English is sometimes described as “the language of Shakespeare," who is by far the best known English author worldwide. On the 400th anniversary of his death OISE look back on his life, work and the phrases he contributed - that we all still use today.
William Shakespeare was born on a date just prior to April 26th 1564; the date of his baptism. No one really knows his actual birth date. His father was a glover as well as an alderman of Stratford-Upon-Avon and his mother the daughter of landowners, and so were wealthy enough to send him to school. Few details are known of his childhood, but we do know that he married Anne Hathaway at age 18 (not the Hollywood actress) who at the time was 26 - and pregnant. Needless to say, this was a scandal at this time. The couple saw the birth of a daughter, followed by twins, including a son named Hamnet (for which the play Hamlet might be named.) Shakespeare then again disappears from historical documents until 1592, when he is referred to as the author of several plays in London.
The beginnings of his success is around 1594, when he was hired as playwright and actor of Chamberlain’s theatre company. He thrived in this environment, and went from strength to strength with Romeo and Juliet in 1594, A Midsummer Night’s Dream the following year and many more thereafter. The construction of the famous Globe Theatre in 1599 secured his future until retirement in 1611. He died in 1616, 10 days after his Spanish colleague Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. We can not know for sure whether Shakespeare invented the following expressions, but they appear for the first time in his plays:
Love is Blind In The Merchant of Venice, Jessica dresses up as a man to see her beloved; and even though feeling a bit silly she justifies her behaviour by stating that love is blind and lovers cannot see for the folly of their actions.
All is Well that Ends Well In the eponymous play, the protagonists follow a complicated route which includes completing quests before being allowed to go somewhere. You might say that everything works out for them in the end, even if the rest of the play is highly unexpected.
Breaking The Ice This is from a scene in The Taming of the Shrew, where Baptista Minola refuses to let anyone speak to his younger daughter before the elder is married: win the older and make the younger free; “break the ice”
To Lie low The expression was in use more or less since the thirteenth century, but Shakespeare was the first to use it in its current form. In Much Ado About Nothing, Antonio says: “If he could right himself with quarrelling, some of us would lie low”
Off With His Head! Long before Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts, Shakespeare’s Richard III had a penchant for separating people's heads from their bodies.
Is Shakespeare as great as history has made him? A group named the Anti - Stratfordians claim that he could never have penned such works, and say that his was in reality a collective name for authors who could for some reason not be revealed.
Shakespeare had to face fierce competition from higher educated rivals in his lifetime, most famously from Christopher Marlowe who spent 6 years at University in Cambridge and is suspected by some to be the true author of Shakespeare’s works. Marlowe died in mysterious circumstances 13 days before the first Shakespeare play was published - hearty fodder for enduring conspiracy theories indeed...