Hephaestus's Blog

Six reasons why I like Shakespeare
December 22, 2014, 18:01
Filed under: Shakespeare

1: They are good stories, once you get used to the writing.

Romeo and Juliet, for example, is a classic love story so embedded in our culture that it has become clichéd. Macbeth, the “Scottish Play,” which I wrote about here, is a tale of a man whose grab for power ultimately becomes his downfall.

2: They can be quite deep at times.

King Lear, to take one I am rather well acquainted with, deals with themes such as the feeling of helplessness that comes with growing old, as well as the more obvious currents of greed and madness.

3: The comedies are really quite witty at times, at least the ones that I’ve seen.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, after poking fun a bad actors, ends with the troublemaker Puck addressing the audience and saying, essentially, “If you didn’t like us, why not pretend it was all a dream?” Much Ado About Nothing is full of banter and wordplay, and Twelfth Night has mistaken identity and characters named Aguecheek and Belch.

4: They really are great literature.

At least, they have all the hallmarks of literature that I know of. They are still able to be appreciated, even after a great deal of time has separated us from them, they deal with themes such as life, death, and love, and, of course, they are revered by scholars and lovers of culture. That last may not be good for very much, at least to my contemporaries (i.e. teenagers), but it is a quality of literature nonetheless.

5: The language is beautiful.

Shakespeare’s use of language, while archaic and poetic, is very beautiful and refined. I mean, if there’s one thing we do a lot of in the English-speaking world, it’s quote Shakespeare. “To be or not to be” has been referenced and parodied more than anything else I can think of. The main sources of “classical” references in English literature from the seventeenth century onward are the Bible, Greek and Roman mythology, and Shakespeare. “Et tu, Brute!” is a catch-all phrase for betrayal. Also, while just how many words Shakespeare gave us is under constant debate, we can be sure it has preserved many words that we would never have heard otherwise.

6: They are still popular, four centuries after they were written.

Shakespeare is essentially the only Elizabethan dramatist whose works are still being performed on a regular basis throughout the English-speaking world. I mean, anti-Stratfordianism notwithstanding, who has ever seen a play by Christopher Marlowe, Robert Greene, or the Earl of Oxford? The same can be said in terms of poets. Marlowe, Ben Jonson, and Edmund Spenser may have been great poets, but they are simply not household names.


2 Comments so far
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Thank you.

Comment by eileen

Reading Shakespeare or seeing Shakespeare is experiencing life.

Comment by frenchc1955

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