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Let Us Read

18. Before you read the text think and say what you know about William Shakespeare. Do you know:

when and where he lived?
what he did to earn his living?
if he had a family?
why he became famous?
what monarch reigned in the country in those times?
when and where he died?

If you dont know all the answers, read the text and find them.

On April 23, 1564 a son, William, was born to John and Mary Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon. His mother was the daughter of a farmer. His father was a glove-maker. William went to a grammar school in Stratford and had quite a good education. There he learned to love reading. While still a teenager, William married Anne Hathaway, a farmers daughter some years older than himself. We dont know how he earned his living during these early years, perhaps he helped his father in the family business. During these years his three children were born: Susannah, the eldest, then twins a son, Hamnet (not Hamlet), and another girl, Judith. In 1587 Shakespeare went to work in London, leaving Anne and the children at home. We dont know exactly why he did it. Some people say that the reason was his love of poetry and theatre. But there is another story which says that he had to run away from law because he killed some deer belonging to a rich man.

In London Shakespeare began to act and to write plays and soon became an important member of a well-known acting company. Most of his plays were performed in the new Globe Theatre built on the bank of the River Thames. In 1613 he stopped writing and went to live in Stratford where he died in 1616.

Four hundred years later his plays are still acted not only in England but in the whole world.


(from the book William Shakespeare by Jennifer Basset)

The story is told by Will Shakespeares friend, Toby. 40. Will married Anne Hathaway in November and she came to live in Henley Street. John Shakespeare was pleased that his oldest son was married but I dont think Wills mother wanted him to marry so young: Will was only eighteen.

Susannah was born the next year. All babies look the same to me but Will was very pleased with her.

Look, Toby, shes got my eyes, he said happily. Shes going to be as beautiful as the Queen of Egypt and as clever as King Solomon.

Oh yes! I said. All parents talk like that about their children. I knew Wills wife Anne didnt like me. To her, I was one of Wills wild friends who got him into trouble. She came from a very serious, puritan1 family. A lot ofvchurch-going and no singing or dancing. But Will and I still went around together when we could.

Soon there was another baby on the way2 and one evening in February 1585 I hurried round to Henley Street to hear the news. Wills sister, Joan, opened the door, and then Will came running down the stairs.

Its two of them! he said. Twins! A girl and a boy. Isnt that wonderful! Will called the twins Hamnet and Judith. John Shakespeare was very pleased to have his first grandson and everyone was happy. For a while.

Will was still reading and writing but he had changed. He was twenty-three now and he was not happy with his life.

Stratfords too small, Toby, he said. Too slow. Too quiet. Too boring. Ive got to get away.

Yes, but how? I asked. Youve got a family three young children, remember.

He didnt answer.

In the summer months companies of players often came to small towns and in 1587 five different companies came to Stratford. Will and I always went to see the plays. Will loved to talk to the actors and to listen to all their stories of London.

The Queens Men came to Stratford in June and we went to see the play. I dont remember what it was. I know that I laughed a lot, and that Will said it was a stupid play with not a word of poetry in it.

Why dont you write a play yourself? I asked him.

Write a play? he laughed. Anne will never speak to me again.

I didnt say anything and Will looked at me and laughed again.

It happened a few months later. I walked into the Shakespeares kitchen one evening and there was Anne with a red, angry face, shouting at the top of her voice.

How can you do this to me? And what about the children? Then she saw me and stopped.

Will was sitting at the table and looked pleased to see me. Ive told Anne, he said quietly, that Im going to live in London. I want to be an actor and to write plays if I can.

Plays! screamed Anne. Acting! Actors are dirty, wicked people! Theyre all thieves and criminals! They drink all day and they never go to church...

Dont be stupid, Anne. You know thats not true. Listen. Ill come home when I can but I must go to London. I cant do anything in Stratford. He looked at me across the room. Are you coming with me, Toby?

How soon shall we start? I asked.

1 puritan
2 soon there was another baby on the way

19. Say if it is true or false.

  1. Shakespeare was born in the 16th century.
  2. Shakespeares father was a clock-maker.
  3. William was poorly educated, but loved reading. 4. William Shakespeare had twin daughters.
  4. In 1587 Shakespeare went to work in London.
  5. William Shakespeare wrote plays for the new Globe Theatre.
  6. William Shakespeare never acted on the stage.
  7. Shakespeare lived in Stratford the last three years of his life.
  8. Shakespeare died writing his last play.
  9. Plays by Shakespeare are acted only in Britain.

20. Get ready with test reading of Tobys story (ex. 18, 40).

21. Read the last part of the text (ex. 18) beginning with the words The Queens Men came to Stratford in June in reported speech.