A Romantic Tragedy by William Shakespeare
CONSIDERING THE 2050 YEARS that separated Greek drama from Elizabethan, the 350 since Shakespeare wrote Othello pale to insignificance--a mere dozen to fifteen generations! But the Renaissance in England is close to us in many ways: Drake and Raleigh, the King James Bible and Puritanism, Virginia and Jamestown. With our contemporary interests in psychology, in questions of race, in the resurgence of Machiavellian cunning and Inquisitional cruelty, Othello may seem especially close to our own times.
Of William Shakespeare the man we know much less than we might wish. Yet a hard core of relevant facts about him has been determined by patient scholarship. He was born in 1564 in Stratford-on-Avon, a town of two thousand, less than a hundred miles from London. His father was a prominent villager, his mother of the landed gentry. William Shakespeare married at the age of eighteen a woman, Anne Hathaway, perhaps eight years his senior. Six months thereafter a daughter was baptized; and twenty months later a twin son and daughter. Shakespeare, about whose education and early vocation we can do no more than make intelligent guesses, went up to London in his middle twenties. Before he turned thirty he had become an acceptable actor, an established playwright, and a recognized poet. He became a shareholder in the Lord Chamberlain's Company (later renamed the King's Company) of players, and part owner of first one and then another theater. During the twenty years of his principal activities in London ( 1590-1610) he wrote some thirty-eight playscripts to be produced by his fellow actors. Many of these were published by enterprising booksellers, some of them in a number of editions. His various undertakings made him well-to-do. He secured for his father (and therefore himself) a coat-of-arms. He bought the second-largest house in his