Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Pitcairn Islands 2016 - William Shakespeare

ISSUE DATE: 9 March 2016
STAMP SIZE:37.5 x 36.95 mm
STAMP THEME: William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was born on or near April 23 1564, in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. The third child of John Shakespeare, a leather merchant, and Mary Arden, a local landed heiress, he had two older sisters and three younger brothers. Scant records exist of William's childhood, and virtually none regarding his education.

Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, from Shottery near Stratford, in 1582. He was 18 and she was 26 and pregnant. Their daughter, Susanna, was born in 1583 and two years later, twins Hamnet and Judith were born.

After the birth of the twins, there are seven years of Shakespeare's life where no records exist. Scholars call this period the "lost years," and there is wide speculation on what he was doing during this period. By 1592, there is evidence he earned a living as an actor and a playwright in London and possibly had several plays produced. He became a managing partner in the Lord Chamberlain's Men, an acting company in London. The company proved popular, and records show that Shakespeare had works published and sold as popular literature. Early in his career, Shakespeare was able to attract the attention of Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton, to whom he dedicated his first- and second-published poems: "Venus and Adonis" (1593) and "The Rape of Lucrece" (1594).

By 1597, 15 of the 37 plays written by Shakespeare were published and by 1599 Shakespeare and his business partners built their own theatre on the south bank of the Thames River, which they called the Globe.

William Shakespeare's early plays were written in the conventional style of the day, with elaborate metaphors and rhetorical phrases that didn't always align naturally with the story's plot or characters. He was however, very innovative, adapting the traditional style to his own purposes and creating a freer flow of words. With the exception of Romeo and Juliet, his first plays were mostly histories written in the early 1590s. Richard II, Henry V and Henry VI dramatize the destructive results of weak or corrupt rulers. 

Shakespeare also wrote several comedies during his early period: the witty romance A Midsummer Night's Dream, the romantic Merchant of Venice, the wit and wordplay of Much Ado About Nothing, the charming As You Like It and Twelfth Night. Other plays, possibly written before 1600, include Titus Andronicus, The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew and The Two Gentlemen of Verona. It was in Shakespeare's later period, after 1600, that he wrote the tragedies Hamlet, King Lear, Othello and Macbeth. In these, his characters present vivid impressions of human temperament that are timeless and universal. Possibly the best known of these plays is Hamlet, which explores betrayal, retribution, incest and moral failure. 
Shakespeare's final period saw him write several tragi-comedies. Among these are Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale and The Tempest. Though graver in tone than the comedies, they are not the dark tragedies of King Lear or Macbeth because they end with reconciliation and forgiveness. It is believed that Shakespeare died on his birthday, April 23, 1616. Church records show he was interred at Trinity Church on April 25, 1616.

Stamp images and description thanks to Pitcairn Islands Philatelic Bureau

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