About Shakespeare: 101

A Fast-Track Shakespeare 101

Do you need to learn about Shakespeare fast? Weather you are learning for school or pleasure, our crash course in Shakespeare will soon get you to what you need to know.

Learn About Shakespeare

Shakespeare studies is such a huge (and daunting) area – yet the basics are really straightforward. 400 years of study and academic conjecture has made it seem complicated. We’re going to cut through all of that and get to the basic information you need to know about Shakespeare.

We have split this fast-track Shakespeare 101 into ten topics. We suggest you bookmark this page and work through each topic in order.

The Cobbe portrait of William Shakespeare (1564-1616), c1610
Heritage Images/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Let us start with some essential facts! In the first lesson, we discover who William Shakespeare was, when he lived and what he did. He started life as a relatively poor child in a small, backwater market town, and used his talents and business acumen to finish life as a very wealthy gentleman. He was even able to purchase a coat of arms for the Shakespeare name!

All of the lessons that follow build upon this info, so make sure you don't skip this lesson!  More »

Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth I. Public Domain

Now we know who William Shakespeare was, we take a closer look at the world in which he lived - Elizabethan England. The key idea we are trying to cover here is that Shakespeare was not a one-off genius; he was a product of his time. To really understand him, we need to first appreciate the world in which he lived.

His plays and sonnets are the product of the social and political time in which he was writing. This article provides a succinct overview of the factors that affected his writing. More »

The Three Witches
The Three Witches. Imagno/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When we think of Shakespeare, we most often think of his tragedy plays. The tragedies include many of his most memorable plays like Romeo and JulietHamlet and Macbeth.

But Shakespeare wrote three different types of plays (tragedies, comedies and histories), and each have their own features and styles.

In this lesson, we explore the common features of a Shakespeare tragedy. More »

The Women of 'Much Ado About Nothing'
The Women of 'Much Ado About Nothing'. NYPL Digital Gallery

Next we turn our attention to Shakespeare’s comedies – a list that includes the classic Much Ado About Nothing! More »

Henry V of England - Illustration from Cassell's History of England
Henry V of England - Illustration from Cassell's History of England. Public Domain

Before we leave Shakespeare’s plays, we should mention the histories. These were hugely popular at the time and plays like are among the Bard’s best written. More »

Shakespeare's Sonnets
Shakespeare's Sonnets. Photo © Lee Jamieson

Shakespeare is also famous for his poetry, and his sonnets are considered by many to be the best collection of love poetry ever written. This article provides an overview of the story that connects them. More »

Shakespeare's Sonnets
Shakespeare's Sonnets. Photo © Lee Jamieson

The sonnets are written in a strict form of poetic verse – find out more here. More »

Performing Shakespeare
Performing Shakespeare. Vasiliki Varvaki/E+/Getty Images

Reading Shakespeare aloud really gives you a sense of the language because it was written for the stage, not for books! This guide will give you the confidence to speak the Bard’s words out loud and really get to grips with his language. More »

Shakespeare (illustration)
CSA Images/Printstock Collection/Getty Images

Shakespeare wrote in iambic pentameter … sounds scary, but it isn’t! This short article sums it all up in one go. More »

Edward De Vere
Edward De Vere. Public Domain

This Shakespeare 101 would not be complete without dipping our toe into the Shakespeare Authorship Debate. Some believe that William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon wasn’t the real author of the plays or sonnets. Discover the conspiracy theories here! More »