The Development of Shakespeare as a playwright
Shakespeare (1564-1616) was a formative figure of Elizabethan theater and one of the most popular playwrights ever. In his works he processed several basic themes and combined standard-language with slang, using about 17.750 different, partly newly created words; other than most Elizabethan playwrights he always was “with his eye on the public” (Baker 2). In this way, Shakespeare was able to reach all kind of audience, the simple as well as the aristocratic. After his, due to a lack of information, ‘lost 8 years’, he officially started a career as actor in 1992, at which time he must have already been started being a dramatist, too. According to Baker, Shakespeare’s first production could be traced back to 1592 and Shakespeare’s first release was not before 1597. Later, Shakespeare owned the main part of the globe theatre, developed his own style of playwright and gained in experience, influence and money. When Shakespeare wrote both the plays Henry V. (1599) and The Merchant of Venice (1596), he had already gone through a lot of writing experience. The aim of this essay is, to discuss Shakespeare’s development as a playwright. To do so, “we must fix our gaze upon separate courses of development (…) Thus, for example, (…) we must investigate how Shakespeare manages his plot, (and) how he characterizes his men and women (…).” (Clemen 1) Nevertheless, there are thirty-seven plays of Shakespeare with multiple acts and several scenes each. Obviously, it is not possible to display Shakespeare’s whole development in this small essay; therefore I will focus on those plays mentioned above.
Shakespeare’s early years of being a playwright describe those plays which were written no later than 1594. During this period, made-over plays and stories from tales were popular. Therefore, Shakespeare did which was characteristic for playwrights in the 16th century and seemed safe to establish as a successful playwright: he copied and emulated other playwrights, using Elizabethan language. Shakespeare’s first works, Venus and Adonis (1993) and The Rape of Lucrece (1994) were written in a way which was accepted by the public at the moment, followed by a “widely acclaimed success, (which) prove(d) that, at the outset of his career, he possessed some chief requisites of a successful playwright.” (Baker 102). Although Shakespeare’s first play, Love Labour’s Lost, remained “technically weak, th(r)ough it lacks originality in its elements of story, and (…) its closely model(ing) on Lyly’s method in his court comedies” (Baker 114/115) it fulfilled the audience’s expectation by being a love-story. In this way, he soon achieved a high level of literary art and was widely accepted as playwright. Anyway, in the beginning Shakespeare was seen as being rather a poet than a dramatist: situation and characterization were less important for Shakespeare. He was considerably more interested in the opportunities the material offered for imaginary or poetic narrative, artistry: “His superiority at first was more poetic and literally rather than dramatic” (Baker 123)
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- Melissa Grönebaum (Author), 2013, The Development of Shakespeare as a Playwright, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/268365