What is historical background to understand Shakespeare play?
Shakespeare was part of the European Renaissance—a cultural "rebirth" where scholars throughout Europe rediscovered some of the greatest ideas of ancient times, and developed many new ones of their own based upon them. It was a very EXCITING time—the beginnings of modern science, where people like Galileo, Shakespeare’s contemporary, discovered that the earth was not the center of the universe; his new theories set on its head the old ways of thinking about man and his place in the universe.
Other Renaissance thinkers developed a philosophy of the individual, giving man the confidence in his own ability to shape his own destiny, to overcome fate. And the Protestant Reformation gave man another powerful tool to interpret his destiny and understand his relationship with his creator: the Bible in his own language.
Furthermore, the "New World" of the Americas had been only recently discovered, and maps and conquests and treasures transformed small European countries into sea powers and colonial empires. The new trade that resulted enriched many—though there was still much social unrest and legitimate grievances.
Shakespeare’s England existed in a time of peace. The 100 years war had been over for half a century, and the warring houses of Lancaster and York had been united in the House of Tudor. There was also a religious peace of sorts: the English Reformation stabilized relations between radical reformers of the Church and the Roman Catholics. And after Elizabeth died in 1603, the kingdom passed over to the House of Stuarts, under King James, whose sponsorship of the arts produced the King James Bible and some of the greatest drama and poetry ever written.
Into all this peace and prosperity was born William Shakespeare, in 1564 in a rural town of England called Stratford-on-Avon. His father, a leatherworker, became one of the towns leading citizens—even mayor for a time. As a result, William had the benefit of a free education at the local grammar school. There he studied rhetoric, Christian ethics, and classical literature, and learned how to write formal letters and deliver formal speeches. Although Shakespeare had no university training, he did have a good understanding of French, Latin, ancient and English history, continental fiction, and the English "classics" of his day, especially Chaucer.
When he was 18 he married Anne Hathaway, a women 8 years older than he; their first child was born 6 months later. Shakespeare had 3 children; they and their mother continued to live in Stratford even when young Will moved to London to be part of the theatre.
Early on in his theatrical career, Shakespeare was probably an actor, but he began writing plays by his mid twenties. When he was 29 he became a partner in his own acting company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. Evidently, he became wealthy, for records exist of him buying a large house in Stratford within a few years. Shakespeare retired to that house in his late 40s, and died there at age 52
Over the course of 25 years William Shakespeare wrote 38 plays of remarkable variety, 2 long narrative poems, and 154 sonnets. He had a remarkable ability to bring to life real dilemmas concerning love, trust, honor, jealousy, ambition, and power.
If his words and characters are able to speak to you today, over this gap of 400 years, then perhaps he does deserve the title, "a genius for all time."