Born ca. 1564 and died ca. 1616 during the Renaissance period (1450-1599). One of the greatest writers of all time, Shakespeare, the peerless poet of the Sonnets and the creator of such dramatic masterpieces as Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and King Lear, is a playwright of paradigmatic originality. In his discussion of the Western literary canon, critic Harold Bloom declared: "Shakespeare and Dante are the center of the Canon because they excel all other Western writer in cognitive acuity, linguistic energy, and power of invention." However, one could go a step further and suggest that Shakespeare defines the Western canon because he transcends it. If Shakespeare, as Ben Jonson declared, "was not of an age, but for all time," the great dramatist, one could argue, spoke to the ultimate concerns of humankind, regardless of period or cultural tradition..
"This was the noblest Roman of them all. All the conspirators, save only he,Did that they did in envy of Caesar;He only, in a general honest thoughtAnd common good to all, made one of them. His life was gentle, and the elementsSo mixd in him that Nature might stand upAnd say to all the world, This was a man!"
"All the worlds a stage,And all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances,And one man in his time plays many parts,His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,Mewling and puking in the nurses arms. Then the whining school-boy, with his satchelAnd shining morning face, creeping like snailUnwillingly to school. And then the lover,Sighing like furnace, with a woeful balladMade to his mistress eyebrow. Then a soldier,Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel,Seeking the bubble reputationEven in the cannons mouth. And then the justice,In fair round belly with good capon lind,With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,Full of wise saws and modern instances;And so he plays his part. The sixth age shiftsInto the lean and slipperd pantaloon [dotard],With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,His youthful hose, well savd, a world too wideFor his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,Turning again toward childish treble, pipesAnd whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,That ends this strange eventful history,Is second childishness and mere oblivion,Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing. "
"So farewell to the little good you bear me. Farewell! a long farewell, to all my greatness!This is the state of man: to-day he puts forthThe tender leaves of hopes; to-morrow blossoms,And bears his blushing honours thick upon him;The third day comes a frost, a killing frost,And, when he thinks, good easy man, full surelyHis greatness is a-ripening, nips his root,And then he falls, as I do. I have venturd,Like little wanton boys that swim on bladders,This many summers in a sea of glory,But far beyond my depth. My high-blown prideAt length broke under me, and now has left me,Weary and old with service, to the mercyOf a rude stream that must for ever hide me. Vain pomp and glory of this world, I hate ye!I feel my heart new opend. O, how wretchedIs that poor man that hangs on princes favours!There is, betwixt that smile we would aspire to,That sweet aspect of princes, and their ruin,More pangs and fears than wars or women have;And when he falls, he falls like Lucifer,Never to hope again. "
"I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction. (III.i.49–61) The Merchant of Venice"
Search Quotations Book