Getting to

Know this Guy
A L e a r n e r ’ s G u i d e t o
W i l l i a m S h a k e s p e a r e


To Order Call: 1 800.000.0000


Pg.3 Letter to the Reader

Pgs. 4 Introduction

Pg.5 Who Are Ya?:

Early Life of William Shakespeare and the Rise to

his Career in Theatre.

Pg.6-8 The In’s and the Out’s of Shakespearean Theatre

Pg.9 Say What? Words to Know Wile Reading Shakespeare

Words that Shakespeare made up

Sonnets : Iambic Pentameter and sonnet form

Page 2

Dear Reader,
I hope that this book is helpful along the road to understanding William Shakespeare’s work. Shakespeare is more
than just some old stiff that wrote a bunch of stuff that your
teachers make you read. Think about it… without him you
wouldn’t be able to say things like “as dead as a door nail,”
“Eaten me out of house and home,” and “elbow room.”
William Shakespeare’s work has carried on throughout
the centuries, and is still being read to this day. However his
work isn’t always so easy to read. The contents of this guide
should help with being able to understand Shakespeare’s plays.
Happy Reading!
PS: He is really funny when you look close enough

Hello, I’m William Shakespeare. You
may have seen me before...
I Sometimes
look like

Or like


Who Are Ya?
William Shakespeare was born
on April 23rd, 1564 in Stratford-onAvon. It is not known exactly when
he was born, so his birth date was
based off of church records which say
he was baptized on
Fun Fact:
the 26th of April,
Babies were
There is not
baptized within
much known about
3-4 days of
Shakespeare’s teen
their birth
years. He left school
when he was fourteen
because his Father got into some
trouble with politics, and lost his
position in society. At the age of 18
he got married to Anne Hathaway,
who was 26 years
old at the time…
Fun Fact: One third
and pregnant with
of women who got
their first child.
married were pregShakespeare was
rather young when
he got married where as Anne was of
the normal marrying age at the time.
William and Anne had three
children; Susanna, Judith, and
Hamnet. Susanna was the eldest, and
the two younger children were twins.
Hamnet died at the age of eleven.
Both daughters lived into old age.
There is a large gap in
Shakespeare’s life between the birth
of Susanna and becoming a
playwright where nothing is known
about what he did during that time.
There are possibilities of him being
part of a group of traveling players/
actors, being a school teacher, being a

Page 5


Shakespeare is first referenced
as a playwright around 1592 when a
fellow dramatist wrote a negative
review of one of his plays, most likely
Henry IV. He later became an actor
and playwright for Lord
Chamberlain’s men– an acting
company. The company grew over
time and became widely known,
probably thanks to Shakespeare,
being one of the leading playwrights
in the company. Shakespeare acted
in a few small parts over his career in
the theatre. He stayed with the acting
company until his retirement. In
1599 he obtained partial ownership
of the Globe Theatre-which hosted
the performances of many of
Shakespeare’s plays.
By the end of Shakespeare’s
career he had written 154 sonnets
and 38 plays that are still performed
to this day, almost 400 years later.
William Shakespeare died on April
23rd, 1616 at the age of 52.

S h a k e s p e a r e ’s P l a y s

The Comedy of Errors
Love’s Labors Lost
Henry IV part 2
Henry IV part 3
Henry IV part 1
Richard III
Titus Andronicus
The Taming of the Shrew
The Two Gentlemen of Verona
Romeo and Juliet
Richard II
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
King John
The Merchant of Venice
Henry IV part I
The Merry Wives of Windsor
Henry IV part 2
Much Ado About Nothing
Henry V

Julius Cesar
1599-1600 As You Like It
1599-1600 Twelfth Night
1600-1601 Hamlet
1601-1602 Troilus and Cressida
1602-1604 All’s Well that Ends Well
1603-1604 Othello
Measure for Measure
1605-1606 King Lear
1605-1606 Macbeth
1606-1607 Antony and Cleopatra
1605-1608 Timon of Athens
1607-1608 Coriolanus
1607-1608 Pericles
1609-1610 Cymbeline
1610-1611 The Winter’s Tale
The Tempest
Henry VIII
The Two Noble Kinsmen

Fun Fact:
The Merry Wives of Windsor was written
at the request of Queen Elizabeth I because
she wanted to see the character Falstaff– from
Henry IV part I, appear in another one of

Page 6

T h e I n ’s a n d t h e O u t ’s o f S h a k e s p e a r e ’s

ty, or be mistaken as someone else.

Shakespeare wrote three types of Some characters chose to disguise
plays; Comedy, Tragedy, and History.
themselves throughout the play. FeShakespearean comedies will
generally have a descent amount of

male characters, in the comedies,
have also been known for dressing up

word play. In other words there will be as men...a bit of gender identity mixa lot of insulting going on between the ups.
characters in the form of metaphors.
Beyond the element of word play is

Plots will sometimes seem a bit
complicated. Shakespearean come-

love. One of the reoccurring themes in dies are sometimes like a traffic interShakespeare’s comedies is romance be- section. There are multiple characters
tween characters, and their struggle to

with individual story lines that will

overcome obstacles in order to main-

intersect with one another in the

tain their love for one another. A dis-

length of the play. There are also a

tinct characteristic of a comedy is that

great deal of twists and turns that

the play with generally end with a wed- keep the audience’s attention. It’s
sometimes hard to predict what will
One of the obstacles that rela-

happen next. However, there is al-

tionships in these plays will have is the

ways one thing you can expect...a

case of mistaken identity. Characters

happy ending.

will either elect to change their identi-

Page 7

Page 8

Painting by Edwin Henry Landseer (1848-1851)Scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream. Titania and

T h e I n ’s a n d t h e O u t ’s o f S h a k e s p e a r e ’s
History plays were named after the monarch in which the play
takes place, so the play doesn’t always necessarily revolve around the
monarch. For example: Henry IV is
not actually about Henry IV.

time period.

History plays would sometimes be used to reflect political
opinions during that time. Shakespeare wrote during the reign of
Elizabeth I, who would sometimes
attend his plays, so propaganda
History plays are generally set would occasionally make its way into
during different points in Medieval the performances. Some plays
English History. Some of the char- would show the negative appearancacters will sometimes be important es of civil war, and praise the founding members of the Tudor Family–
members of English history like
King John, Richard II, Richard III, Elizabeth I’s family.
etc. Because the plays take place
All sorts of members of sociduring different points in English
ety would appear in histories.
history doesn’t mean that the events Shakespeare would include beggars
that occur in the play are historically all the way up to royalty. He would
accurate. Shakespeare didn’t write also incorporate a balance of tragefor historical accuracy, but rather for dy and comedy along with his wide
the entertainment of the audience. arrange of characters. Characters
He was more concerned with the
from different sections of society
opinions of the people watching his would interact with one another in
plays. He would write certain events scenes through out the play.
into the play, not necessarily being
historically correct, in order to suit
the opinions and the views of the
Page 9

Page 10

Painting by John Cawse (1779-1862) Falstaff and the recruits, from "Henry IV, Part II"

T h e I n ’s a n d t h e O u t ’s o f S h a k e s p e a r e ’s
Shakespeare’s tragedies tend to
have more dramatic plots than the
rest of his other plays. Most if not
all the main characters meet a tragic
end by the closing of the play. The
social structure slowly breaks down
through out the duration of the
The play is filled with all sorts
of conflict and drama. The catastrophes follow each other one after
the other as the play goes on, and it
sometimes looks as if all these
problems in the plot are unavoidable.

Some aspects that can play a
role in a characters flaws are fate,
omens and/ or evil spirits, and other
characters. Most of these tragicheroes are members of the upper
class whether it be nobleman or royalty. These characters, because they
are so high up in society, will have a
larger downfall because they have
such a long way to fall in the eyes of
the people that they rule.

By the end of the play a large
number of the cast is dead as a result of the catastrophes and/ or the
mistakes of the tragic-hero. The
tragic-hero will often reflect after
their fall, and realize their wrong doThe plot tends revolve around ings, and sometimes die as a result
one particular character, the tragic- of their previous actions.
hero. Each tragic-hero has a flaw
that will lead to their downfall by
the end of the play. Tragic-heroes
will tend to be a bit self-absorbed,
and irresponsible. In turn they have
no real grasp as to what is going on
around them, thus setting up their
Page 11

Painting by John William Waterhouse (1894) Ophelia
Page 12

Say What?
Wo r d s t o K n o w W h i l e R e a d i n g S h a k e s p e a r e

‘a= He

Entertain= receive into service

Abuse= deceive

Event= outcome


Excrement= outgrowth of hair

Advertise= inform

Fact= evil deed

An, and= if

Free= innocent

Annoy= harm

Imp= child

Appeal= accuse

Intelligence= news

Artificial= skillful

Natural= fool, an idiot

Brave= fine, splendid

Naughty= wicked, worthless

Censure= opinion

Silly= innocent

Cheer= face, or frame of mind Shrewd= sharp
Chorus= a single person who
comments on the events

Vagabond= drifting, meandering, wandering

Competitor= partner

Will= lust

Conceit= idea, imagination

Wink= close both eyes

Cunning= skillful

Wit= mind, intelligence

Disaster= evil astrological influence
Doom= judgment
Page 13

Did you know that Capons
is another way to say

Painting by John William Waterhouse (1894) Ophelia