The most influential writer in all of English literature, William Shakespeare was born in 1564 to a successful middle-class glove-maker in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Shakespeare attended grammar school, but his formal education proceeded no further. In 1582 he married an older woman, Anne Hathaway, and had three children with her. Around 1590 he left his family behind and travelled to London to work as an actor and playwright. Public and critical acclaim quickly followed, and Shakespeare eventually became the most popular playwright in England and part-owner of the Globe Theatre. His career bridged the reigns of Elizabeth I (ruled 1558-1603) and James I (ruled 1603-1625), and he was a favourite of both monarchs. Indeed, James granted Shakespeare's company the greatest possible compliment by bestowing upon its members the title of King's Men. Wealthy and renowned, Shakespeare retired to Stratford and died in 1616 at the age of fifty-two.
Shakespeare must be viewed as the author of the thirty-seven plays and 154 sonnets that bear his name. The legacy of this body of work is immense. A number of Shakespeare's plays seem to have transcended even the category of brilliance, becoming so influential as to affect profoundly the course of Western literature and culture ever after.
Much Ado About Nothing is generally considered one of Shakespeare's best comedies, because it combines elements of robust hilarity with more serious meditations on honour, shame, and court politics. It was probably written in 1598 and 1599, as Shakespeare was approaching the middle of his career. Like As You Like It and Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing, though interspersed with darker concerns, is a joyful comedy that ends with multiple marriages and no deaths.
Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night near the middle of his career, probably in the year 1601. Most critics consider it one of his greatest comedies, along with plays such as As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Twelfth Night is about illusion, deception, disguises, madness, and the extraordinary things that love will cause us to do and to see.
Twelfth Night is the only one of Shakespeare's plays to have an alternative title: the play is actually called Twelfth Night, or What You Will. Critics are divided over what the two titles mean, but "Twelfth Night" is usually considered to be a reference to Epiphany, or the twelfth night of the Christmas celebration (January 6). In Shakespeare's day, this holiday was celebrated as a festival in which everything was turned upside-down much like the upside-down, chaotic world of Illyria in the play.
Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare's so-called transvestite comedies, a category that also includes As You Like It and The Merchant of Venice. These plays feature female protagonists who, for one reason or another, have to disguise themselves as young men. It is important to remember that in Shakespeare's day, all of the parts were played by men, so Viola would actually have been a male pretending to be a female pretending to be a male. Contemporary critics have found a great deal of interest in the homoerotic implications of these plays.
Plot of Much Ado About Nothing
Leonato (a nobleman) lives in an Italian town (Messina).
Leonato share his home with his young daughter Hero, his niece Beatrice and his elderly brother Antonio.
Leonato prepare the welcome some friends home from a war. The friends include Don Pedro, a prince who is a close friend o Leonato, and two friends soldiers, Claudio, a young nobleman and Benedick. Don John, Don Pedro's illegitimate brother, stay too. Don John is sullen and bitter, and makes troubles for the others.
When the soldiers arrive to Leonato's home, Claudio falls in love to Hero. Claudio and Hero decide married. To pass the time in the week before marriage, the lovers and their friend decide to play a game. They want to get Beatrice and Benedick, who are clearly meant for each other, to stop arguing and fall in love. Their tricks prove successful, and Beatrice and Benedick fall privately in love with each other.
But Don Pedro decides to crash the happiness. He and his friend Borachio make love to Margaret, Hero's serving woman, at Hero's window in the darkness of the night, and he brings Don Pedro and Claudio to watch.
Claudio believing that he has seen Hero being unfaithful to him. Claudio angry humiliates Hero in the day of wedding abandoning her at the altar. Hero's stricken family members decided to pretend that she died suddenly of shock and grief and to hide her away wile they wait for the truth about her innocence.
Benedick and Beatrice finally confess their love to one other.
Dougberry and Verges fortunately hear Borachio talking about his crime and arrest Borachio and Conrad, another Don John's followers.
Everyone learns that hero is really innocent and Claudio, Who believes she is dead, grieves for her.
Leonato tells Claudio that he tell everybody in the city that Hero was innocent.
Claudio goes to church with others, he thinks that marry with Hero's cousin, when Hero reveals herself as the masked woman.
Benedick ask Beatrice if she would marry him, and she say yes. They celebrate a double wedding, Hero with Claudio and Beatrice with Benedick.
Beatrice - Leonato's niece and Hero's cousin. She is generous and loving, but, like Benedick.
Claudio - A young soldier who has won great acclaim fighting under Don Pedro during the recent wars. Claudio falls in love with Hero upon his return to Messina. His unfortunately suspicious nature makes him quick to believe evil rumors and hasty to despair and take revenge.
Hero - The beautiful young daughter of Leonato and the cousin of Beatrice. Hero is lovely, gentle, and kind. She falls in love with Claudio when he falls for her, but when Don John slanders her and Claudio rashly takes revenge, she suffers terribly.
Don Pedro - The prince from Aragon, Don Pedro is a longtime friend of Leonato, Hero's father, and is also close to the soldiers who have been fighting under him, the younger Benedick and the very young Claudio. Don Pedro is generous, courteous, intelligent, and loving to his friends, but he is also quick to believe evil of others and hasty to take revenge. He is the most politically and socially powerful character in the play.
Leonato - A respected, well to do, elderly noble at whose home, in Messina, Italy, the action is set. Leonato is the father of Hero and the uncle of Beatrice. As governor of Messina, he is second in social power only to Don Pedro.
Don John - The illegitimate brother of Don Pedro. Don John is melancholy and sullen by nature, and he creates a dark scheme to ruin the happiness of Hero and Claudio. He is the villain of the play; his evil actions are motivated by his envy of his brother's social authority.
Borachio - An associate of Don John. Borachio is the lover of Margaret, Hero's serving woman. He conspires with Don John to trick Claudio and Don Pedro into thinking that Hero is unfaithful to Claudio.
Conrade - One of Don John's more intimate associates entirely devoted to Don John. Several recent productions have staged Conrad as Don John's potential male lover, possibly to intensify Don John's feelings of being a social outcast and therefore motivate his desire for revenge.
Ursula - One of Hero's waiting women.
Plot of Twelfth Night
In the kingdom of Illyria, Orsino (a nobleman), he fall in love to Lady Olivia.
He cannot have her because she is in mourning for her dead brother and she refuses the marriage.
While, in the cost, a storm caused a terrible shipwreck.
A young woman, aristocratic, called Viola stay alone in Illyrian cost, she assumes that her brother Sebastian die in the wreck. She thinks about kinds of jobs she can make; a friendly sea captain tells her about Orsino's courtship of Olivia, and Viola think to work in Olivia's home. But Olivia don't want to speak with any strangers, then Viola decides to disguise herself as a man, taking on the name of Cesario, and goes to work in the household of Duke Osino.
Then Cesario work with Orsino, Viola loves Orsino, Orsino loves Olivia and Olivia loves Cesario.
The other members of the Olivia's home are: Sir Toby (the uncle), Sir Andrew Aguecheek (a friend), who is trying in his hopeless way to court Olivia; Maria (the serving-woman); and Malvolio (the churchwarden).
When Sir Toby and the others take the offence at Malvolio's constant efforts to spoil their fun, Maria engineers a practical joke to make Malvolio think that Olivia is in love with him.
Maria write a letter (supposedly from Olivia) telling him that if he wants to earn her favour, he should dress in yellow, stockings and crossed garters, act haughtily, smile constantly and refuse to explain himself to anyone. Malvolio find the letter and thinking to marrying with Olivia follows her commands.
Malvolio behaves so strangely that Olivia comes to think that he is mad.
Meanwhile, Sebastian, who is still alive after all but believes his sister Viola to be dead, arrives in Illyria with his friend and protector Antonio, Antonio has cared for Sebastian since the shipwreck and is passionately attached to the young man, so much so that he follows him to Orsino's domain, in spite of the fact that he and Orsino are old enemies.
Sir Andrew, seeing Olivia's attraction to Cesario, challenges Cesario to a duel. Sir Andrew and Sir Toby end up coming to blows with Sebastian, thinking that he is Cesario. Olivia enters amid the confusion. Encountering Sebastian and thinking that he is Cesario, she asks him to marry her. He sees the she is wealthy and beautiful, and he accept.
Meanwhile, Antonio has been arrested by Orsino's offices and now begs Cesario for help, mistaking him for Sebastian.
Viola denies knowing Antonio, and Antonio is dragged off, crying out that Sebastian has betrayed him. Suddenly, Viola hopes that her brother may be alive.
Malvolio is closed in a small room, for he's supposed madness.
In the future Olivia welcomes Cesario as her new husband.
Orsino is furious, but Sebastian appears and all is revealed.
The brothers meet again, Orsino understand that he loves Viola, now that knows she is a woman, and asks her to marry him.
Toby and Maria have also been married privately.
Finally Malvolio go out to the dark room, the trick is revealed in full, and the embittered Malvolio storms off, leaving the happy couples to their celebration.
Viola - A young woman of aristocratic birth, and the play's protagonist. Washed up on the shore of Illyria when her ship is wrecked in a storm, Viola decides to make her own way in the world. She disguises herself as a young man, calling herself "Cesario," and becomes a page to Duke Orsino. She ends up falling in love with Orsino, even as Olivia, the woman Orsino is courting, falls in love with Cesario. Thus, Viola finds that her clever disguise has entrapped her: she cannot tell Orsino that she loves him, and she cannot tell Olivia why she, as Cesario, cannot love her. Her poignant plight is the central conflict in the play.
Orsino - A powerful nobleman in the country of Illyria. Orsino is lovesick for the beautiful Lady Olivia, but finds himself becoming more and more fond of his handsome new page boy, Cesario, who is actually a woman (Viola).
Olivia - A wealthy, beautiful, and noble Illyrian lady, Olivia is courted by Orsino and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, but to each of them she insists that she is in mourning for her brother, who has recently died, and will not marry for seven years. She and Orsino are similar characters in that each seems to enjoy wallowing in his or her own misery. Viola's arrival in the masculine guise of Cesario enables Olivia to break free of her self-indulgent melancholy.
Sebastian - Viola's lost twin brother. When he arrives in Illyria, travelling with Antonio, his close friend and protector, Sebastian discovers that many people seem to think that they know him. Furthermore, the beautiful Lady Olivia, whom he has never met, wants to marry him.
Malvolio - The steward, or head servant, in the household of Lady Olivia. Malvolio is very efficient but also very self-righteous, and he has a poor opinion of drinking, singing, and fun. His priggishness and haughty attitude earn him the enmity of Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Maria, who play a cruel trick on him, making him believe that Olivia is in love with him. In his fantasies about marrying his mistress, he reveals a powerful ambition to rise above his social class.
Sir Toby - Olivia's uncle. Olivia lets Sir Toby Belch live with her, but she does not approve of his rowdy behaviour, practical jokes, heavy drinking, late-night carousing, or friends (specifically Sir Andrew). Sir Toby also earns the ire of Malvolio. But Sir Toby has an ally, and eventually a mate, in Olivia's sharp-witted serving-woman, Maria.
Maria - Olivia's clever, daring young serving-woman.
Antonio - A man who rescues Sebastian after his shipwreck. Antonio has become very fond of Sebastian, caring for him, accompanying him to Illyria, and furnishing him with money, all because of a love so strong that it seems to be romantic in nature. Antonio's attraction to Sebastian.
Fabian - Olivia's servant.
A sea captain - Viola's friend.
I think that this book is an easy reading, without many difficult words.
To the being a book dedicated to second of high school the reading is easier.
Shakespeare is one of the most important authors that have existed; and I have liked to read these two of his works.
Encyclopaedia Encarta 2000