Elizabeth I is known to have enjoyed Shakespeare’s plays. No single person has contributed as many words or phrases to the English language as Shakespeare. He expressed himself liberally, and with such gusto and insight over such a wide range of subjects, that it is hard to believe only one author was responsible for all his works. He coined some 2,000 words and countless phrases. He wrote 37 plays, including Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, Julius Caesar, Midsummer Night’s Dream and Othello, as well as 154 sonnets.
Born in the market town of Stratford upon Avon in 1564, he was the son of a rich tradesman. He married Anne Hathaway in 1582 and had three children. He never studied at the universities of Oxford or Cambridge but instead became an actor in London. It was however, as a playwright and shareholder in a company of actors that he became famous and rich.
To him we owe expressions like “my own flesh and blood,” “one fell swoop,” “vanished into thin air,” “foul play,” “I didn’t sleep a wink,” “all’s well that ends well,” “tower of strength,” “the sound and the fury,” “cold comfort,” “the milk of human kindness.” We all quote Shakespeare more than we realize! He retired from writing when he was only 48, returned to Stratford upon Avon and died there in 1616.
We know little about Shakespeare himself and some even question his identity, but he taught us a lot about the “interior nature” of human beings in some of our language’s most beautiful prose.
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