William Shakespeare was an English poet. His exact birth date is unknown but estimated to be 23 April 1564 and he died on 23 April 1616. He is one of the greatest writers of English and the world’s preeminent dramatist. He is also known as “the Bard of Avon or just “the Bard”. He wrote most his works well known between 1590 and 1613.
He wrote plays, sonnets, poems and narrative poems. His plays are available in many languages and they have been staged several times. His reputation as a writer rose in the nineteenth century. During the twentieth century, scholarship movements adopted his works. Today his works are still very popular and are studied in schools.
Importance of studying Shakespeare
Studying Shakespeare is important because his works are rich and they can enrich a reader’s life in many ways. For instance, his works are very rich in the English language and are a good source of learning the language. Shakespeare contributed many words to the English vocabulary and they are still in use (Forrester 17).
The works makes one sensitive to the English language. Moreover, his works are a challenge because they are not very easy but once a person is able to study them and understand there is a feeling of accomplishment. The language is powerful and through it, one experiences the power of drama.
Shakespearean works address various ethical dilemmas. The ethical dilemmas help us in becoming morally sensible as they show the consequences of making bad judgments in life. For example in the play The Hamlet, Shakespeare addresses the issue of greed for power. He shows how it causes instability in a country “or thinking by our late dear brother’s death/our state to be disjoint and out of frame” (Shakespeare (a) 1.2.19-20).
Claudius kills King Hamlet, rises to power, and possesses the former queen Gertrude. Consequently, Hamlet seeks revenge for his father’s death and sadly losses his life. In addition, the play addresses revenge and shows that sometimes the obsession with revenge can lead to one’s downfall. Through his plays, Shakespeare provided sources for debating human conduct.
The plays offer good examples of how human beings should treat matters such as power inheritance and shows that there is no shortcut to power as those who come to power illegally do not succeed such as in Macbeth. Their evil deeds are punished as Macbeth noted “bloody actions return/To plague th’ Inventor” (Shakespeare (b) 1.7. 9-10).
The messages in his works are relevant even today. He talks of things such as power and shows how corrupting power can be especially to greedy people.
He shows how people in power find it difficult to balance their private and public lives and shows how the people in power manipulate the masses for selfish interests. The plays are very good in studying murders and conspiracy. His works explore other issues such as gender, sexuality, love and war among others.
These issues show the kind of relationships people have in the society (Forrester 18). In addition, his plays contain wit and humor and are very entertaining besides being educative. Therefore, Shakespeare’s works help college and school students to have a deeper literary appreciation (Lund 1; Forrester 18).
His works opens up our imaginations and radical thinking. He addresses issues such as the relationship between rulers and their subjects. He gives us an opportunity to enter the minds of the characters in his plays and thus enlarges our experience.
For instance, in Macbeth he lets us see how Macbeth’s conscience disturbs him for killing King Duncan yet he ignores it and continues to commit murders to protect his throne.
The plays carry a universal message and are easy to relate with as they address human issues that one can identity. The universality of the messages in the play and there relevance make the plays important. It means that one can interpret the meaning of the plays according to their context and Terence Hawkers puts it this way “Shakespeare does not mean; we mean by Shakespeare” (Why study Shakespeare 5).
The culture of the English is well documented by the Shakespeare dramas. Through the plays, one is able to know how the society was together with its attitude towards its members. For instance, the play Taming the Shrew shows that men were considered inferior to men during the Elizabethan age but it also shows that the women were powerful in their own way as proved by Kate.
Another play like the Merchant of Venice shows the relationship between people from different religions such as the Christians and Jews. The plays also show that the people valued religion as Shakespeare uses biblical allusions in most of his plays to address issues (Lund 1).
Shakespeare and modern day drama
Shakespeare in his work addressed human issue so articulately with his genius use of words. The works are timeless and form the basis of modern drama. The modern dramas such as The Fences address human issues that affect people in the society such as issue of unwed pregnancies.
The modern day dramas differ from the Shakespeare drama because they rely on visuals while the later relied on words to pass messages. Moreover, the heroes in Shakespeare dramas are aggressive unlike those in modern drama (Lukas and Baxandall 150-151). The dramas are not in the same category as Shakespeare who is clearly in a class of his own.
Shakespeare is relevant today and has stood the test of time. Readers can resonate with the universal message his works pass. The works are a good source for the English literature and thus one cannot claim to understand without understanding Shakespeare. He is the foundation of the English literature and thus it would be unwise to banish him and important for students’ studies.
Forrester, Ann. Why teach Shakespeare? Or any other dead white male? Literary Canon, Shakespeare, (1995). A paper presented to the Community Colleges Humanities Association Washington DC Nov. 1995.
Lukas, George and lee Baxandall.”The sociology of modern drama.” The Tulane Drama Review, 9.4 (1965), 146-170.
Lund, Norman J. Why study Shakespeare? 11 Jun. 2005. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. http://www.oxfordtutorials.com/why_study_shakespeare.htm
Shakespeare, William (a). The Tragedy Of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. http://shakespeare.mit.edu/hamlet/full.html
Shakespeare, William (b). The Tragedy of Macbeth. n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. http://shakespeare.mit.edu/macbeth/full.html
Why study literature? n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. http://mphp.usfca.edu/aslshakespeare/shakespeare/shakespeare_why.php?bandwidth=low