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Hey there, I'm Mike Rugnetta, this is Crash
Course Theater and remember that guy we said

we weren't going to talk about in the last

Well, we're gonna talk about him for a while

I mean, of course, Yorick's pal Shakespeare.
And yes, Shakespeare actually wrote all of
Shakespeare's plays, though sometimes he

had help.
But hey, you don't become the presiding
genius of English theatre without some assistance

Today, we'll cover Shakespeare's biography,
look at playwriting in Elizabethan England,

and take on a genre our boy Bill helped invent:
the history play.

So once more into the breach!
Who's with me?
So, who is this Shakespeare guy, anyway?

We first hear of him on April 26th… or 23rd…
or even a little earlier… in 1564, when

he's baptized in the sleepy market town
of Stratford-upon-Avon.

His father, John, was a glover, and did ok
for himself.

John held a number of civic positions including
ale-taster of the borough, and eventually

mayor… an unorthodox political ascendancy,
but hey whatever works!

John's wife, Mary, was the daughter of reasonably
wealthy landowners.

And Shakespeare had four younger siblings
who lived to adulthood including one, Edmund,

who was an actor but died at 27.
At the age of six or seven, William starts
attending the Stratford Grammar School, where

much of the instruction was in Latin.
He almost certainly read Plautus's comedies
and Seneca's tragedies.

Some scholars think he leaves school at 13,
some think at 15.

Maybe he works as a butcher; maybe he works
for his father.

In 1582, he marries Anne Hathaway–NO THE
OTHER ANNE HATHAWAY–who is 8 years older

than him, and 6 months pregnant.
She gives birth to Susanna in 1583, and the
twins Judith and Hamnet a year and a half

At some point after the birth of the twins,
Shakespeare moves to London.

And no one knows why!
There's one story about how he had to go
to London because he poached a deer?

There are also rumors that he joins up with
traveling players.

But we don't really know anything more until
1592, when he's a popular actor and the

author of several plays—and people are making
fun of him by calling him “Shake-scene.”

Around this time, one of the twins, Hamnet,
dies at the age of 11.

And when the theaters closed due to the plague,
Shakespeare writes some long poems.

When theaters reopen, he joins the Lord Chamberlain's
Men as an actor, a playwright, and a shareholder.

By 1597, Shakespeare has made enough money
to buy the second fanciest place in Stratford-upon-Avon,

In 1611, he retires to Stratford proper; and
again, no one knows why.

And in 1616, at the age of 52, he dies.
His anti-grave robbing epitaph reads: Good
friend, for Jesus' sake forbear,

To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.

So, how did Shakespeare become a playwright?
It's hard to say for sure, but traveling
players performed frequently in Stratford

when he was a kid.
If he really did join a traveling company
during his lost years, it would have exposed

him to all sorts of plays, and the three or
four production techniques that English theater

had at the time.
Playwriting wasn't a prestigious occupation
in Elizabethan England.

A lot of plays were written in these decades
as there was a hunger for novelty.

Established theaters were still a new thing,
and these companies had no repertory of classics

to fall back on.
So each company required new plays every couple
of weeks.

Writing plays was often a group effort, and
works from the beginning and end of Shakespeare's

career were written this way... more collaboratively.
Though it had the potential to make a lot
of money, many playwrights often depended

on side jobs or patronage.
Shakespeare made his money not so much as
a writer, but as a shareholder in the company.

He definitely didn't make his cash in royalties.
Most plays weren't even published, and most
of the ones that were appeared in cheap quartos—a

name for booklets made up of pieces of paper
printed on eight sides and folded up to become

four double-sided pages.
Many of these quarto publications were based
on pirated copies and bad memories and are

full of error or variation, though some are

Occasionally, several different versions of
a play would get published, like an early

quarto of “Hamlet” that reads: “To be,
or not to be,/ There's the point.”

I know, Yorick.
These quartos were usually published anonymously,
and even if an author's name did appear,

he didn't receive any money from them.
Copyright wouldn't be invented for about
another hundred years, by the way.

And yeah, any playwright of this era is definitely
a “he”.

In 1623, seven years after Shakespeare's
death, two fellow actors in the King's Men,

John Heminges and Henry Condell, decided to
collect and publish Shakespeare's works

in an authoritative edition, to honor their

Their luxury volume, known as the First Folio,
included 36 plays organized as Comedies, Histories,

and Tragedies.
It left out Two Noble Kinsmen and Pericles,
which are common now, as well as Cardenio,

the one Shakespeare play that's definitely

We'll start with the histories because they
were some of the earliest plays Shakespeare

wrote: King John, Richard II, the two Henry
IVs, Henry V, the three Henry VIs and Richard

Henry VIII was written a lot later.
With the exception of King John and Edward
III, the rest of these plays describe the

rise of the Tudors, the royal house of Elizabeth
I, queen during the early years of Shakespeare's

Why are these “history plays,” but not
Julius Caesar or Macbeth or Cymbeline?

Well, these distinctions are fuzzy.
They were created by the editors of the First
Folio, not Shakespeare himself.

But as scholar Lily Campbell puts it: “Tragedy
is concerned with the doings of men which

in philosophy are discussed under ethics;
history with the doings of men which in philosophy

are discussed under politics.”
So Richard II is a history because it's
about Richard's eventual defeat by Bolingbroke,

but Macbeth is a tragedy because it's about
Macbeth's personal conflicts.

By the way, this isn't really a theater.
So I'm perfectly comfortable saying Macbeth.
I'm no longer perfectly comfortable saying

What was the point of history plays?
Well, a straightforward history play is a
patriotic exercise that celebrates past greatness

and commiserates over past suffering, without
stopping to question God's providence.

History plays were designed to keep people
in line: Thomas Heywood wrote in the 1612

“An Apology for Actors,” that these plays
“are writ with this ayme… to teach their

subjects obedience to their king, to shew
the people the untimely ends of such as have

moved tumults, commotions, and insurrections,
to present them with the flourishing estate

of such as live in obedience, exhorting them
to allegiance.”

basically, when it comes to tumults and insurrections,
don't start none, won't be none.

But Shakespeare isn't that straightforward.
A couple of his plays are about men who usurp
the throne from kings and then become kings

themselves, so his works are hardly a wholesale
condemnation of tumult, or a rubber stamp

on the divine right of kings.
Early critics claimed that he upheld the Tudor
myth, but later ones have argued that he's

up to something more subversive.
For an example, let's look at one of his
best-known history plays, “Richard III.”

in the Thoughtbubble:
Edward IV is back on the throne after putting

down a rebellion.
His little brother Richard, aka, “that foul
bunchback'd toad,” isn't psyched about

Richard contrives to have his other brother,
Clarence, sent to the Tower of London and

then seduces Lady Anne, even though he murdered
her father and her brother… and she knows

Richard has Clarence drowned in a large cask
of wine, which helps push Edward IV into an

early grave.
Edward's sons will succeed him, though,
so Richard has more murdering to do!

After arranging to have a bunch of people
executed, Richard has the two princes held

in the Tower.
He tries to convince the people that the princes
are illegitimate and he is the rightful heir

to the throne.
The other lords more or less go for it, but
just to be sure, Richard has the princes murdered

Now that he's king, Richard poisons his
wife so he can make a more dynastically savvy

But all this villainy starts to catch up with
him, and rebellions break out.

One of them is led by Richmond who—spoiler
alert—will become Henry VII.

On the battlefield, Richard is haunted by
his victims, famously offers his kingdom for

a horse, and then dies, with Richmond announcing:
“Now civil wounds are stopped; peace lives

/ That she may long live here, God say 'Amen.'”
Thanks, Thoughtbubble.
So a happy ending!
Unless you're Richard.
Or one of the many people that he murdered.
It's easy enough to read this play as rah-rah
Tudor propaganda.

Boo Richard!
Yay Richmond!
But while the play shows Richard as a tyrant
and a usurper, it isn't a wholly negative

Shakespeare's Richard is a genius and a
charmer… and a villain and a killer.

So while the historians were busy confirming
his wickedness, Shakespeare also shows him

as attractive and theatrical.
He's the character you can't stop watching
and the one that great actors want to play.

Also, quick aside, people used to accuse Shakespeare
of making up the fact that Richard had a hunchback

just to make him seem extra evil, but a few
years ago they found Richard's bones in

a parking lot—and it turns out while he
may not have been a full on hunchback, he

did have scoliosis.
While we don't know all the circumstances
of where and when and how Shakespeare became

a writer, his early work shows him taking
the straightforward form of the chronicle

play and molding it into something more exciting
and ambitious.

He added breathtaking poetry, penetrating
insight and fun scenes of people being killed.

In wine.
Next time we'll look at how those scenes
were probably acted, and we'll discuss Shakespeare's

But until then… curtain!


Straight Outta Stratford-Upon-Avon - Shakespeare's Early Days: Crash Course Theater #14

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Pei-Yi Lin 2019 年 5 月 5 日 に公開
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