Famous explorers and famous people



Famous explorers and famous people


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Famous explorers and famous people



   Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain in August 1492. He was looking for a new route to Asia by sailing west. He sailed farther west from Europe than anyone had ever been.The sailors were scared. Some wanted to throw Columbus overboard and sail back to Spain. On October 9, Columbus made a promise. If they did not find land in three days, they would return to Spain. Just after midnight on October 12, a sailor shouted ‘Land’!

   Did Columbus reach Asia ? We know that he did not. We also know that he was not the first to reach America. The Vikings reached North America before Columbus. But only the voyages of Columbus led to the explorations of Americas. These explorations changed the world.

   Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy. in 1451. In Lisabon,Portugal, he was a cartographer, making charts and maps for sea captains and listening to their stories. Columbus planned how to find a western route to Asia. He sought financial support from the king of Portugal, then from the king and queen of Spain. His famous trip began on August 3,1492.

   First , the fleet sailed to the Canary Islands. There they got fresh water and food. As they sailed farther and farther from Europe, the men began to worry. They sailed into a large of seaweed called the Sargasso Sea. They were sure land must be near. But it wasn’t. The sailors became mutinous. Columbus set two sets of records of the distance travelled each day so the men would not know how far from home they were. He offered the sailors rewards to keep them going. Finally, on October 12, a seaman spotted land.

   Some people argue that Columbus should not be celebrated as the man who discovered America. The Vikings reached America 500 years earlier. And there were several million people already living on the land we now call America. But the voyages of Columbus did result in the opening up of new land for Europeans. The swapping of people, plants, and animals among hemispheres began.


                          DUKE  OF WELLINGTON

     Arthur Wellesley Duke of Wellington, the commander of British army, became famous for victories in the Napoleonic Wars. His military genius and his character as an honest politician are widely appreciated.

     Welligton was born on May 1, 1769 in Dublin. He came from a good, but not a rich, family. He attended, but did not finish, the exclusive Eton school. He then attended a military academy in France and at the age of 18 was comissioned  (udìlit dùstojnickou hodnost)  in the army. His long and very successful career began. Later he was sent abroad and in 1796 to India, where he gained valuable experience and all the positive qualities he later exhibited on European battlefields were developed there: decision, common sense, attention to detail and good relations with the civilian  population. He was strict but looked after his soldiers and their supplies (potøeby) well and they liked him. When he returned to England  at the age of 36 his dream came true. He became a famous general who had won many battles.

     In 1808 the Peninsular War began, in which his military greatness  was fully revealed (odhalit). Napoleon was at that time in control of most of Europe, and Spain and Portugal asked Britain for help. By the end of this campaign the French were driven out of Spain into France. Wellesley returned to England where he was awarded the title of Viscount Wellington. He was welcomed in London society. But he was a quiet man who did not really enjoy social life very much.

     Napoleon abdicated in 1814. But peace did not last long. He escaped from exile on Elba and landed in France to begin his Hundred Days. He planned to defeat the armies of Britain and Prussia. Wellington had to find a new army, for most of his soldiers were away in America. He trained British as well as Dutch, Belgian and Prussian recruits (nováèek).

     On 18th June, 1815 Napoleon was defeated near a village called Waterloo. Wellington won the battle but the cost had been great. The number of killed and wounded was terrible. Wellington told his friend he never wanted to fight another battle. His will came true.

     In 1818 Wellington started a political career and in 1846 he retired from public life. He died from a stroke on September 14, 1852. He was given a monumental state funeral and was buried in St. Paul´s Cathedral.


            SIR  FRANCIS  DRAKE

     One of the England´s greatest sailors, Sir Francis Drake, was among the early explorers, who landed on the shores of the United States.

     Born about 1540, Drake won the command of his own ship by 1567. During a slaving voyage to the West Indies, the Spanish attacked and only Drake´s  ship and one other escaped. Drake now felt he had a personal reason for wanting revenge against the Spaniards, and this fitted in perfectly with the plans of England´s Queen Elizabeth I. European nations were then engaged in a struggle for new lands and colonies, as well as for control of the seas. Spain, in particular, had rich colonies in America, and her great galleons sailed home regularly full of treasure. Elizabeth ordered Drake to raid (vtrhnout) Spain´s American colonies and capture whatever ships he could.

     When Drake returned to England he brought with him tons of silver captured from the Spaniards, and became both rich and famous. He had no trouble in gaining the Queen´s permission, in 1577, for another voyage- this time to the Pacific Ocean. Until then, no British ship had ever entered that vast body of water. Now Drake, aboard his 75-foot-long (23m) ship, the Golden Hind, sailed through the Strait of Magellan and began raiding Spanish settlements in Peru and Chile. Then, searching for a passage to the Atlantic Ocean and home, he sailed north and stopped near the present San Francisco, where he repaired his ship. Since there was no sea route across the North American continent, and he could not return by the same way he had come for fear (ze strachu) the Spanish would attack him, Drake decided to return to England by crossing the Pacific, thus (tak) circling the globe. Finally after a difficult three-year voyage, Drake arrived home in 1580. His grateful queen knighted him and was made a member of Parliament. In 1588 Drake led England´s fleet to victory against Spain´s Armada. He died in 1596 near Panama and was buried at sea.



     Born in 1542 and executed on the orders of Queen Elizabeth I in 1587, Mary´s relatively short life would be a wonderful subject for a historical bestseller. Mary was born at a time of great conflict between Protestants and Catholics. The Catholics thought that Mary, rather than Elizabeth should be Queen of England and she spent her life trying to reach this goal (cíl). But this political background is inseparable (neoddìlitelný) from a dramatic private life which included three marriages.

    On the death of her first husband, King Francis II of France, she was no longer welcome in that country and returned to Scotland in 1561. In 1565 she married Lord Darnley but within a year he had become jealous of (žárlivý) an Italian singer called David Riccio. Mary had made Riccio her secretary and trusted him with all her affairs. Riccio was murdered in Edinburgh in 1566- he had been stabbed 56 times.(pro/bodnout)

     Not surprisingly, relations between Mary and Darnley were not so friendly after this event. It was not long before Mary fell in love with a soldier called Bothwell. Though it is not certain, it is believed that Bothwell organised the murder of Darnley, who was found strangled (u/škrtit) in the garden of a house in Edinburgh. When Mary later married Bothwell, this seemed (zdát se) to confirm (potvrdit)  that she too had been involved in Darnley´s murder. There was a rebellion against her and  in 1568 she was forced to escape to England.

     In England she became a focus for forces who opposed Queen Elizabeth (soustøedily na ni pozornost síly, které byly v opozici proti). The years that followed were full of plots (spiknutí) against Elizabeth, and in 1586 proof  (dùkaz) was found of Mary´s involvement in attempts (pokus) to take the place of the Queen. After delaying for more than four months, Elizabeth finally signed the order for Mary´s death and on 8th February 1587 Mary was beheaded.

ALLAN  PINKERTON ( 1819- 1884)

         came to America from Glasgow in 1842 and in 1850 he founded the world´s oldest and biggest detective agency, whose slogan was „We never sleep“. His agents were incorruptible  and good shooters. They never gain information from traitors. Pinkerton founded also the first album of criminals and racehorses. In the days of good guys and bad guys, Pinkerton tracked outlaws (psanec) such as Jesse James, Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid  and the Reno gang train robbers- and with them they entered into Hollywood westerns. Before a secret service existed, Pinkerton´s men guarded A.Lincoln. Pinkerton was very much anti-slavery and often helped runaway slaves escape before the Civil War broke out. Then he offered his agency´s help on the Union side.




     The first man on the Moon in 1969 (together with Aldrin). Armstrong was chosen among the American astronauts, because he was one of the best pilots in the USA. It is said that he was born to be a pilot. He had learned to fly before he could drive a car. At the age of 21 he was flying Panther jets, had 78 combat missions and three Air Medals. Once he flew a crippled plane back to the carrier (letadlová loï), another time he brought a plane with one wing half-lost back from the enemy lines to parachute in safety. Now he is a university professor.


SIR  EDMUND  HILLARY ( 1919- 2007)

     New Zealander, the first mountain-climber to reach the top of Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world (8 848m). He was accompanied by Sherpa Tenzing Nargoy. It happened on 29th May, 1953. Five years later Hillary reached the South Pole.


                                   STEVEN  SPIELBERG

     Steven Spielberg is one of the best directors of popular films in the world. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio on 18 December 1947, he was writing scripts and shooting with his father´s 8mm camera before reaching his teens. Then he studied at California State College and later directed his first professional work (Amblin - 1969). The seven following years were spent working in TV.

     His first great chance to do what he wanted came with the film Jaws (1975). It was typical of the disaster films that were popular all over the world in the 1970s. The film is set in a New England seaside resort where a number of shark attacks are at first ignored, as the local authorities are afraid to scare away holidaymakers. Eventually a policeman, a scientist and an eccentric shark expert hunt down and destroy the killer. The film made enormous profit and Spielberg has never had any difficulty in financing even his most expensive projects since.

     His next success was the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), shot from Spielberg´s script. Other instantly popular films featured the intrepid archaeologist- adventurer Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).

     Meanwhile Spielberg achieved even greater triumph with ET-The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), about a being from another planet that is accidentally stranded on Earth. Steven Spielberg made a lot of different films during the 1980s ( e.g. The Color Purple -1985, An American Tale -1986), however his next great peak came in the beginning of the 1990s -Jurassic Park (1993). It is set in a theme park where the main attractions are actual dinosaurs that have been given life by genetic engineering. Although this film became the most commercially successful one ever, Spielberg did not win an Oscar until 1994, when he won his first one for the film Schindler´s List. Saving Private Ryan (1998) brought him another Oscar for Best Director, but of course it was not the only film he shot in the second half of the 90s. He also made a successful sequel of Jurassic Park The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997).


SIR  ARTHUR  CONAN  DOYLE  (1859 - 1930)

     You might find it surprising that the author who created the character of Sherlock Holmes, so deeply rooted in Victorian London, actually died as late as 1930, in modern pre- Second World War England.

     Born in Edinburgh, he successfully completed his medical studies at the local University. He was always interested in mysteries and in later years converted to spiritualism. Doyle worked as a general practitioner. Luckily for his readers, the lack of patients gave him time to write. Although he wrote historical fiction, adventure stories, science fiction and the history of spiritualism, he is known chiefly as a creator of the „consulting“ detective Sherlock Holmes and his companion and colleague Dr. Watson.  Holmes is a genius in deduction and sharp observation. He never forgets to have a smoke from his favourite pipe and starts playing the violin whenever in need of concentration. Dr. Watson is presented as an ordinary man who needs to have everything explained. The reader then is in no doubts who the real genius of the two might be. The popularity of  the detective stories rose spectacularly from 1891 when Doyle began contributing to the Strand Magazine. His most famous stories include: A Study in Scarlet, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles. If you want to take a closer look into the life of the famous detective, there is his museum in Baker Street, London.


                                   THOMAS  ALVA  EDISON  (1847 - 1931)

     From 1880 to 1905 Edison was the most famous American alive and one of the best- known men in the world. Newspaper called him the man of the century.

     He had a little formal education. At the age of 11, he got a job on the railroad, but always  studied and experimented in his spare time. He invented many important things. His 600 inventions included the light bulb, the phonograph, the storage battery, he improved telegraph system, he developed  a dynamo, light sockets and safety fuses which are still used today. He built one of the first X-ray machines in the USA. He also built electric automobiles but never brought them to commercial success. In 1887 he patented his motion-picture machine, having at the time no idea of its being used for anything except peep shows. He constructed the guided torpedo, the concrete house and synthetic rubber. No one else has invented in so many fields (around 20) and probably no one will. Some of his experiments were unsuccessful (e.g. he tried to extract gold from sea sand). Already in Edison´s own lifetime his laboratory at Menlo Park, New Jersey, was taken a museum. His career was offered as a model to all schoolboys of the nation.



SIR  ISAAC  NEWTON (1643 - 1727)

     mathematician, physicist, astronomer and philosopher. His „Principia Mathematica“ explained for the first time through a single mathematical law the phenomena of the Universe, the tides and the motion of the objects on Earth.

 The Law of Gravity. One day while Newton was sitting in his garden under an apple-tree, he saw an apple fall to the ground.. Of course the fall of an apple is a very common thing. A great many people before Newton had seen an apple fall to the ground, but they had never taken the trouble to investigate such an everyday occurrence ( událost). Newton was the first man to ask: “Why does an apple fall to the ground ? What makes it fall ? Why does it not go up in to the sky ? Or why does it not go sideways when it leaves the tree ?“

     He thought the matter over for a long time. It took him many years to solve the problem. At last he found out that the earth pulls all things towards its centre, and that this was the reason why the apple had fallen towards the earth and not away from it.

     Newton also found that the sun attracts the earth and all the planets, just in the same way as the earth attracts the apples.


                                   CHARLIE  CHAPLIN (1889 - 1977)

     was born in London. His parents were music-hall  entertainers, but his father died while Charlie was a child. He became an actor when he was 17 and settled in  America in 1913. Soon he began to write and direct his own films. His first masterpieces were The Tramp and The Kid. The Gold Rush and The Circus were still silent films, but City Lights (1931) was already a sound one. In The Great Dictator (1940), an anti-Nazi film, Chaplin played a dual role, as a Jewish barber and as a dictator (who was clearly based on Hitler). The New York critics voted Chaplin the year´s best actor. After the war he made a comedy about murder Monsieur Verdoux, based on a French mass murder. His next picture Limelight was a big box-office success in Europe, but id did only so-so in the USA. Chaplin lived his last years with his family in Switzerland and never returned to America. Buster Keaton, the only rival of Chaplin in the Silent Era, said of him: „ He was the greatest comedian who ever lived.“


                                   ROBIN  HOOD

     is a legendary English hero whose myth came into existence in the first half of the 14th century. Nobody knows if the Robin Hood story has some historical basis. There were many ballads about him in the Middle Ages. The ballads located Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest near Nottingham. He became the people’s  ideal, he robbed the rich and gave the poor and always outwitted the Sheriff of Nottingham. He was a great archer, a lover of the green wood and of a free life, brave, adventurous , open-handed, a protector of women. The legend says that he was bled to death by a treacherous nun.


                                   WALT  DISNEY (1901 - 1966)

     a cartoonist, a showman and a businessman. Soon after WWI he formed his own production company, in which the Mickey Mouse appeared for the first time in 1927. Then Disney created the other characters Pluto, Donald Duck, Goofy. His best film was the Snow White and Seven Dwarfs, which was made in 1937 and his seven dwarfs are now a part of child´s culture. Other feature cartoons followed: Pinocchio, Cinderella, Peter Pan. In the 1950s Disney opened his famous amusement park Disneyland in California.



 (1899-1961) is one of the greatest modern writers. He was a novelist, short-story writer, playwright and reporter.

        He was born into the family of a wealthy doctor at Oak Park, ( a suburb of Chicago) Illinois, in 1899.He called it a town of broad pavements and narrow minds.His father initiated him into the rituals of hunting and fishing.Young Hemingway became quite an outdoors man. He was active in sports and soon became an excellent hunter and fisherman. After graduation from high schoul at the age of 17, he began his writing career as a sports reporter for the Kansas City Star. When the USA entered World War I  Hemingway was rejected for army service because of poor vision and so he volunteered to serve as a driver with the Red Cross in Italy. Shortly before his 19th birthday he was badly wounded in the explosion of a mortar shell and spent several weeks in hospital in Milan. Here he fell in love with a nurse who never responded to his emotions.                                                                                                           After his recovery, and with decorations for valour, which he believed he did not deserve, Hemingway returned home.  In 1921 to 1927 he lived in Paris, where he worked hard to become a writer. Paris after WWI was a city full of intellectual life, creativity and genius. Hemingway along with some other American writers helped create a revolution in literary style and language. He developed a sparse, reportarial prose based on simple sentence structure. He used a restricted vocabulary and impersonal and yet very dramatic tone. His style is called „telegraphic“.                                                                                                          In 1926 with the appearance of „The Sun Also Rises“ (it also has another title „Fiesta“)  Hemingway became the spokesman for the „Lost Generation“ (people who lost their illusions in WWI). It is a most impressive book about the generation who fought in the WWI, where all their illusions were shattered by the war.

          There are three main topics in Hemingway´s work:

  • WAR ( Farewell to Arms“ 1929, „For Whom the Bell Tolls“ 1940)
  • BULLFIGHTING (Death in the Afternoon“)
  • HUNTING  („Green Hills of Africa“ -collection of hunting experiences, 1935, „The Snows of Kilimanjaro“ 1936- short story)

In these topics Hemingway´s  fascination by the threat of physical, emotional or mental death is reflected. He was always interested in the individual´s „moment of truth“, which is a notion derived from bullfighting.He was convinced that the full character would be revealed under the stress.


     „Farewell to Arms“ is a moving love story of an American lieutenant in the Italian ambulance service and an English nurse. There are many autobiographical features in the novel. The main hero American Frederick Henry is wounded in the fight and operated and cured in a Milan hospital, where he falls in love with an English nurse Catharine.He doesn´t feel like going back to the front to be killed and they flee to neutral Switzerland. In fact he deserts. Frederick makes Catherine pregnant without marrying her. The end of the novel is a slap to all those who read literary crash, romances where all love relations always have a happy ending. Paradoxically,it is not Frederick who falls as a soldier in the battlefield like millions of other young men on both sides of the front but it is Catharine, when she is giving life to their baby (she bleeds to death). Few people know that Hemingway wrote 18 versions of the end. The main idea expressed in the book is: No matter what you do, you may lose the people that you most love in one day.


     At the beginning of the Spanish Civil  War in 1936 Hemingway went to Spain as a correspondent. In 1940 his longest novel appeared „For Whom the Bell Tolls“. The main character, American Robert Jordan, comes to Spain to help in the fight against fascism and sacrifices his life to save the others. Hemingway expresses here the idea that a loss of liberty anywhere means the loss of liberty everywhere.


      In 1944 Hemingway was again in Europe as a war correspondent. After the war he settled in Cuba where he wrote the short novel“The Old Man and the Sea“. In this story Hemingway shows the eternal fight between nature and man, which man must lose if he fights alone. Here is the story:

     Santiago, a poor old Cuban fisherman, used to go fishing with a boy. But for 40 days they were unlucky and caught no fish. So the boy was ordered  by his parents to go in another „luckier“ boat, and Santiago was made to go out to sea alone. And each day he would come back with his boat empty. Finally, after 84 days of bad luck, Santiago went out further than usual and succeeded in catching a very big fish. He killed it and made it fast to the boat. Unfortunately, the sharks soon appeared and hit the fish (they must have caught the smell of the fish´s blood in the sea). Santiago fought the sharks as best as he could and killed some of them. But his fight was useless. By the time he reached his home port, there was nothing left of the fish but its skeleton. Hemingway´s characters never give up and fight on even if the fight is lost. The story ends with the words „A man can be destroyed but not defeated“.


      In 1954 Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize.(for his all life´s work)

          Hemingway had a very dangerous life. He survived two plane crashes, fought in two wars, took part in many safaris. At the end of his life Hemingway suffered from paranoia ( he was convinced that FBI was following him) and also drank a lot. On July 2, 1961, as his father 30 years ago, he committed suicide ( he shot himself with a rifle)


      Hemingway uses very original style, which is very simple and clear.It´s almost childish, easy and sounds naive. He writes mostly dialogues so that readers must read what is hidden between the lines. This is called the „Iceberg method“ (nine tenths are practically hidden under the surface).


     The Czech King and Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV, is said to have been the first Czech king who could read and write. Earlier rulers had monks and priests who did the reading and writing for them. The son of John of Luxembourg and Elizabeth of the Přemyslid dynasty, Charles was born as Wenceslas and was later renamed after his uncle, the French king, who gave him the best education at his court in Paris.

     Charles chose Prague to be the imperial seat and set out to make the city the most magnificent in Europe. At the age of 32 he began to realize his grand plan. On March 8, 1348, Charles IV approved the foundation charter of the New Town of Prague, which was thought of as an urban miracle of Europe at that time. The project reflected the king´s ideas and dreams about a perfect urban residence for the Roman and Czech kings, the seat of a university, and a flourishing business centre and metropolis of tourism. The construction was organised in detail and the street layout was carefully designed. The area of the newly established town was twelve times bigger than that of any other town founded in our country during the 13th and 14th centuries. The streets were wide and there were three huge markets: Horse Market, Cattle Market and Hay Market.


King Arthur

     The legend about King Arthur is based on Celtic tradition. We don´t know whether Arthur really existed or not. Very probably he could have been a successful warrior who unified Celtic Christian knights after the Romans left the country (410 AD) and gave the country some order. The battle of Salisbury against his nephew Mordred was his last one. After that Anglo-Saxons conquered the country.


     King Uther Pendrogon fell in love with the beautiful Yggrain, the wife of the Earl of Cornwall, Gorloise. He asked his magician merlin to help him spend a night with this woman. Merlin promised but he had one condition- Merlin will be given what will be born from the sinful encounter. Yggrain gave birth to a boy, Arthur, and according to his promise, King Uther gave him to Merlin. So Merlin brought Arthur up. King Uther died without any successor. British knights asked Merlin to choose a new king among them. Merlin was aware how quarrelsome the knights were, so he promised to make a king from the strongest one. The Lady of the Lake gave him a magic sword. Merlin used his magic and put it into a rock. Then he announced that who ever managed to pull the sword from the rock would be the king.

     A lot of knights tried but all of them failed. Only the young Arthur who came to London as a common squire pulled it out. Arthur became the king.

     He had to fight a lot of wars but Merlin and the magical sword always helped him. Eventually he unified the knights  and brought peace to the country. The symbol of the knights´ equality was a round table- a gift from Merlin to Arthur. King Arthur was supposed to be a good King. There were two women who brought him misfortune- his wife Guinevere and stepsister Morgan Le Fay. Guinevere became a mistress of Lancelot, the bravest knight of the round table. When the truth about them was found out, Lancelot escaped to Bretagne and Arthur chased him. When he was away, Morgan Le Fay conspired with her son Mordred and captured Camelot- Arthur´s castle.

     Arthur came back to the country and fought against his nephew. He was seriously wounded. The last surviving knight- Sir Belvedere- put him into a boat that took him to the Isle of Avalon and threw Excalibur into the lake.


Abraham Lincoln

     was an American statesman and the 16th President of the USA.

     Abraham was born in Kentucky in 1809. From there he moved wit his parents to Indiana and then to Illinois. Everywhere they settled he helped his parents to make a home for themselves by clearing the forest and changing it into farmland. This work made him strong but gave him little opportunity for education. Lincoln himself once said that, as a boy, he had gone to school only by littles. He tried several occupations but none of them satisfied him until an old law book that he had found decided his future. Before he had finished reading it he knew what he would become one day: he taught himself grammar and mathematics and began to study law. In 1836 he passed the examinations and became a lawyer.
Lincoln had always felt that slavery was based on injustice. When he was elected to Congress in 1847 he soon became prominent through his strong opposition to slavery. He didn´t want slavery to be allowed in the new states. He believed that the country could not exist „half slave and half free“ and that it would become „all one thing, or all the other.“ His election as President in 1860 caused the Southern states, in which slavery was an institution, to break away from the rest of the country. Lincoln was determined at all cost to preserve the USA as one country and Civil War broke out. On January 1, 1863, Lincoln gave the slaves freedom by his Emancipation Proclamation. He hoped that, in the end, the South would find some way by which whites and Negroes „could gradually live themselves out of their old realations to each other“.
The Civil War ended with the victory of the army of the North, but Lincoln did not live to see whether his hopes had come true. In April 1865 he was shot dead by a southern fanatic while attending a theatre performane in Washington to celebrate the end of the war.


George  ORWELL wrote excellent allegory novels criticizing totalitarian society and is          certainly the most important political writer of the post war years.

The author´s real name was Eric Blair. He was born in India in 1903 in the family of an Indian Civil servant. At the age od eight he was brought back to England, attended a preparatory school in Essex, then he went to Eton (the famous public school).He did not like it there and was truly unhappy. When he was 18, he joined the Indian Imperial Police in Burma. He turned his five year experiences into the novel Burmese Days (written in 1934) In 1927 he resigned from his post, having decided he could no longer be an instrument of British colonialism.                                               To learn more about the life of the lower class, he decided to live as one of them. He spent over one year in Paris and London working in hotels and restaurants as a dishwasher. He lived in a poorly furnished room. His experiences there formed the basis for his next book Down and Out in Paris and London (1933).

     At the end of 1920s he returned to England and lived in his parents´home in Suffolk, earning money by writing occasional articles. There he took his pseudonym from the river Orwell in Suffolk. He went from job to job, teaching, later working on a farm, but always using his experience in his writing. A Clergyman´s Daughter was his next novel before he moved to London to work in a bookshop. This period is reflected in Keep the Aspidistra Flying. (1936)

     In the same year he was commissioned to write a book about the conditions of the unemployed in the industrial north of England.
When the Spanish Civil War broke out (1936), he went there (like Hemingway did) to fight on the side of the Republicans. Homage to Catalonia (1938) tells about the fights, his injury, his courage and the disillusionment he experienced there. After his return to England, Orwell was diagnosed as having tuberculosis, which in fact was the cause of his premature death at the age of 46.
Orwell´s experiences in Spain of war and revolutionary politics, particularly his contacts with the Communists, sharpened his rejection of Soviet- style communism and completed his break with the ortodox Left. (although he remained a Socialist) When the World War II broke out, he tried to join the army, but was rejected for health reasons. During the war he worked for the BBC and began to write his famous book The Animal Farm, which tells the story of a political revolution that went wrong. It was finished in 1944 but he was rejected by several  publishers on political grounds because Britain and the USA were, at the time, allies of the Soviet Union.

The novel is an allegory for the situation in the Soviet Union. We easily recognise the major political figures of the Soviet totalitarian regime – Stalin (pig Napoleon), Trotsky (pig Snowball) and Lenin(old pig Major) represented here as animals taking over the leadership on the farm. The animals on a farmled by the pigs, drive out their master Jones and take control of the farm, but the purity of their political ideas is soon destroyed, and at the end they are just as greedy and dishonest as the farmer whom they drove out. This satire is written in  the form of a fable which bears the message that absolute power corrupts and a new tyranny replaces the old.
The pigs make up a complete ideological system which is named Animalism. According to this ideology Seven Commandments are accepted and the animals should live by them:

  1. Whatever goes upon two legs, or has no wings, is an enemy
  2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend
  3. No animal shall wear clothes
  4. No animal shall sleep in bed
  5. No animal shall drink alcohol
  6. No animal shall kill other animal
  7. All animals are equal

     After the revolution (driving out the lazy, greedy and  drunken farmer) the animals are happy and work hard. Their first harvest is marvellous. But gradually all went wrong. Napoleon (Stalin) trains up a bodyguard of fierce dogs (=the Soviet secret police) and uses them to drive Snowball (Trotsky) off the farm and to kill everyone who is against him. Napoleon starts to deal more and more with Men. As the time passes pigs, who long ago moved into the farmhouse, sleep in beds, walk on their hind legs, wear Mr Jones´clothes. Yet the other animals have never lost their sense of honour and privilege in being members of the only farm in England owned and operated by animals.

    The last chapter of the book shows a drunken party at which Napoleon and his colleagues entertain some local farmers. The poor animals, looking into the farmhouse room from outside, cannot tell the pigs from the Men. Also the basic commandment is changed:
All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.

Orwell´s second best novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, was finished in 1949 when he was suffering from renewed tuberculosis. It can be read as a warning against totalitarian tendencies. Winston Smith, the main hero, tries unsuccessfully to oppose the regime and gain some individual freedom. Working for the Ministry of Truth, he sees how truth and everyday news can be falsified. This book describes a future world where every word and action is seen and controlled by the state, which has developed a kind of television that can watch people in their own homes, and is changing the language so that only words left are those for objects and ideas that the government wants the people to know about. For Orwell, the quality of a language suggests the quality of the society that uses it, so that zhe government controls a language in order to control completely the people who use it. This picture of the future, influenced by the hardships and dangers of the WWII and the political events that followed it, is a dark despairing one. Orwell recognizes the important part that the state must play in a fair society, but he also feels that all human beings need to be able to be private sometimes so that they can be themselves.

     It is the story of Winston Smith, a party worker, who begins to question the logic and the truth of the ruthless and uncompromising ruling Party „Ingsoc“ and its leader Big Brother. Winston starts to také risks. He hides from the government cameras which are designed to spy on the population. He finds a book which has been banned by the government. He meets and falls in love with a girl. They make love, knowing that being in love is an illegal act which can be punished by death. He joins a secret group of revolutionaries, who want ot overthrow the government and restore democracy. This, however, is not a story with a happy ending. Winston is caught by the Thought Police and arrested. He is tortured and brainwashed until finally he cannot think for himself anymore and is only able to believe at everything the government says and does is right.


      In 1949 (when Orwell wrote the book), the year 1984 was a long way off. Fortunatelly, Orwell´s vision  of the future was misguided and hasn´t fulfilled. When the year 1984 arrived, citizens were not oppressed by the all-powerful dictatorship, there was no Thought olice or Room 101.

Nowadays cameras are everywhere, media is controlled by a few very rich and internationally powerful men. Who knows, Orwell´s vision might become true in the future ???!



William Shakespeare

                  (1564- 1616)

     was an English playwright and poet. He is generally considered the greatest dramatist the world has ever known and the finest poet who has written in the English language. Shakespeare has also been the world´s most popular author. No other writer´s plays have been produced so many times or read so widely in so many countries. His plays are enjoyed today as they were by the people who saw them 400 years ago. His fame basically rests on his understanding of human nature. He created characters that have meaning beyond the time and place of his plays.

     Shakespeare wrote at least 37 plays, which have traditionally been divided into comedies, histories and tragedies.

     In addition to his deep understanding of human nature, Shakespeare had knowledge in a wide variety of other subjects, like music, the law, the Bible, military science, art, politics, the sea, history, hunting and sports. Yet as far as scholars know, Shakespeare had no professional experience in any field except theatre.

     Shakespeare was born to what today would be called middle-class parents. His birthplace was the small market town of Stratford-upon-Avon. Shortly after he married at the age of 18, Shakespeare apparently left Stratford to seek his fortune in the theatrical world of London. Within a few years, he had become one of the city´s leading actors and playwrights.By 1612, when he seems to have partially retired to Stratford, Shakespeare had become England´s most popular playwright.

     Shakespeare contributed greatly to the development of the English language. He freely experimented with grammar and vocabulary and so helped prevent literary English from becoming fixed and artificial. Many words and phrases from Shakespeare´s plays have become part of our everyday speech (fair play, catch cold, assassination, bump, lonely)

His Life in Stratford

Early yearsJohn Shakespeare, William´s father, was a glove maker who owned a shop in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon. Stratford lies about 120 kilometres northwest of London in the county Warwickshire. John Shakespeare was a respected man in the town and held several important positions in the local government.

     William´s Shakespeare´s mother was born Mary Arden. She was the daughter of a farmer but related to a family of considerable social standing in the county. John Shakespeare married Mary Arden about 1557. The Ardens were Roman Catholics, but the Shakespeares publicly belonged to the Church of England, the state church.

     William was born in Stratford in 1564, the third of eight children. The register of Holy Trinity, the parish church in Stratford, records his baptism on April 26. According to the custom at the time, infants were  baptized about three days after their birth. Therefore, the generally accepted date for Shakespeare´s birth is April 23.

     In 1565, John Shakespeare became an alderman. Three years later, he was elected bailiff (mayor). Later, he held several other civic posts. But toward the end of his life, John Shakespeare had financial problems.

     Beginning at about the age of 7, young William probably attended the Stratford grammar school. The school´s highly qualified teachers were graduates of Oxford University. Students spent about 9 hours a day in school. They attended classes all year round, except for three brief holiday periods. The teachers enforced strict discipline and physically punished students who broke the rules. The students chiefly studied Latin, the knowledge of which was necessary for a career in medicine, law, or the church. In addition, Latin was considered a sign of an educated person.

Marriage: In November 1582, Shakespeare received a licence to marry Anne Hathaway. She was probably the daughter of a farmer who lived in Shottery, a village about 1.5 km from Stratford. At the time of their marriage, Shakespeare was 18 years old and Anne was 26. Their first child, Susanna, was baptized on May 26, 1583.

The lost years: Early in 1585, Anne Shakespeare gave birth to twins- a boy, Hamnet, and a girl, Judith. No significant factual information exists on Shakespeare´s life for the period between February 1585, when the twins were baptized, and 1592, when evidence indicates Shakespeare was living in London. Scholars  sometimes call this period the lost years.


            Early career in London

     There is some indication that Shakespeare had become well known actor and a playwright by 1592. Sometime after he arrived in Jondon, Shakespeare probably joined one of the city´s theatre companies. We do not know which theatre company Shakespeare joined before 1594. But he was a sharer of a company called the Lord Chamberlain´s Men in 1594. It was one of the most popular acting companies in London. Shakespeare was a leading member of the group for the rest of his career.

     From mid-1592 to 1594, London authorities often closed the public theatres because of repeated outbreaks of plague. At this time, Shakespeare began to write poems. He wrote two long poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, both dedicated to the 19-year-old Earl of Southampton, who probably rewarded the author for the dedication. Their success did not lead Shakespeare to give up playwriting. After the public theatres were reopened, he began again to write plays.


            The years of fame.

     From 1594 to 1608 Shakespeare was fully involved in the London theatre world. In addition to his duties as a shareholder and actor in the Lord Chamberlain´s men, he wrote an average of almost two plays a year for his company.

     By the late 1590s , Shakespeare had not only become prosperous. In 1597 he bought one of the two largest houses in Stratford. Shakespeare obviously remained a Stratford man at heart in spite of his busy, successful life in London. In 1599, Shakespeare became one of the owners of the Globe, a new outdoor theatre in the London suburb

     In 1603, Queen Elizabeth I died and was succeeded by her cousin James VI of Scotland. As king of England he became James I .James enjoyed and actively supported the theatre. He issued a royal licence to Shakespeare and his fellow players, which allowed the company to call itself the King´s  Men. The company leased the Blackfriars Theatre for 21 years. The theatre stood in a heavily populated district called Blackfriars, had artificial lighting, was probably heated, and served as the company´s winter playhouse.

     The years 1599 to 1608 were a period of extraordinary literary activity for Shakespeare. During these days, he wrote several comedies and almost all the tragedies that have made him famous. In 1609, a London publisher named Thomas Thorpe published a book called Shakespeare´s Sonnets, which contained more than 150 sonnets that Shakespeare had written over the years.


                        His last years

     On Feb 10, 1616, Shakespeare´s younger daughter Judith,married. Six weeks later, Shakespeare revid his will. Within a month he died. He was buried inside the Stratford parish church, Holy Trinity Church. His munument records the day of death as April 23, the generally accepted date of his birth.

     Shakespeare´s son, Hamnet, died in 1596 at the age of 11. The playwright´s daughter Susanna had one child,Elizabeth, who bore no childe. Judith gave birth to three boys, but they died before she did. Shakespeare´s last direct descendant, his granddaughter, Elizabeth, died in 1670.





     In April 1564 a son was born to John and Mary Shakespeare at Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon. His mother was the daughter of Robert Arden, an important farmer in Warwickshire. His father was a rich citizen whose business was making and selling leather gloves.

     The parents did not guess that their son, William, was going to be such an important figure in English poetry and drama, and that his plays would still be acted four hundred years later- not only in England, but all over the world.

     While still a teenager of nineteen, William married Anne Hathaway, a farmer´s daughter some years older than himself.

     We don´t know how he earned his living during these early ears. He may have helped his father in the family business or he may have been a country schoolmaster for a time. During these years his three children were born: Susannah, the eldest, then twins- a son,Hamnet and another girl, Judith. In 1587 Shakespeare went to work in London, leaving Anne and the children at home. One story says this is because he killed some deer which belonged to a rich landowner nearby, and that he had to run away from the law.

     Shakespeare soon began to act and to write plays. By 1592 he was an important member of a well-known acting company, and in 1599 the famous Globe Theatre was built on the south bank of the river Thames. It was in this theatre that most his plays were performed and, like all Elizabethan theatres, it was a round building with the stage in the centre open to the sky. If it rained, the actors got wet. If the weather was too bad, there was no performance.

     By 1603, the year when Queen Elizabeth I died, Shakespeare was already the leading poet and dramatist of his time. He continued to write for the next ten years, but in 1613 he finally stopped writing and went to live in Stratford where he died in 1616. He is buried in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon.                                                                                     Ben Jonson, who lived from 1572 to 1637, and who was also a famous writer of plays, called Shakespeare „Sweet Swan of Avon“. Shakespeare has been known as the „Swan of Avon“ ever since.



William  Shakespeare

is considered to be the greatest playwright in European literature.

     He was born  in Stratford-upon-Avon on 23 April 1564, six years after Elizabeth I became Queen. His father,John Shakespeare, was probably a glover and wool-merchant and for a time mayor of Stratford.

William went to the local grammar school, where he learned  English, some Latin and a little Greek.He never attended university. At the age of fourteen he left school and worked with his father for several years. When he was eighteen and a half he married a farmer’s daughter Ann Hathaway from Shottery, who was eight years older.(The marriage was on 27 November 1582) They had three children- Susanna (baptized on 26 May 1583 !) and the twins Hamnet and Judith ( born 1585,Hamnet died 1596).

     When William was 22, he went to London, leaving his wife and children in Stratford. Here WS became a player and joined the company called „The Lord Chamberlain´s Men“. The company was made up of about a dozen actors (no actresses at all). Each player played 2-3 roles in a single play.WS began to write plays and became famous as a dramatist. In 1599 he bought the Globe Theatre. Besides his plays WS wrote also 154 wonderful sonnets.His last play „The Tempest“ was probably written in 1611. In 1612 he bought a large house  and settled down in Stratford. After a few quiet years he died  and was buried in Stratford. It happened after spending an enjoyable evening with his friends, on 23 April 1616- the same day as his birth. (birthday party ?)

     Shakespeare wrote 37 plays, which fall into three categories: comedies, tragedies  and  histories.

Since the 17th century WS´s work has been performed more often than any other dramatist´s. His drama is often said to be the „mirror of life“. The greatest aspect of his genius was his understanding of human nature, and his characters are seen as real today as they were when they first appeared on the stage. His command of language has no equal. Computer studies tell us that he used more words than any other writer. His plays are divided into five acts and are written in blank verse.

The best-known of his comedies are

A Midsummer Night´s Dream, The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, The Winter´s Tale, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of the Shrew, The Comedy of Errors.

Among Shakespeare´s tragedies may be named :

Macbeth, Othello, Hamlet, King Lear, Romeo and Juliet

History plays:

Julius Caesar, The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra, Pericles, Richard II, Richard III, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI, Henry VIII, Coriolanus.


Some quotations from Shakespeare:

From Hamlet: „To be , or not to be - that is the question“

                       „Something is rotten in the state of Denmark“

                       „Frailty, thy name is woman!“

From Henry VIII: „Two women placed together make cold weather.“

From As You Like It: „All the world´s a stage,/ And all the men and women merely players.

From Romeo and Juliet: „ Good night,good night, parting is such sweet sorrow

                                          That I shall say good night till it be morrow.“


John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892 - 1973), an English author and scholar, wrote a popular series of novels about an imaginary people called hobbits. Tolkien introduced the short, hairy-footed hobbits in "The Hobbit"(1937). He continued their story in three related novels called "The Lord of the Rings."These novels are "The Fellowship of the Ring", (1954), "The Two Towers" (1954), and "The Return of the King". (1955)

     Hobbits are industrious and good-natured. They live in a world called Middle-earth, along with elves, goblins, wizards, and human beings. In "The Hobbit", Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, discovers a ring that conveys the power of invisibility but also corrupts the user. The hero of "The Lord of the Rings" is Frodo Baggins, Bilbo´s cousin. After many adventures, Frodo destroys the ring so that Sauron, the evil dark Lord, cannot use it against the people of Middle-earth.

     Many critics  have interpreted  "The Lord of the Rings" as a symbolic moral or religious story about the battle between good and evil. But Tolkien insisted that he wrote the novels only as fantasies to entertain readers.

     In 1971, Tolkien began to write "The Silmarillion", a history of Middle-earth before the hobbits appeared. He worked on the book occasionally for the rest of his life but died before completing it, and his son Christopher finished the novel. It was published in 1977. A collection of previously unpublished material about Middle-earth and the legendary island of Númenor appeared in 1980 as "Unfinished Tales".

J.R.R.Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, of English parents. From 1925 to 1959, he taught at Oxford University in England. He specialized in medieval languages and literature and wrote several scholarly works in this field. Tolkien´s hobbit stories show the influence of medieval English, German, and Scandinavian languages and literature.


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