Historical Context for Shakespeare's Plays

1028 Words5 Pages
Arguably the greatest playwright of his time, perhaps in all of history, William Shakespeare's literary works have had a tremendous impact (see Appendix 2). Reaching into the pop culture of the modern world through movies and quotes used in everyday conversation, Shakespeare's influence is astounding (see Appendix 1). One rarely stops to think, however, about events that had an impact on Shakespeare's life, particularly his writing. The outbreak of the plague, social disparity, political unrest, just a few of the historical happenings that impacted Shakespeare's plays, including Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, and Henry IV
The basic setting of Macbeth is a man named Lord Macbeth usurping the Scottish throne from the rightful ruler. Shakespeare's writing was based on "Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1577), the authoritative historical text of the period". In this historical account, there are stories of murder, deceit, and tradition, from which Shakespeare draws his inspiration for Macbeth. The fashion in which Macbeth murdered his king is extremely similar to how one of King Duff's retainers ended his life. Around 1605 when Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, King James I had recently taken the throne of England after having been known as King James IV of Scotland. Macbeth's identity as a Scot is a nod to James I original Scottish upbringing and heritage (www.westirondequoit.org).
The outbreak of the plague during Shakespeare's life reflected in his writing, resulting in a far more massive number of tragedies than comedies. The tragic deaths of his main characters are speculated to have been reference to important people in his life dying unexpectedly. There were time periods in which the plague ...

... middle of paper ...

...y IV. "Henry IV". August 1996. http://dsc.dixie.edu/shakespeare/henry4ess.htm Princeton University. Great Plague of London. "Outbreak." February 2014. http://www.prince-ton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Great_Plague_of_London.html Sommerville, J.P. Economy and Society in early modern England. "Health, mortality and popu- lation." February 2014. http://faculty.history.wisc.edu/sommerville/361/361-02.htm

Sommerville, J.P. Economy and Society in early modern England. "Social structure."
February 2014. http://faculty.history.wisc.edu/sommerville/361/361-02.htm

Sparknotes. Romeo and Juliet. "Context." February 2014. http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/romeojuliet/context.html Thomson Gale. The Historical Context of Macbeth. "The Historical Context of Macbeth."
February 2007. http://www.westirondequoit.org/ihs/library/his.html
Open Document