Mythes et Héros / Myths and Heroes : William Shakespeare - Anglais - Terminale ES

Mythes et Héros / Myths and Heroes : William Shakespeare - Anglais - Terminale ES

Consultez gratuitement ce cours d'Anglais sur la notion Mythes et Héros (Myths and Heroes) au programme de Terminale ES.

L'anglais ? La langue de Shakespeare ! Parmi tous les auteurs de littératures britanniques vous allez voir comment William Shakespeare connut également sous le nom de « The Bard » a réussit à entrer dans la légende. Il est devenu précurseur d’un nouveau genre grâce à ses pièces tantôt comiques, romantiques ou tragiques. La diversité de ses œuvres a eu le mérite de toucher des centaines de générations et d’autres à venir. Qu'a-t-il fait pour devenir cette inépuisable source d’inspirations ?

Téléchargez ci-dessous ce cours d'anglais sur William Shakespeare pour la notion "Mythes et Héros".

Mythes et Héros / Myths and Heroes : William Shakespeare - Anglais - Terminale ES

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The mysterious date of birth

Though no birth records exist, church records indicate that a William Shakespeare was baptized at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 26, 1564.

From this, it is believed that he was born on or near April 23, 1564 due to common childbirth at that time, people baptized infants as soon as they were born.

This is also the date scholars (= universitaires/ chercheurs) acknowledge as William Shakespeare's birthday.


Early life

William is the third child of John and Mary Shakespeare. William had two older sisters, Joan and Judith, and three younger brothers, Gilbert, Richard and Edmund.

His father was an alderman (= magistrat municipal) and a successful glove-maker. Her mother, Mary Arden (who married John Shakespeare in 1557) was a local landed heiress.



Although no attendance records for the period survive, most biographers agree that Shakespeare was probably educated at the King's New School in Stratford, a free school.


Married Life

William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway on November 28, 1582, in Worcester, in Canterbury Province. William was 18 and Anne was 26, and, as it turned out, pregnant. Their first child, a daughter they named Susanna, was born on May 26, 1583. Two years later, on February 2, 1585, twins Hamnet and Judith were born. Hamnet later died of unknown causes at age 11.


The Lost Years 1585-1592

After the birth of the twins, there are seven years of William 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 :

One theory is that he might have gone into hiding for poaching game ( = braconnage) from the local landlord, Sir Thomas Lucy.

Another possibility is that he might have been working as an assistant schoolmaster in Lancashire.

It is generally believed he arrived in London in the late 1580s and may have found work as a horse attendant at some of London's finer theatres.


A Poet

Evidence that William was also a poet comes from his first poem Venus and Adonis in the Stationers’ Registrar on the 18th of April 1593. The playwright (= dramaturge) registered his second poem The Rape of Lucrece on the 9th of May 1594.



William Shakespeare had probably been working as an actor and writer on the professional stage in London for four or five years when the London theatres were closed by order of the Privy Council on June 23, 1592.

The authorities were concerned about a severe outbreak (= épidémie) of the plague (= la peste) and alarmed at the possibility of civil unrest ( = agitation civile)


Robert Greene’s attack

By 1592, one called Robert Greene described Shakespeare as an "upstart young crow" or arrogant upstart ( = arriviste), accusing him of borrowing ideas from his seniors in the theatre world for his own plays.


Theatre reopening

When the theatres reopened in June 1594, the theatrical companies had been reorganized, and Shakespeare’s career was wholly committed to the troupe known as the Lord Chamberlain’s Men until 1603, when they were reconstituted as the King’s Men (a famous company).


The Globe Theatre

In 1599, a partnership of members of the company built their own theatre on the south bank (=berge) of the River Thames, which they named the Globe. Also known as the Shakespeare Globe Theatre it was not only one of the most famous playhouse’s of all time, but also the playhouse where Shakespeare performed many of his greatest plays.

Built from oak, and stolen playhouse frames, the 3 storeys (= floors), 3000 capacity, Globe Theatre, co-owned by William Shakespeare has become almost as famous as the playwright himself.



Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613.

He composed :

  • 2 long poems
  • 154 Sonnets
  • 38 Plays

Early Works: Histories and Comedies

His early plays were primarily comedies and histories, which are regarded as some of the best work ever produced in these genres.

With the exception of Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare's first plays were mostly histories written in the early 1590s. Richard IIHenry VI (parts 1, 2 and 3) and Henry V.

Shakespeare also wrote several comedies during his early period:

The witty romance:

  • A Midsummer Night's Dream = Songe d’une nuit d’été
  • The Merchant of Venice = Le marchand de Venise
  • Much Ado About Nothing = Beaucoup de bruit pour rien
  • As You Like It = Comme il vous plaira
  • Twelfth Night = La nuit des rois
  • Titus Andronicus
  • The Taming of the Shrew = La mégère (ou Sauvage) apprivoisée
  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona = Les deux gentilshommes de Vérone

Later Works : Tragedies and Tragicomedies

He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including:

  • Hamlet
  • Othello
  • King Lear
  • Macbeth

These works are considered as some of the finest works in the English language.

Shakespeare's characters present vivid (= vives) impressions of human temperament that are timeless and universal.

Possibly the best known of these plays is Hamlet, which explores betrayal, retribution (= châtiment), incest and moral failure. These moral failures often drive the twists (= retournement de situation) and turns of Shakespeare's plots, destroying the hero and those he loves.

In William Shakespeare's final period, he wrote several tragicomedies also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights :

  • Cymbeline
  • The Winter's Tale
  • The Tempest


Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616 in Stratford- upon-Avon in England.

Shakespeare was buried in the chancel of the Holy Trinity Church two days after his death.


Funny facts :)

  • Shakespeare one of the literature’s greatest figures never attended university.
  • He invented the word ‘assassination’.
  • By those times there were only men actor. Women were not allowed on the stage so men played women instead.
  • There were two Shakespeare families living in Stratford when William was born; the other family did not become famous.
  • Suicide occurs an unlucky thirteen times in Shakespeare’s plays.

Cultural impact


  • William Shakespeare de Victor Hugo 1863
  • Shakespeare de Stendhal en 1928
  • Shakespeare, les feux de l’envie de René Girard 1990

Comic book

Le tome 24 des aventures de Blake et Mortimer "Le Testament de William S." en 2016 présente une fiction sur Shakespeareet ses relations privées.



La comédie musicale de Roméo et Juliette conte en plusieurs chansons l’histoire célèbre des amants maudits.

En 1692, Henry Purcell composa la musique pour The Fairy-Queen (La Reine des fées), inspirée de la comédie Songe d’une nuit d’été de Shakespeare.

The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company fondé en 2009 est un théâtre musical explorant la culture des œuvres de Shakespeare en la mélangeant au hip-hop d’aujourd’hui.



  • Shakespeare in Love réalisé par John Madden en 1998 retrace une partie de la vie du célèbre dramaturge.
  • Looking for Richard est un documentaire d’Al Pacino en 1995 invitant le spectateur dans les coulisses de la mise en scène de la pièce Richard III.
  • Anonymous est un film germano-britannique de Roland Emmerich sorti en 2011 prenant parti dans la controverse sur la paternité des œuvres du dramaturge.
  • Roméo + Juliette est un film (1996) de Baz Luhrman adaptant l’œuvre de Shakespeare au monde moderne tout en conservant le texte original.

Derivative expression

“Shakespearien” est devenue une expression dérivée souvent utilisée afin de décrire une pièce, un livre ou un film à connotation tragique, dramatique ou romantique.

Il existe également de nombreuses adaptations cinématographiques et théâtrales des pièces de Shakespeare.



Playwright = dramaturge

Prominence = importance

Playhouse = théâtre (lieu)

Timeless = intemporel

Failure = échec

Stage = la scène

A play = une pièce

A plot = une intrigue

An inspiration = une source d’inspiration

To devote something = se consacrer à quelque chose (= to be committed to something)


Possible subjects at the exam

How can we say William Shakespeare is a myth?

On rappelle la définition du mythe.

Deux parties :

  • une représentation du monde, ses similitudes avec ce dernier, l’identification collective (des œuvres pour tous ; guerre, romance, tragédie).
  • son évolution à travers le temps, son influence et ses représentations artistiques.


Can you think of another myth similar to Romeo and Juliet?

On n’oublie jamais de donner une brève définition du mythe.

Les différents mythes similaires à l’histoire de Roméo et Juliette.

On s’appuie sur la définition donnée au préalable (les thématiques, les références, le modèle).

Exemples : Orphée et Eurydice (+ Tristan et Iseut), deux jeunes amants foudroyés par un destin inéluctable.


Why are myths and heroes important to our society?

Deux parties. Le mythe comme modèle éducatif. On s’appuie sur les valeurs transmises par le héros. Ils sont une source d’inspiration inépuisable que l’on retrouve dans la vie de tous les jours (au cinéma, dans les publicités).


Who was your hero when you were a child? What about now? So, what?

Deux parties. Description du héros de votre enfance, en comparaison avec ce que vous en pensez désormais. Expliquez le recul que vous n’aviez pas à l’époque, et ce qui a pu vous faire évoluer (ouverture socio-culturelle, influence collective).

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