Do you love Shakespeare? He is often described as the greatest dramatist and poet that ever lived – and with good reason!
Love him or loath him, the Bard has influenced the books you read, the films you watch and the language you speak. His work, written over 400 years ago, has been so influential that the Bard’s fingerprints can still be found all over contemporary culture.
So, here are my top reasons why you should love Shakespeare … (if you don’t already!)
Why You Should Love Shakespeare
Without realizing it, you are probably quoting Shakespeare every day! He is credited with inventing over 1700 common words like “advertising”, “critic”, “bump” and “gossip”. He also invented many phrases that we still use today. Have you ever found yourself uttering the phrases “fair play”, “I’m in a pickle”, “into thin air” or “a brave new world”? Well, these all come from The Tempest alone!
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18: Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day? is often described as the most romantic poem ever written. Even today it’s sure to melt any heart and is often trotted out on Valentine’s Day. As with all sonnets, it’s only 14 lines – but it’s 14 lines of perfection in which Shakespeare captures the essence of love. He compares love to a summer’s day – but unlike nature, his love is eternal and will not wilt into Autumn and Winter: “but thy eternal summer shall not fade”.
Considering that they were written more than 400 years ago, Shakespeare’s plays have really stood the test of time. I’ve put together a list of the top 5 plays by Shakespeare to illustrate my point.
Hamlet tops the list simply because it is so perfectly written and set a new standard for English literature – a standard that writers of today still try to meet! The character Hamlet is one of the most psychologically complex characters ever penned – even by today’s standards. But what makes this so remarkable is the fact that Shakespeare constructed this character centuries before the concept of psychology had emerged – at the time of writing, Shakespeare’s contemporaries were writing two-dimensional characters.
Shakespeare’s plays altered the course of English drama and the films, plays and TV programs of today still use many of the Bard’s conventions.
Just like the plays changed the course of English drama, modern poetry also owes a huge debt to Shakespeare. His collection of 154 sonnets was hugely important because it broke the highly conventional sonnet writing style of the time.
In the sonnets, Shakespeare really digs deep and explores the complexity of love - controversially writing about sex and playing with gender roles. Shakespeare single-handedly paved the way for modern romantic poetry.
Last, but by no means least, Shakespeare’s language is the thing that can really make you love Shakespeare. The reasons above suffice to get you into the Bard – to get you reading, watching and maybe even performing – but it’s the beauty of the language that will keep you hooked forever. My top 10 list of famous Shakespeare quotes says it all. There’s something perfect about Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be: that is the question” or As You Like It’s “world’s a stage” speech:
All the world 's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.
Invest in Shakespeare’s language and you will not be disappointed. Trust me!