Henry VI, and comedies. At this stage Shakespeare’s historical tragedies (Titus Andronicus) lack depth of characterization and are somewhat bombastic. The comedies are essentially classical imitations, with strong elements of FARCE (The Comedy of Errors). The last play in this first period, Romeo and Juliet (c.1594), evidences Shakespeare’s maturing talent. The versification is more complex, and rhythms reflect the speaker’s state of mind, a technique he developed with increasing subtlety. In the second period, from Richard II (c.1595) through Twelfth Night (c.1599), Shakespeare produced histories and tragedies in which characterization and practical elements are successfully blended. In the COMEDIES of this period he moved away from farce toward idyllic ROMANCE (As You Like It). The third period, from 1600, saw the appearance of Shakespeare’s major TRAGEDIES, beginning with Hamlet, and problem plays. The tragedies, after Othello, present clear oppositions of order to chaos, and good to evil, on all levels. The style becomes increasingly compressed and symbolic. Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest are tragicomedies, with full tragic potential but a harmonious resolution through grace, a term with divine as well as artistic implications. Shakespeare has been criticized for failing to propound a philosophy, but the enduring appeal of his plays lies in his human vision, which recognizes the complexity of moral questions, and in the unparalleled richness of his language.