A Comparison of Two of Shakespeare's Plays
William Shakespeare was christened on April 26, 1564 at Stratford-on-Avon, where he died on April 23, 1616 (Bloom, xii). In his discussion of Shakespeare's life, work, and influence, Barrett Wendell (7) states that Shakespeare was the son of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden, a woman who occupied a social position somewhat higher than that of her spouse. John Shakespeare held the position of High Bailiff or mayor in Stratford, but the family, which included six children, began to experience financial reversals in 1578. It is known that Shakespeare married on November 28, 1582, choosing as his wife Anne Hathaway (who was 26 at the time of marriage) and with whom he had three children (Wendell, 8).
It was not until 1587 that Shakespeare joined the London theatrical world, during which period he acted in and wrote most of his plays along with his famous sonnets (Bloom, xiii). In about 1610, Shakespeare returned to live in Stratford, but after 1613, when he composed The Two Noble Kinsmen in collaboration with John Fletcher, he gave up his career as a dramatist (Bloom, xiii). Thus, Shakespeare's most prolific period occurred during his life in London beginning with 1589's Henry VI, Part I and concluding in 1610 with The Winter's Tale. The two plays to be analyzed in this report are Romeo and Juliet (1595-1596) and Antony and Cleopatra (1606).
Both Romeo and Juliet and Antony and Cleopatra are plays which address issues both romantic and political (Hager, 86). Both plays are also grand and even epic love stories (Masefield, 58). Whereas Romeo and Juliet draws upon earlier tales, many of which were Italian in origin (Masefield, 58), Antony and Cleopatra has history as its source (Masefield, 117).
These similarities and differences aside, what is most compelling in each of the two plays is what John Dover Wilson (42) characterizes as the "fountain light" of Shakespeare poet...