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Shakespeare
23 Apr.1564 - 23 Apr.1616

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William Shakespeare, the English poet and playwright, is recognized in most of the world as the greatest of all dramatists.  Also his life itself was dramatic and short, as he died on his 52nd birthday.  

He spent his childhood in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, being the third of eight children by John Shakespeare and Mary Arden.  As John and Mary's eldest son he was supposed to be apprenticed to his father's merchant shop for eventually taking over business - but William became apprenticed to a butcher because of reverses in his father's financial situation.  

In 1582 he married Anne Hathaway, the daughter of a farmer, by whom he had a daughter and twins (a boy and a girl).  Shakespeare apparently arrived in London in about 1588, and by 1592 had attained success as an actor and a playwright.  His plays were performed at the Globe Theatre. 

Shakespeare. Photograph.

Great Britain 1995. Shakespeare. Stamp #1 in commemoration of the restoration of the Globe Theatre. Great Britain 1995. Shakespeare. Stamp #2 in commemoration of the restoration of the Globe Theatre. Great Britain 1995. Shakespeare. Stamp #3 in commemoration of the restoration of the Globe Theatre. Great Britain 1995. Shakespeare. Stamp #4 in commemoration of the restoration of the Globe Theatre. Great Britain 1995. Shakespeare. Stamp #5 in commemoration of the restoration of the Globe Theatre.

Romania 1997. Shakespeare. Souvenir sheet from National Theatre in Craiova.

Shakespeare's plays are performed on theatres world wide, and Romania is no exception. In 1997 Romania issued this souvenir sheet, commemorating great local actors for their parts in four plays. It is a nice sheet which, other than the four postage stamps, has images from the plays inserted between the stamps.

- Constantin Serghie (1819-1887) 
  as Othello in 1855. 

- Al. Demetrescu  Dan (1870-1948) 
  as Hamlet in 1916.

- Ion Manolescu (1881-1951) 
  as Hamlet in 1924.

- Gheorghe Cozorici (1933-1993) 
  as Hamlet in 1957. 

  • Romania 1997. Souvenir sheet from the National Theatre of Craiova. 

Although the precise date of many of Shakespeare’s plays is in doubt, his dramatic career is generally divided into four periods. In all periods, the plots of his plays were frequently drawn from chronicles, histories, or earlier fiction, as were the plays of other contemporary dramatists. 

The first period, involving experimentation, although still clearly influenced by or imitating Classical models.  During this period he wrote Henry V. 

  • Great Britain 1964. Shakespeare Festival. Henry V. 

Great Britain 1964. Shakespeare. Stamp #4 in the Shakespeare Festival.

Great Britain 1964. Shakespeare. Stamp #1 in the Shakespeare Festival.

The second period, in which Shakespeare appears to achieve a truly individual style and approach; A Midsummer Night’s Dream (c. 1595-1596), also eternalized in Sonnet No. 18 (see below).  

  • Great Britain 1964. Shakespeare Festival. Puck and Bottom from "A Mid Summer Night's Dream". 

A third, darker period, in which he wrote not only his major tragedies but also the more difficult comedies, known as the "problem plays" because their resolutions leave troubling and unanswered questions. 

Hamlet (c. 1601), his most famous play, goes far beyond other tragedies of revenge in picturing the mingled sordidness and glory of the human condition. This play takes place at Kronborg Castle in Denmark. In 2000 Kronborg Castle was designated World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. 

  • Great Britain 1964. Shakespeare Festival. Hamlet. 
  • Denmark 1985. Kronborg Castle in Elsinore, seen from the sea side. The stamp was engraved by Czeslaw Slania. 

Great Britain 1964. Shakespeare. Stamp #5 in the Shakespeare Festival.

Denmark 1985. Shakespeare. Kronborg Castle in Elsinore, seen from the sea side, where Hamlet takes place.

Great Britain 1964. Shakespeare. Stamp #3 in the Shakespeare Festival.

His final period, when his style blossomed in the romantic tragicomedies -- exotic, symbolic pieces -- which while happily resolved involve a greater complexity of vision. His most famous play from this period is Romeo and Juliet.  

  • Great Britain 1964. Romeo and Juliet. 

The publication of Shakespeare’s two fashionably erotic narrative poems Venus and Adonis (1593) and The Rape of Lucrece (1594) and of his Sonnets (published 1609, but circulated previously in manuscript) established his reputation as a gifted and popular Renaissance poet. His sonnets are prized for their exploration of love in all its aspects.  A poem such as "Sonnet No. 18" is one of the most famous love poems of all times: 

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? 
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed.

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st
Nor shall Death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st.

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. 

 
After about 1608, Shakespeare’s dramatic production lessened and it seems that he spent more time in Stratford. There he had established his family in an imposing house called New Place, and had become a leading local citizen. He died on April 23, 1616, and was buried in the Stratford church. 
  • Great Britain 1964. Shakespeare Festival. Feste (The Twelfth Night). 

Great Britain 1964. Shakespeare. Stamp #2 in the Shakespeare Festival.

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