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Why Study Shakespeare?
The Reasons Behind Shakespeare's Influence and Popularity
Ben Jonson anticipated Shakespeare’s dazzling future when he declared, "He was not of an age, but for all time!" in the preface to the First Folio. While most people know that Shakespeare is, in fact, the most popular dramatist and poet the Western world has ever produced, students new to his work often wonder why this is so. The following are the top four reasons why Shakespeare has stood the test of time.
1) Illumination of the Human ExperienceShakespeare’s ability to summarize the range of human emotions in simple yet profoundly eloquent verse is perhaps the greatest reason for his enduring popularity. If you cannot find words to express how you feel about love or music or growing older, Shakespeare can speak for you. No author in the Western world has penned more beloved passages. Shakespeare's work is the reason John Bartlett compiled the first major book of familiar quotations.
Here are some examples of Shakespeare's most popular passages:
• The seven ages of man
Marchette Chute, in the Introduction to her famous retelling of Shakespeare’s stories, summarizes one of the reasons for Shakespeare’s immeasurable fame:
William Shakespeare was the most remarkable storyteller that the world has ever known. Homer told of adventure and men at war, Sophocles and Tolstoy told of tragedies and of people in trouble. Terence and Mark Twain told cosmic stories, Dickens told melodramatic ones, Plutarch told histories and Hand Christian Andersen told fairy tales. But Shakespeare told every kind of story – comedy, tragedy, history, melodrama, adventure, love stories and fairy tales – and each of them so well that they have become immortal. In all the world of storytelling he has become the greatest name. (Stories from Shakespeare, 11)
Shakespeare's stories transcend time and culture. Modern storytellers continue to adapt Shakespeare’s tales to suit our modern world, whether it be the tale of Lear on a farm in Iowa, Romeo and Juliet on the mean streets of New York City, or Macbeth in feudal Japan.
3) Compelling CharactersShakespeare invented his share of stock characters, but his truly great characters – particularly his tragic heroes – are unequalled in literature, dwarfing even the sublime creations of the Greek tragedians. Shakespeare’s great characters have remained popular because of their complexity; for example, we can see ourselves as gentle Hamlet, forced against his better nature to seek murderous revenge. For this reason Shakespeare is deeply admired by actors, and many consider playing a Shakespearean character to be the most difficult and most rewarding role possible.
4) Ability to Turn a Phrase
Many of the common expressions now thought to be clichés were Shakespeare's creations. Chances are you use Shakespeare's expressions all the time even
For a list of authors who have named their books after lines from Shakespeare, see Shakespeare's Impact on Other Writers.Mabillard, Amanda. Why Study Shakespeare? Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug 2000. 15 Aug 2011. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/biography/whystudyshakespeare.html >
Please Read The Following Regarding Writing a Critical Play Review in anticipation of attending Much Ado About Nothing.