Michelangelo and William Shakespeare are two famous historical figures who are both world renown for their endeavors. They left lasting marks on society, and their works still thrive today even after the passing of several centuries. Michelangelo was a man of the fine arts, some even considering him to be a poet. Shakespeare delved into the art of literature, poetry, and playwriting. Many people among society today hear their names in certain courses of study, and even in everyday life. Michelangelo and Shakespeare are two incredibly different, yet still similar impactful historical figures with parallels and contrasts in areas such as their personal lives, professions, and legacies.
Both Michelangelo and Shakespeare hailed from the Renaissance movement, having lived their entire lives during it. Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was born on March 6th, 1475, in Florence, Italy. William Shakespeare was born in England on April 26th, 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. As a child, according to Creighton Gilbert, Michelangelo “was born to a family that had for several generations belonged to minor nobility in Florence but had .
. . lost its patrimony and status.” Later, at the age of thirteen, Michelangelo finally became the apprentice of an artist named Domenico Ghirlandaio, and then later become the apprentice of the esteemed Lorenzo de’ Medici. This apprenticeship gave Michelangelo “access to the Medici art collection, which was dominated by fragments of ancient Roman statuary” (Gilbert). Shakespeare, however, was born to a man named John Shakespeare and a woman named Mary Arden.
According to the editors at History.com, “John boosted his social status by marrying Mary Arden, the daughter of an aristocratic landowner.” Shakespeare married at the age of eighteen to a woman named Anne Hathaway, bearing three children, whilst Michelangelo never married nor had children. In regards to career, it was not until 1592, when Shakespeare was around twenty-eight years old, that scholars believe he began his career as an actor. During most of this career, he was a part of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, a group of actors that later changed its name to The King’s Men. This particular group was extremely popular during its time. Michelangelo, having started much earlier, remained in Florence and worked on his profession. However, due to political turmoil there, he left to live in Bologna, where “he was hired to succeed a recently deceased sculptor and carve the last small figures required to complete a grand project” (Gilbert). Throughout the rest of their lives, Michelangelo and Shakespeare both worked within their professions. Michelangelo died on February 18th, 1564, with unfinished works still in progress. Shakespeare was believed to die on April 23rd, 1616, having left in his will according to editors at Biography.com, “the bulk of his possessions to his eldest daughter, Susanna.” These men led very different lives, despite living in and around the same time period. However, that very time period inspired their creativity within the very professions they became acclaimed for.
Between the two of them, Michelangelo and Shakespeare both became extremely prominent for what careers they pursued during their lives. Michelangelo was a man of the fine arts, having been a part of a plethora of talents. According to Gilbert, he was a “Renaissance sculptor, painter, architect, and poet who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art.” In contrast, William Shakespeare was known for a very different profession. Instead of being an artist of the Renaissance, he was a writer of the same time period. He was known to be a playwright, actor, and poet, of all things. As previously mentioned, Michelangelo and Shakespeare began their professions at different times in their lives. Michelangelo was very young, only thirteen, while Shakespeare was as old as twenty-eight. Michelangelo began in Florence, where he was born, but his most known work began in the city of Bologna, with the tomb of St. Dominic. However, his first statue that survived over the centuries was “the Bacchus, produced in Rome (1496–97) following a brief return to Florence.” Michelangelo’s breakthrough piece was known as David, which, according to Gilbert, “the magnificence of the finished work convinced Michelangelo’s contemporaries to install it in a more prominent place,” despite originally intending to be placed elsewhere; his contemporaries thought it to be a piece of excellence. In contrast, Shakespeare’s first known work was a play, more specifically a play known as Henry VI, Part One. Both of these men created a number of fine works in their profession. Michelangelo created works such as David, Bacchus, Pietá, Moses, and his famous work in the Sistine Chapel. Shakespeare created works such as Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In all of its obviousness, the two men led very different yet successful careers that worked well for the both of them. Of the many works that they created, all of them contributed to their fame and impact upon the world.
In today’s society, both Michelangelo and Shakespeare have contributed to many aspects of our everyday life. Therefore, their impacts have become large and profound throughout the world. Many of Michelangelo’s works still exist today, and he is still studied through his work. His art has inspired many other artists such as Raphael, as well. According to Gilbert, “in the 17th century, he was regarded as supreme in anatomical drawing but less praised for broader elements of his art.” Primarily, Michelangelo had his influence during the Baroque period, albeit he is still studied today, with his art having become popular tourist hot spots. As for a more recent artist influence, “the painter Peter Paul Rubens may best show the usability of Michelangelo’s creations for a later great artist” (Gilbert). Shakespeare, however, has an extreme impact on our society. His usage of language still resides in our version of English today, and many courses across the world study his plays and sonnets in depth. Millions consider him to be the best English writer who had ever lived. Despite this, according to Biography.com, “his reputation as a dramatic genius wasn’t recognized until the 19th century.” Reverence of Shakespeare’s work was at its highest point at that time, and Biography.com once again states that “new movements in scholarship and performance have rediscovered and adopted his works.” In Shakespeare’s plays, his characters express a wide variety of emotions as well as a plethora of political and cultural ranges. These attributes are what make his works so famously acclaimed, studied, and performed around the globe. Some might even argue that Shakespeare had a greater, vaster influence on the modern world than Michelangelo did. Simply stated, both men have their differences in their legacies, but definitely have them nonetheless.
Michelangelo and Shakespeare shared many similarities and had many differences altogether regarding their lives, professions, and impacts on the world. Michelangelo lead a life of fine arts, while Shakespeare lead a life of traveling and literature. In the end, Shakespeare likely left the vaster legacy, yet Michelangelo still had much to offer the arts and its people by providing them with much to learn. Undoubtedly, both Michelangelo and Shakespeare were significant historical figures that let the world envelop in the profound knowledge, cultures, and wonderful works of art that they left in their wake.