Romeo and Juliet: 6 Jigsaw Texts

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Six (leveled) texts to use in the anticipatory set of Romeo and Juliet, regarding the life of Shakespeare, the Globe theatre, and Elizabethan theatre.

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Romeo and Juliet: 6 Jigsaw Texts

  1. 1. William Shakespeare biography Early Life William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire and was baptised a few days later on 26 April 1564. His father, John Shakespeare, was a glove maker and wool merchant and his mother, Mary Arden, was the daughter of a well-to-do landowner from Wilmcote, South Warwickshire. It is likely Shakespeare was educated at the local King Edward VI Grammar School in Stratford. Marriage The next documented event in Shakespeare’s life is his marriage at the age of 18 to Anne Hathaway, the daughter of a local farmer, on November 28, 1582. She was eight years older than him and their first child, Susanna, was born six months after their wedding. Two years later, the couple had twins, Hamnet and Judith, but their son died when he was 11 years old. Again, a gap in the records leads some scholars to refer to Shakespeare’s life between 1585 and 1592 as 'the lost years'. By the time he reappears again, mentioned in a London pamphlet, Shakespeare has made his way to London without his family and is already working in the theatre. William Shakespeare biography Acting career Having gained recognition as an actor and playwright Shakespeare had clearly ruffled a few feathers along the way – contemporary critic, Robert Green, described him in the 1592 pamphlet as an, "upstart Crow". As well as belonging to its pool of actors and playwrights, Shakespeare was one of the managing partners of the Lord Chamberlain's Company (renamed the King's Company when James succeeded to the throne), whose actors included the famous Richard Burbage. The company acquired interests in two theatres in the Southwark area of London near the banks of the Thames - the Globe and the Blackfriars. In 1593 and 1594, Shakespeare’s first poems, 'Venus and Adonis' and 'The Rape of Lucrece', were published and he dedicated them to his patron, Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton. It is thought Shakespeare also wrote most of his sonnets at this time.
  2. 2. William Shakespeare biography Playwright Shakespeare was prolific, with records of his first plays beginning to appear in 1594, from which time he produced roughly two a year until around 1611. His hard work quickly paid off, with signs that he was beginning to prosper emerging soon after the publication of his first plays. By 1596 Shakespeare’s father, John had been granted a coat of arms and it’s probable that Shakespeare had commissioned them, paying the fees himself. A year later he bought New Place, a large house in Stratford. His earlier plays were mainly histories and comedies such as 'Henry VI', 'Titus Andronicus', 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', 'The Merchant of Venice' and 'Richard II'. The tragedy, 'Romeo and Juliet', was also published in this period. By the last years of Elizabeth I's reign Shakespeare was well established as a famous poet and playwright and was called upon to perform several of his plays before the Queen at court. In 1598 the author Francis Meres described Shakespeare as England’s greatest writer in comedy and tragedy. In 1602 Shakespeare's continuing success enabled him to move to upmarket Silver Street, near where the Barbican is now situated, and he was living here when he wrote some of his greatest tragedies such as 'Hamlet', 'Othello', 'King Lear' and 'Macbeth'. William Shakespeare biography Final years Shakespeare spent the last five years of his life in New Place in Stratford. He died on 23 April 1616 at the age of 52 and was buried in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. He left his property to the male heirs of his eldest daughter, Susanna. He also bequeathed his 'second-best bed' to his wife. It is not known what significance this gesture had, although the couple had lived primarily apart for 20 years of their marriage.
  3. 3. Globe Theatre, London The original Globe Theatre stood in Southwark, London, on the south bank of the River Thames. Today, an accurate replica stands on the site of the original building. The Globe was built in 1559, by the acting company of which William Shakespeare was a member. It burnt down in 1613, was rebuilt the following year and then demolished in 1644. The Globe was an open air theatre, with three floors and could seat about 3,000 people. The stage measured about 27 by 43 feet and was raised off the ground to allow access by a trapdoor. The Globe Theatre regularly showed up to 10 different plays in just two weeks. The plays often incorporated special effects, such as acrobatics, fireworks and even a real cannon firing. Shakespeare was a part owner of the Globe Theatre, and several of his plays were performed there, including Hamlet, As You Like It and Macbeth. A visit to the Globe Theatre was a big event. As well as the play, there would be music, food and drink and many businesses complained that their employees were going to the theatre rather than to work. Advertising was also important in Shakespeare’s day and the Globe would fly colour-coded flags to indicate what was playing. A black flag meant a tragedy, while a red flag indicated a historical play. The new Globe Theatre was built in 1997, following a 20 year campaign by the film maker Sam Wanamaker. Wanamaker’s vision was to build a replica of the Globe as it would have looked in Elizabethan times. The authentic replica was made from wood and has London’s only thatched roof. There are no microphones or speakers and the music is played live on period instruments. Today the Globe Theatre offers guided tours of the facility, as well as an exhibition of life in Shakespeare’s London. The theatre attracts over 200,000 visitors every year.
  4. 4. Elizabethan Theatre, or Theatre in the time of the Tudors In the summer months, groups of actors from London would take a show on the road. They would load up wagons and carts with all of their costumes, scenery, props and a stage, and perform plays in town squares and inn-yards. The audience was sometimes charged a fee to watch the play, or a hat was passed around to collect money (a bit like buskers do today). Inns really liked having their inn-yard turned into a temporary theatre because they could sell food and drink to the audience. Some inns became full-time theatres with plays being performed on a regular basis. In Tudor times all of the actors were male. Female roles were played by boy’s whose voices had yet to break. Elizabethan theatres were quite a bit different to today’s modern theatres. They were mostly open air and looked like an O from above. The stage came out into the center of the O and the audience stood all around it in an area called the yard or the pit. The rich could sit in covered galleries around the edges of the yard. A building was built to the back of the stage. This was brightly painted and used by the actors in scenes of the play they were performing. A drawing of the Swan, showing the inside of an Elizabethan theatre. When the flag on top a theatre was flying, it meant that there was going to be a performance on that day. A trumpet blast let people know that the show was about to start. Both rich and poor people went to the theatres. The rich could afford to buy seats in the gallery, whereas the poor had to make do with standing by the stage.

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