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In the tradition of ancient Greek epics, John Milton begins his poem by calling on the guidance of a heavenly muse to help tell his tale, stating that his goal is to justify the ways of God to man. He begins his story in medias res (in the middle of things). God has cast Satan and his rebel army of fallen angels out of Heaven, and they are floating on a fiery lake in Hell. These angels become devils and form a council to debate how to overthrow God. Through his second-in-command, Satan convinces them that the best target is man, God’s newest creation. Satan volunteers to fly to the world full of God’s new creatures. His daughter, Sin, and their incestuous son, Death, help him escape from Hell. The personifications of Chaos and Night also help pave the way for Satan to enter the new world, because they have no particular allegiance to God.
God, in his omniscience, already knows that Satan will succeed in tempting and corrupting mankind. He announces that man will be punished for his disobedience, because he created humans to be strong enough to withstand temptation. He claims that his new creations will be punished by death unless someone in Heaven is willing to die on their behalf. Only God’s Son volunteers. Satan lands in the new world and sneaks into the Garden of Eden disguised as a cherub. Once inside the garden, he spies God’s new creations, Adam and Eve, and is deeply envious of their innocence and happiness. Though he has a moment of doubt and almost feels love for the humans, he resolves to continue with his plan to corrupt them. It is the only revenge he can get against God. He overhears Adam and Eve discussing how God forbade them from eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge and decides that he will trick them into disobeying God by eating the fruit.
Uriel, the angel guarding Paradise, realizes that the cherub is Satan in disguise and sends for the archangel Gabriel to find the intruder. Gabriel confronts him, and Satan reveals himself and prepares for battle. God then sends Satan a warning: a pair of Golden Scales in the sky that demonstrates how pointless it is to fight. Satan flees, recognizing that God does have the ultimate power and advantage.
Satan whispers an upsetting dream about eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge in Eve’s ear while she is sleeping. God decides that although he cannot control their actions, he must warn Adam and Eve about Satan. He sends his archangel Raphael to discuss with Adam the idea that they have the free will to make their own choices and to warn them about the temptation they will face and its consequences. Raphael also tells Adam the story of Satan’s rebellion in Heaven—which began when Satan, then a high-ranking angel, became envious of the Son, who would become King of Heaven. Satan then convinced other angels to rebel against God and forms an army. Yet all angels are immortal—while they can be wounded, they can’t be killed. TA mind not to be changed by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’nhe battle that Raphael describes to Adam seems pointless, especially because the all- powerful God can call an end to the war whenever he likes. He does so on the third day, telling his Son to banish the rebel angels to Hell. After Raphael finishes telling Adam the story, Satan returns to the Garden of Eden, taking on the disguise of a serpent. He finds Eve alone and speaks to her. Eve is curious about how he came to be able to speak, and he tells her that he learned by eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. He tells her that if she eats the fruit she can become a goddess and gain knowledge as well. After hesitating, she eats the fruit and then offers it to Adam. Though he realizes that she has disobeyed God’s orders, he eats the fruit so they will share the same fate. God then sends the Son to the Garden of Eden, where he condemns Eve and all future women to experience pain when they give birth. He also condemns Adam to have to labor to grow his food and tells Eve she must submit to Adam. Satan is gleeful that he has accomplished his plan, and his children, Sin and Death, build a bridge between Hell and Earth. Though Satan arrives triumphantly in Hell, believing he has outsmarted God, God punishes Satan by turning him and the other devils into serpents, doomed to eternally hunger for fruit that turns to ashes when they bite into it.
God next orders angels to make the new world more hostile to mirror Adam and Eve’s fall. The angels create storms and turn creatures against each other to create discord and suffering. Adam and Eve begin fighting and blame each other for the punishment they are enduring. Ultimately they decide to repent to God, swearing to be obedient. God agrees to be merciful, allowing them and their offspring into Heaven in the afterlife if they are obedient to him. God sends the archangel Michael to show Adam what his and Eve’s future will look like: their sons will murder each other, tyrants will rule, and biblical floods will wipe out most people. Yet he offers them hope in addition to depicting the suffering that future humans will endure: he shows Adam a rainbow meant to reflect God’s mercy and biblical characters such as Noah, Enoch, and Jesus—men who will redeem humanity through their selfless acts. Adam and Eve finally leave Paradise, accepting their fate.
English Literature UGC NET PGT TGT English literature Free Notes and PDFs of Litchart on John Milton. Important points on John Milton for Quick Revision and For making your own notes.
A lonely figure not belonging to any movement.
Had broadly Protestant views (i.e., he did not fully conform to Protestant views).
Born in Bread Street, Cheapside
Son of a well-to-do London scrivener (copyist) and composer.
He saw three periods : Charles first, puritan Age and Restoration Age.
He was a religious person .
He wrote first phamplet ” On Divorce”.
Enrolled in St Paul’s School probably in 1620.
Received a Christian Humanist education based on the teachings of Erasmus and Colet.
Had a thorough grounding in classical rhetoric.As a noble skill necessary for the citizen who takes a proper part in public affairs.A view advocated by Cicero and Isocrate . Later, Milton condemned the abuse of rhetoric in the speeches of Satan in Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained .
Came to Christ’s College, Cambridge in 1625.
Because of his hair and delicate manners he was called “Lady of Christ’s”.
Already a scholar, eager to be a great poet.
Young Milton began his poetic career with verse paraphrases of Psalms and Ovidian Latin elegies Earliest formal poem is probably “Ode on the Death of a Fair Infant Dying of a Cough” written in 1628, age 20.
Uses both classical mythology and Christian ideas.
Argues that the infant cannot be dead; she must be in some happy sphere above.
A disagreement with the Cambridge curriculum and his tutor William Chappell led to a brief rustication (i.e., suspension) from the university in his second year, 1627.
Writing at Cambridge
At this time, he wrote the first of his Latin elegies, a verse letter to Charles Diodati, his friend from St. Paul’s – Elegia Prima.
At Cambridge, Milton was on good terms with Edward King and befriended the Anglo-American theologian Roger Williams.
In 1629, he was awarded a BA degree; in 1632 an MA.
In 1629, he wrote the nativity ode, “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity”.
Describes Christ’s birth and renunciation of worldly life, and connects it to the Crucifixion.
First distinctly Miltonic work
Impressive diction, high literary & religious ideals.
During this time, when he was 22, he wrote “The Epitaph on the Admirable Dramatic Poet, W. Shakespeare” Now known as “On Shakespear”
This was Milton’s first published poem Appeared anonymously in Shakespeare’s Second Folio (1632) Shortly after he left Cambridge, he must have composed L’Allegro and Il Penseroso.
Meaning “happy man”, contrasting with the companion pastoral poem, Il Penseroso, meaning “the melancholy man”Invokes Euphrosyne, Greek goddess of Mirth, as well as other allegorical figures of joy Extols the active and cheerful life in the country Final lines These delights, if thou canst give Mirth with thee, I mean to live
These lines respond to Elizabethan perspectives, especially the lines “Come live with me and be my love” (from a pastoral poem by Marlowe)
Depicts a similar day spent in contemplation and thoughtOffers a vision of poetic melancholy Dismisses joy from his imagination and invokes Goddess Melancholy, veiled in black.
Imagines that the goddess will reward his devotion to her by revealing divine prophetic visions.
Final lines: “These pleasures, Melancholy give And I with thee will choose to live”
Horton Poems Upon leaving Cambridge, he moved briefly into his parents’ house at Hammersmith. From 1635, Milton spent 6 years at Horton in intensive private study, which made him one of the most learned of English poets. The poems written during this period are called “Horton poems”
1) “Upon the Circumcision” 2) “At a Solemn Music” 3) “On Time” 4)Arcades (probably earlier) and Comus 5)“Lycidas”
Two Masques In 1632 and 1634 respectively, Milton wrote the masques Arcades and Comus Arcades (1632). Written in praise of Alice Spencer, Countess Dowager of Darby. Music written by Henry Lawes Jonson’s masques. Served as a basis for Comus
Published anonymously in 1637.Upholds the virtues of temperance and chastity.
First presented on Michaelmas at Ludlow Castle.
Original music composed by Henry Lawes
Two brothers and their sister (“Lady”) journey through the woods.When the brothers go off in search of food and water, the debauched god Comus (son of Bacchus) approaches her disguised as a villager and attempts to seduce her using necromancy, and binds her to a chair But the Lady exercises right reason (recta ratio or freedom of mind)
The brothers, aided by the Attendant Spirit, chase off Comus, and the water nymph Sabrina releases the Lady on account of her steadfast virtue
In 1637, he contributed the pastoral elegy “Lycidas” to a memorial collection of elegies for Edward King, Milton’s fellow student at Cambridge.Edward King was a young man of great promise, destined for the church.
He had drowned in the Irish Sea Classical, Christian and personal elements fuse here.Reflects the uncertainty and torment in Milton’s mind.
Realization that death might forestall the achievement of fame, which was his ambition.
Finally the realization that true fame is found in heaven.
Famous outburst (digression) against the Anglican clergy.
Lycidas”: A Summary
Begins with an eloquent statement of the occasion of the poem.Reminiscence of his student days with King described in moving and pastoral terms.
Even guardian angels fail to protect their loved ones.
Even Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, was unable to protect her son Orpheus from Thracian bacchanals.
The poet wonders whether after all it might not have been better to leave the dedicated life of a poet and lead a life of enjoyment. “Alas! What boots it with incessant care To care the homely, slighted shepherd’s trade, And strictly meditate the thankless muse? Were it not better done, as others use, To sport with Amaryllis in the shade, Or with the tangles of Neaera’s hair”? Phoebus answers that fame is the spur, and it is not to be gained on earth but in heaven.
The poem moves on to interrogate those who might have been expected to protect Lycidas.
The sense of the inevitability of the tragedy dawns, as Cambridge mourns her lost son, and St Peter laments that such a one as Lycidas should have been taken when so many bad shepherds flourish.
Nothing can bring back Lycidas, and the poet desperately covers his body with flowers.
Then, in a magnificent, patriotic surge of phrase, he calls on the guardian angel of England (probably meaning St Michael) to “look homeward”.
The ending offers two consolations: (i) Lycidas is not dead, but has found his place in Heaven, (ii) The poet, who is piping his sad song, knows it is over, and is determined to face the morrow afresh.
At last he rose, and twitch’d his mantle blue:
“Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastured new.“
Milton’s Foreign Tour
In 1638, Milton left England for a tour of the continent, primarily Italy, for approximately 15 months.Made friends among Italian intellectuals.
Met Galileo in house arrest (Galileo was the only contemporary mentioned by name in Paradise Lost).
Learned of the death of his friend Charles Diodati (1638) and of the impending Civil War
Epitaphium Damonis (1639)
Back in England, Milton composed a Latin pastoral elegy for Diodati, Epitaphium Damonis (“Damon’s Epitaph”).This was the last of Milton’s Latin pieces.Strongly indebted to Theocritus, Virgil and Ovid as well as to Neo-Latin poets such as Sannazaro, Castiglione and Mantuan. Corresponds to the English pastoral elegy “Lycidas”.
Became a private schoolmaster and wrote in 1644 a short tract On Education .
In the form of a letter to Samuel Hartlib, a scholar and educational reformer.Here he urged the reform of universities.Outlined an ideal curriculum, emphasizing Greek & Latin languages as a means to learn directly classical wisdom .
Christian Humanist ideal of education: “to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him” .
In 1643, at the age of 35, he married 16-year-old Mary Powell .
A month later, she returned to her parents, and did not come back until 1645.
The emotional shock following her desertion provoked Milton to publish four pamphlets arguing for the legality and morality of divorce, starting with The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1643).
Licensing Order of 1643
Milton’s controversial views on marriage and divorce naturally provoked opposition from the authorities (mostly of the Parliament, who were now predominantly Presbyterians, and whom Milton had earlier defended) .In order to silence all opposition, the Parliament passed the Licensing Order of 1643 which instituted pre-publishing censorship. Against this, in 1644, Milton wrote Areopagitica, a classic defence of the freedom of the press.
Areopagitica (1644) Titled after a speech written by the Athenian orator Isocrates in the 5th century BC. Areopagus is a hill in Athens, the site of real and legendary tribunals.Areopagitica is a noble and eloquent plea, optimistic in tone The entire truth is inaccessible to men after the Fall.A forceful argument against the Licensing Order of 1643. Such censorship had never been a part of classical Greek and Roman society Freedom of press is God’s will Biblical & classical references to strengthen his argument .
Areopagitica: Famous Quotes
“For books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul whose progeny they are.“ This means that, like the author, books are also alive.
“As good almost kill a man as kill a good book: who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God’s image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye. “ This means that it is worse to kill the book than kill the man. Killing a man is like killing God’s image (representation), but killing a book is like killing God, since God is Reason.
“For who knows not that Truth is strong, next to the Almighty. She needs no policies, nor stratagems, nor licensings to make her victorious – those are the shifts and defences that error uses against her power. Give her but room, and do not bind her when she sleeps, for then she speaks not true. . . Yet it is not impossible that she may have more shapes than one.” This means that Truth is all powerful and multiple.
“When a man writes to the world, he summons up all his reason and deliberation to assist him; he searches, meditates, is industrious, and likely consults and confers with his judicious friends, after all which he has done he takes himself to be informed in what he writes, as well as any writ before him.“ This means that writing cannot be done easily and carelessly.
In another anti-monarchical tract, Eikonoklastes (1649, meaning “Image Breaker”), Milton shatters the image of Charles I, as described in Eikon Basilike, as pious, contemplative and caring.Milton accuses Charles of hypocrisy; using the example of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, in Richard III, he shows how treachery is disguised by the pretense of piety.
Exiled Prince Charles (Charles II)’s party replied with a defense written by Claudius Salamasius, leading to a pamphlet war.
In this war, the anonymous Latin polemic The Cry of the King’s Blood appeared in 1654.
The Cry of the King’s Blood and Milton’s Reply
The Cry of the King’s Blood asserts that Milton’s blindness is God’s punishment.
In Second Defence, Milton replied that his blindness is a trial he has to endure for having received special inner illumination, which distinguishes him from others. Here he also compares himself with blind heroes & sages from the past This dignity and fortitude with which he accepted his affliction is evident in the sonnet “On His Blindness” also
Similarly, in Paradise Regained, Jesus meditates on his father’s purpose for him, and concludes that he must trustfully await its manifestation.
Other Prose Works
Three extraordinary prose works were written later in his career
History of Britain (1670) Reflects extensive reading Incomplete; ends with the Norman Conquest.
Artis Logicae (1672; “Art of Logic”) Composed in Latin Inspired by 16th century French scholar Petrus Ramus. Examines the impact of Renaissance Humanism on medieval trivium.
De Doctrina Christiana (“On Christian Doctrine”) Unfinished Latin work
Comprehensive and systematic treatment of theology
Aeropagitica Summary and Litchart PDFs . Post Graduation Notes and PDFs.
Milton begins his written speech for the liberty of unlicensed printing in England with a quote from The Suppliants, a play by the Greek tragedian, Euripides. “This is true liberty when free- born men / Having to advise the public may speak free,” Milton quotes. “What can be juster in a state than this?” Milton addresses his speech to the “High Court of Parliament,” which in 1643 passed a Licensing Order that mandated “no book, pamphlet, or paper shall be henceforth printed, unless the same be first approved and licensed by such.” Milton is fervently opposed to Parliament’s order—at least the part that requires pre-publication licensing. He supports the portion of the order that “preserves justly every man’s copy to himself,” and argues that “the utmost bound of civil liberty” is attained only when “complaints are freely heard, deeply considered and speedily reformed.” He begins with a look at censorship through the ages and asserts that the type of pre-publication censorship mandated by Parliament’s Licensing Order (a law Milton describes as an “authentic Spanish policy of licensing books”), was not seen until after the year 800. Until then, Milton contends, “books were ever as freely admitted into the world as any other birth: the issue of the brain was no more stifled than the issue of the womb.” Indeed, Milton contends, pre-publication licensing was born “from the most antichristian council, and the most tyrannous inquisition that ever enquired.”
Of course, Milton is referring to the Roman Catholic Church and the Spanish Inquisition, and he is speaking directly to an overwhelmingly Protestant Parliament. The “inventors” of pre- publication censorship, Milton says, “be those whom ye will loath to own.” Books and ideas weren’t censored in biblical times to such an extent either, Milton argues, unless they were found to be heretical or defamatory. The English Parliament meant to suppress books they considered bad, or evil, and Milton asserts this is not only impossible but an affront to God as well. “God uses not to captivate under a perpetual childhood of prescription,” Milton writes, “but trusts [man] with the gift of reason to be his own chooser.” Furthermore, good and evil are inextricably linked, within books and in man, so they are impossible to “sort asunder.” Milton claims “it was from out the rind of one apple tasted, that the knowledge of good and evil as two twins cleaving together leapt forth into the world. And perhaps this is that doom which Adam fell into of knowing good and evil, that is to say of knowing good by evil.” God never intended for humankind to live a life independent of evil, which is why he gave Adam “reason,” and “gave him the freedom to choose.” To eliminate evil means that each Christian’s virtue is left untested and “is but a blank virtue, not a pure.” Without evil to reject, Adam is “a mere artificial Adam, such an Adam as he is in the motions.” In addition to negatively affecting the virtue of Christians, Milton maintains that Parliament’s Licensing Order violates God’s divine authority and plan as well.
Milton continues his argument by pointing out how inadequate Parliament’s Licensing Order is, claiming that it “conduces nothing to the end for which it was framed.” The law means to spare citizens from evil, but it only seeks to regulate printed material. “If we think to regulate printing, thereby to rectify manners, we must regulate all recreations and pastimes, all that is delightful to man.” What about music, Milton questions, and the gestures and motions of dance? Surely these things can be evil as well and need regulation, he contends. There is even “household gluttony” to consider, and the “daily rioting” of gossip, which is most certainly to blame for the spread of evil.
Milton argues that “whatever thing we hear or see, sitting,walking, traveling, or conversing may be fitly called our book,” and to suppress books only “is far insufficient to the end which [Parliament’s order] intends.” One cannot “remove sin by removing the matter of sin,” Milton posits. Books “cannot be suppressed without the fall of learning,” Milton also claims, which too “hinders and retards the importation of our richest merchandise, truth.” According to Milton, both “faith and knowledge thrives by exercise,” and suppressing books hampers this exercise. Truth, the product of study and knowledge, “is compared in scripture to a streaming fountain; if her waters flow not in a perpetual progression, they sicken into a muddy pool of conformity and tradition.” Parliament’s Licensing Order does just that, Milton claims, by controlling and mandating what is read and learned. “A man may be a heretic in the truth; and if he believe things only because his pastor says so, or the assembly so determines, without knowing other reason, though his belief be true, yet the very truth he holds,” Milton warns, “becomes his heresy.” Milton contends that truth “came once into the world with her divine master, and was a perfect shape most glorious to behold.” But truth did not retain its original shape, Milton claims, and the “lovely form” of “virgin truth” was “hewed” into thousands of pieces, and “scattered” from “the four winds.”
Pursuit of knowledge is searching for bits and pieces of scattered truth, but all the pieces are yet to be found and likely never will be, “till her master’s second coming,” Milton says. Additionally, Milton cautions, when truth is bound, as it is by Parliament’s order, “she speaks not true” but instead “turns herself into all shapes, except her own.” It is not “impossible,” Milton contends, that truth “may have more shapes than one,” and he implores Parliament to lend equal weight to all shapes of truth and not “fall again into a gross conforming stupidity” which “is more to the sudden degenerating of a church than many subdichotomies of petty schisms.” Of course, Milton maintains, he cannot “think well of every light separation” of the church, and while he argues for more Christian beliefs to “be tolerated, rather than compelled,” he does not mean to tolerate “popery, and open superstition, which as it extirpates all religions and civil supremacies, so itself should be extirpate.” While Milton argues against the pre- publication censorship of books, he supports the censorship and full eradication of the Catholic Church. Milton maintains that Parliament’s new practice of suppressing books “is the worst and newest opinion of all others; and is the chief cause why sects and schisms do so much abound, and true knowledge is kept at a distance from us.” He claims to know that “errors in a good government and in a bad are equally almost incident,” and he intreats Parliament “to redresswillingly and speedily what hath been erred” in the passing of the Licensing Order of 1643.
Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest Now is the time that face should form another, Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest, Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother. For where is she so fair whose uneared womb Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry? Or who is he so fond will be the tomb Of his self-love, to stop posterity? Thou art thy mother’s glass, and she in thee Calls back the lovely April of her prime; So thou through windows of thine age shalt see, Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time. But if thou live remembered not to be, Die single, and thine image dies with thee.
Modern text of Shakespeare sonnet 3
Look in the mirror and tell the face you see now is the time that face should form another, whose failure to reproduce, if you do not get married would hurt the whole world in general, but specifically a hopeful wife. For what virgin woman is so beautiful that she would turn you down? Or what kind of man is so in love with his own self that he would end his family’s line with his generation? You are a perfect replica of your beautiful mother and she, by looking at you, remembers her own former beauty. In the same way, you, looking through the eyes of old age, will be able to see your own youthful image in your child, despite your wrinkles. But if you want to be forgotten forever, die single, and your beauty will be buried with you.
Real beauty is within us, outer beauty will not last forever. Everyone must do great and good work during life time. Don’t become self obsessed . This life span is for enjoying and doing good deads. Take blessings from people as much as you can. Don’t waste your journey in self obsession
When forty winters shall besiege thy brow And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field, Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now, Will be a tattered weed of small worth held. Then being asked where all thy beauty lies, Where all the treasure of thy lusty days, To say within thine own deep-sunken eyes Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise. How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use If thou couldst answer “This fair child of mine Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,” Proving his beauty by succession thine. This were to be new made when thou art old And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.
When forty winters shall besiege thy brow Modern Text
When forty winters have attacked your brow and wrinkled your beautiful skin, the pride and impressiveness of your youth, so much admired by everyone now, will have become a worthless, tattered weed. Then, when you are asked where your beauty’s gone and what’s happened to all the treasures you had during your youth, you will have to say only within your own eyes, now sunk deep in their sockets, where there is only a shameful confession of greed and self-obsession. How much more praise you would have deserved if you could have answered, ‘This beautiful child of mine shall give an account of my life and show that I made no misuse of my time on earth,’ proving that his beauty, because he is your son, was once yours! This child would be new-made when you are old and you would see your own blood warm when you are cold.
Read Shakespeare Sonnets Daily to increase your Thinking, imagination and vocabulary.
From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty’s rose might never die,
But, as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory.
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed’st thy light’s flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.
Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament
And only herald to the gaudy spring
Within thine own bud buriest thy content
And, tender churl, mak’st waste in niggarding.
Pity the world, or else this glutton be—
To eat the world’s due, by the grave and thee.
Translation in Modern context of william Shakespeare sonnet for better understanding.
We want the most beautiful people to have children, so their beauty will be preserved forever—when the parent dies, the child he leaves behind will remind us of his beauty. But you, in love with your own pretty eyes, are letting your beauty burn itself out. You’re starving the world of your beauty rather than spreading the wealth around. You’re acting like your own worst enemy! Right now you’re the best-looking thing in the world, the only person as beautiful as springtime. But your beauty is like a new bud, and you’re letting it die before it can develop and bring you true happiness. You’re a young man, but you act like an old miser—you’re wasting your beauty by hoarding it and keeping it to yourself! Take pity on the rest of us, or this is how you’ll be remembered: as the greedy pig who hogged his own beauty and took it with him to the grave.
William Shakespeare’s life and his works. Important points on william Shakespeare and his works . UGC NET ,PGT ,TGT Notes.
William Shakespeare was born the son of John and Mary Arden Shakespeare in a small town, Stratford-upon Avon, 100 miles northwest of London. His father John belonged to a farming family near Stratford. Like his son, John had also left his family and moved to a larger commercial centre (Stratford).Here, he worked as a leather worker, a glover, and soon became a leading merchant.
By 1552, he bought the western portion of the double-house in Henley Street, now known as Shakespeare’s Birthplace.In 1557, John married Mary Arden, the daughter of his father’s wealthy landlord.
Though John had initially struggled with financial difficulties, he was gradually rising in social stature, and would soon be a burgess in the borough, an alderman, and by 1568, bailiff (a position equal to the mayor).
William, the third child of their eight children, was thus born into a respectable business household.
William Shakespeare’s birth is celebrated on 23 April 1564, 3 days before his baptism was entered in the parish register of the Holy Trinity Church on 26 April However, England followed the Julian Calendar at this time, and Shakespeare’s birthday would fall on 5 May according to the Gregorian Calendar.
Shakespeare might have been born a day or two earlier, but the date 23 April appeals to sentiments because This is the feast of St. George, England’s patron saint.
It is on 23 April that Shakespeare died.
23 April is also the birth as well as death day of Miguel de Cervantes, according to the Gregorian Calendar
At the age of 4 or 5, Shakespeare would have learned to read and write in English.At the age of 7, he started learning a heavily classical curriculum at the local grammar school, which involved Memorizing Latin and Latin composition, Mythology, ancient history, rhetoric, grammar Translations from texts including those of Terence & Plautus, Learning some Greek from the New Testament.
Did not go to university because his father seems to have fallen on hard times by then, due to unknown reasons.
In 1582 at age 18, he married Anne Hathaway, a woman eight years his senior and three months pregnant.
Pregnant brides were not uncommon at that time, nor particularly censured.Their daughter, Susanna, was born in 1583, and twins, Hamnet and Judith, came in 1585.
The twins were possibly named after Shakespeare’s friends, Hamnet Sadler, a baker, and his wife Judith ,Hamnet died in 1596.
As was unusual at that time, the Shakespeares had no more children.
Shakespeare in London
Shakespeare seems to have departed to London sometime in the 1580s.The 7 years from 1585 to 1592 are called “lost years”.
There is no historical evidence on what he did at this time.
In 1592, we have the first clear reference to Shakespeare as an actor / playwright in London Robert Greene, in A Groatsworth of Wit (1592), makes the famous attack on Shakespeare.
“Yes, trust them not, for there is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that, with his Tygers heart wrapt in a Players hide, supposes he is as well able to bumbast out a blanke verse as the best of you; and being an absolute Johannes Factotum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrie.”
“Upstart crow”: a crow from the folk tale, who sticks the feathers of other beautiful birds to his tail, and thinks he himself has become the prettiest
“Tiger’s heart”: A tiger from the folk tale who wears sheepskin and pretends to be a sheep; here, instead of sheepskin, the “cheat” Shakespeare is wearing the “hide” of an actor.
“Johannes Factotum”: Jack of all trades; one who pretends to know everything
“Shake-scene”: This is what reveals to us that he is referring to Shakespeare.
Shakespeare & the London Theatre
In London, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (also called Lord Strange’s Men) performed his plays, and also probably the Queen’s MenShakespeare owned shares in the Second Blackfriars Theatre, an indoor theatre built by James Burbage, and later, the Globe.
In the 1590s, the London theatre scene was unsettled. Actors’ companies were forming and disbanding themselves under the pressure of the plague. All London theatres were closed from 1592 to 94 due to the plague.
Shakespeare seems to have turned to non-dramatic poetry at this time.
The Plague Years
Shakespeare’s non-dramatic poetry
Venus and Adonis – 1593 The Rape of Lucrece – 1594 Both dedicated to the Earl of Southampton, probably seeking his patronage.
Minor non-dramatic poems (which are of doubtful authorship) A Lover’s Complaint. The Phoenix and the Turtle.
The Passionate Pilgrim (an anthology of 20 poems edited by William Jaggard, attributed to “W. Shakespeare”)
The Sonnets: Writing and Publication
Circulated in manuscripts before 1598.
In 1598, Francis Meres praised Shakespeare’s “sugared sonnets” in his Palladis Tamia, or Wit’s Treasury .
First publication of sonnets In 1609, the sonnets were first published in quarto format by Thomas Thorpe, probably without the author’s knowledgem
The quarto edition has a mysterious dedication from the publisher to “Mr. W.H.” as “the only begetter of these poems” .
In the early 17th century
Shakespeare secured a coat-of-arms, which granted him the status of a gentleman . A coat-of-arms is a heraldic shield with a unique design granted by the monarch to an individual or family as a recognition of social rank.
Wrote most of the Great Tragedies, Dark Comedies and Romances Recognized as a genius in his own time.
Queen Elizabeth dies in 1603
King James’s accession to the throne.
The Mermaid Tavern
Was probably a member of the “Fraternity of Sireniacal Gentlemen” who met at the Mermaid Tavern in Cheapside
John Fletcher and Francis Beaumon
Robert Bruce Cotton
1610 retired from theatre.Moved into the big house New Place at Stratford.
1613 Globe theatre burns down.
Lost money but still wealthy; helps rebuild Globe.
Dies on April 23, 1616 at age 52 Buried in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.
Left his property to the male heirs of his eldest daughter, Susanna.
Bequeathed his “second-best bed” to his wife.
The couple had lived apart for 20 years of their marriage .