Be it a Montague, a Macbeth, or Prospero, the rightful duke of Milan, there is always at least one Shakespearean character that we can either relate to, or that has ensnared our imagination (or captured our hearts). Possibly the most intriguing character in all of Shakespeare’s world is Shakespeare himself; he who has forever made us ponder the meaning of the stage direction “exit, pursued by bear”.
What is it about Shakespeare that made this maestro of words still relevant today?
He certainly had a way with words! Shakespeare is credited with inventing around 1700 words. What better way to leave a legacy than language that is still in use some 400 years after his death? A bloody assassination might be a rose murder by any other name were it not for Shakespeare making these two words up (though it wouldn’t have made the crime any more sweet).
It isn’t just individual words that keeps Shakespeare alive for us. There are a sea of English phrases that you probably say on a fairly regular basis that can be entirely attributed to him. We have a “heart of gold” from Henry V, and the “green-eyed monster” from Othello as a couple of examples. If you’ve ever “rolled your eyes” at a knock-knock joke, well then you have Shakespeare to “thank” for that as well (Macbeth, if you didn’t already know). The more you learn English, the more idioms and words you will pick up from his time, and to get an extra boost, you can improve those skills with various English course providers such as Listen & Learn and Babbel.
In addition to the 38 plays that are accredited to him, Shakespeare also contributed 154 sonnets of poetry, and in turn went on to influence some of our other most beloved poets like Lord Tennyson and Faulkner. In short, Shakespeare has gifted us with a wealth of words and works that have challenged today’s English speaker, inspired so many, and interwoven themselves into the lives of others.
So, we now have plays to study, and sonnets to woo our intended loved-ones with, but Shakespeare still has more to give. For example, if we could resurrect Shakespeare into today’s society, there is little that would shock him about our more open attitudes to sex. In fact, he might even think modern society is a little repressed in its sexual attitude; the content and bawdiness of some of Shakespeare’s plays has made many a delicate flower blush.
Shakespeare has opened our eyes to and reminded us of the pain of teen angst through Romeo and Juliet. He speaks for all of us who have been through such things, and whatever adaptation we have either studied or watched for pleasure has resonated something wistful in all of us.
Perhaps the most important and relevant aspect of Shakespeare to the world today, is his questioning of race and prejudice; specifically through the play Othello. When Paul Robeson first played Othello on Broadway back in 1943, he could not have imagined the impact the role would have—or that it would be the longest-running show ever, with 296 performances!
In short, Shakespeare has contributed not only these staples of English literature, but also the nature with which we use, teach, and learn the English language as well. He is present in one way or another in everyday speech, speaking words as relevant today as they were during his lifetime. It is hard to imagine a legacy more awesome than that!