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all about shakespeare
You know, a lot of people love and enjoy Shakespeare's plays. But, just as many people complain that they don't "get" Shakespeare. That's not surprising, because Shakespeare can be really tough to handle…
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  1. Shakespeare's Life and Times
    1. Shakespeare's Life
    2. Globe Theater
  2. Shakespeare's Use of Language
    1. Poetry
    2. Iambic Pentameter
  3. Elizabethan Drama
    1. The Importance of Words
    2. Real Life vs. Stage Life
    3. Symbolic Art
  4. Tragedy
    1. Tragic Figures
    2. Titus Andronicus
    3. Romeo and Juliet
    4. Hamlet
    5. Macbeth
    6. Othello
    7. King Lear

sample test

1. During what period did William Shakespeare live and work?
a) the Age of Enlightenment
b) the Elizabethan Era
c) the Romantic Era
d) the Italian Renaissance

2. Where was Shakespeare born?
a) Stratford-on-Avon
b) London-on-Thames
c) Once-upon-a-Thames
d) Hamm-on-Wye

3. What was the name of the theatrical company of which Shakespeare was a member?
a) The King's Men
b) The Queen's Men
c) The Chessmen
d) The Man's Men

4. Which of the following was an attribute of the Globe Theater?
a) three-story, open-air construction
b) extended stage with trapdoor
c) shaped like an "O"
d) all of the above

5. Which of the following was not an attribute of the Elizabethan stage?
a) performed in front of "groundlings"
b) huge special effects
c) no female actors
d) no intermissions between acts

6. Shakespeare was involved with the Globe Theater as:
a) an actor
b) a playwright
c) a shareholder
d) all of the above

7. Shakespeare wrote all of the following except:
a) plays
b) sonnets
c) novels
d) book-length poems

8. Which of the following describes the syllable structure of an iamb?
a) stressed, stressed
b) unstressed, stressed
c) stressed, unstressed
d) freaked out, chilled

9. Shakespeare often wrote in blank verse because it:
a) is much cheaper then full verse
b) closely resembles the natural rhythms of speech
c) was mandated by Queen Elizabeth
d) is a favorite of the ladies

10. How many iambs does a line of perfect iambic pentameter contain?
a) one complete iamb
b) five
c) ten
d) varies according to meter

11. In terms of symbolic art, which of the following is a universal?
a) villain
b) protagonist
c) femme fatale
d) justice

12. Who wrote the Greek play Oedipus Rex?
a) Sophocles
b) Aristotle
c) Jocasta
d) Francis Bacon

13. Greek philosopher Aristotle described drama, including tragedy, as:
a) a terrible beauty
b) a terrible waste of time
c) a muse of fire
d) an imitation of an action

14. Tragic figures:
a) are noble figures
b) suffer a reversal of fortune
c) recognize the consequences of their actions
d) all of the above

Click here to see the answers.

something to consider
1. Why do you think Shakespeare is so popular? If Shakespeare lived today, how do you think our society would respond to him?

2. What do you think Shakespeare's greatest tragedy is? Why?

3. How do you think Shakespeare viewed human nature? Do you think he was pessimistic, optimistic, or something else entirely?

4. Why do you think many people consider Shakespeare's greatest works his tragedies? Is there something about tragedies that makes them superior to other genres, like comedies?

5. The first line in Hamlet is from the sentinel, Barnardo: "Who's there?" How does this line help set the tone for the play?

6. When studying plays, Shakespearean scholars usually direct themselves to one place-the text. But theatrical companies, when mounting a production, feel free to cut lines, characters, or even set the play in a different time or place. Which approach do you think is more true to Shakespeare's plays?

7. If Shakespeare was around today, what medium do you think he'd be working in? Theater? Film? Television? Interpretive Dance? Do you think he'd have a website? If yes, what would it look like?

8. Is a Shakespeare play better read or seen performed on stage? Are there advantages to being able to read it at your own pace? Are there advantages to seeing actors interpret the characters? Are there any disadvantages to either way of experiencing these plays? What Shakespeare play would you most like to see performed in person?

9. Early in his life, Shakespeare left Stratford-on-Avon and made his way to London, where he wrote his plays. Do you think we would have ever heard from him had he never left Stratford? If Shakespeare had never written a play, do you think his genius would have expressed itself in other ways?

10. When Shakespeare wrote his plays, women were not allowed to act on stage, but during much of this time a woman, Queen Elizabeth, was ruler of England. Do you find this to be a paradox? Do you see any parallels of this situation in our own day and time?

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did you know?
Long before Pat Sajak and Vanna White popularized "The Wheel of Fortune" for American audiences, the Elizabethans had a wheel of fortune of their own. But their wheel was a metaphorical wheel that represented good fortune on top, bad fortune on the bottom, and turned to show how someone's luck might change.

top ten
Top 10 Least Known Sequels to a Shakespearean Tragedy

10. Titus Andronicus II: Titus Strikes Back

9. Antony and Cleopatra IV("You just can't get any deader then this.")

8. Hamlet 3D (Or Not 3D)

7. Coriolanus II: The Wrath of Kahn

6. King Lear III ("He's back, and he's hoppin' mad!")

5. Othello 10: Police Academy in Venice

4. Timon of Athens V ("The one right after Timon of Athens IV.")

3. The Return of Julius Caesar ("Again, Bruté?")

2. Romeo and Juliet Part 3: Zombie Wedding

1. Macbeth II: The Reeeaaaallly Long Apology

Aristotle—Ancient Greek philosopher who wrote The Poetics, which details his ideas on drama, including tragedy.

catharsis—the violent purging of the emotions experienced when encountering great drama.

De Casibus tragedy—A medieval form of tragedy, named for Boccaccio's De Casibus Virorum Illustrium. These "tragical tales" often taught a moral lesson.

Elizabethan Age—The time in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) in which there was immense creativity in the arts.

Globe Theater—The "O"-shaped, open-air theater in London where many of Shakespeare's plays were originally performed.

groundlings — Spectators at the Globe Theater who stood on the ground in front of the stage while watching a Shakespearean play.

iamb—A unit of speech that contains one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable.

iambic pentameter— A poetic form that consists of five iambs. Shakespeare often used this form in his plays to mimic the natural rhythms of the English language.

Lord Chamberlain's Men—Shakespeare's acting company, who, starting in 1603, were known as the King's Men.

Oedipus Rex—Play written by the ancient Greek dramatist Sophocles. Because of its excellence, it can be studied as a prototype for great tragedy.

oracle—A priestess through whom a deity or god speaks.

poetry—A concentrated and heightened form of language, produced through rhythm and sound. Also known as "verse."

prose—The language of everyday, ordinary speech.

sonnet—A fourteen-line poem that employs a particular rhyme scheme.

Stratford-on-Avon —Village in England where Shakespeare was born in 1564. Often shortened to "Stratford."

tragedy—A form of dramatic art which follows the fall, pain, and suffering of the tragic figure.

tragic figure—The main character of a tragedy; experiences a reversal of fortune and endures uncommon suffering with uncommon dignity.

verse—Another name for poetry.

Explore some Shakespeare-related websites. Remember, you will be leaving the Standard Deviants TV website.
Related Sites

Search all of William Shakespeare's works!

Check out an entire library dedicated to Shakespeare and Elizabethan life.

Explore the NEW Globe Theater!

Find out what life was like in Elizabethan England!

Generally Accepted Shakespeare Plays

All's Well That Ends Well
Antony and Cleopatra
As You Like It
The Comedy of Errors
Henry IV, Part 1
Henry IV, Part 2
Henry V
Henry VI, Part I
Henry VI, Part 2
Henry VI, Part 3
Henry VIII
Julius Caesar
King John
King Lear
Love's Labour's Lost
Measure for Measure
The Merchant of Venice
The Merry Wives of Windsor
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Much Ado About Nothing
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Richard II
Richard III
Romeo and Juliet
The Taming of the Shrew
The Tempest
Timon of Athens
Titus Andronicus
Troilus and Cressida
Twelfth Night
The Two Gentleman of Verona
The Two Noble Kinsmen
The Winter's Tale

Generally Accepted Poetry

The Phoenix and Turtle
The Rape of Lucrece
Venus and Adonis
And 154 sonnets!

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