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History of Books and Writing
William Shakespeare



William Shakespeare
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 9 to 12
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   7.15

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    bard, torturously, crow, theatrical, penned, barbaric, suspense, playwright, untimely, plague, whatsoever, writing, backgammon, tragic, majestic, lease
     content words:    William Shakespeare, In Romeo, Young William, Henry VI, London Bridge, Black Death, Queen Elizabeth, When Elizabeth, Ben Jonson, Protestant England


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William Shakespeare
By Colleen Messina
  

1     "To be or not to be; that is the question," is a well-known phrase by William Shakespeare, but many facts about his life remain a mystery. We know the dates of some events of his life because of baptismal and wedding certificates, but the famous English bard never kept a diary. He wrote 37 plays and 154 sonnets, but none of his personal letters have survived.
 
2     Most scholars think that Shakespeare was born in the year 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. He was probably born around April 23 since his christening was on April 26. His father was the town's mayor and a prosperous glove maker. Shakespeare had seven brothers and sisters, and their home was small, noisy, and cramped.
 
3     Shakespeare's country upbringing made him familiar with farm animals and vegetation. Many images of plants and flowers "crop up" later in his writings in unique ways. For example, a wicked queen's servants gather violets, cowslips, and primroses to make poison, and in Hamlet, crazy Ophelia weaves garlands of crow flowers, nettles, and daisies. In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet's father laments her death by saying, "Death lies on her like an untimely frost upon the sweetest flower in all the field."
 
4     William did spend a lot of time playing in the fields around Stratford, but he went to grammar school when he was six or seven. The schoolmasters were strict, and the lessons were torturously long. School went from six a.m. until six p.m., six days a week, all year round! Young William learned to read Latin and Greek, and he studied Roman classics. These writings may have inspired Shakespeare's great tragic plays.
 
5     For fun, young William probably tossed a football made from an inflated pig bladder, played backgammon, or watched the theatrical players who came to Stratford once a year. Everyone in England (even the queen) also enjoyed archery. Shakespeare graduated from school when he was 16. However, his father had fallen into debt, and William could not afford to study at the university. The great writer whose works are always studied at universities never attended one himself!

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