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William Shakespeare Essay, Research Paper

Even after four centuries, the literary world remains to uphold Shakespeare as the greatest genius in British literature. While best known as a dramatist, Shakespeare was also a distinguished poet. Shakespeare’s extraordinary gifts for complex poetic imagery, mixed metaphor, and intelligent puns, along with insight into human nature are the characteristics that created the legend he is today. The following essay will address how Shakespeare contributed to modern playwright, the point in time when Shakespeare wrote some of his great plays, which was the Elizabethan era, and the beginning of his acting and playwright career, had influences with William Shakespeare.

When you consider the influence of Shakespeare on the modern playwright, it cannot mean purely the choice of plots, since Shakespeare borrowed them from other sources and from history. The lessons he teaches are not merely narrative or certainly those of architecture but individual ones of texture. Shakespeare was an actor, whether great or even good is of no importance. What is certain is that he had to have been a very interesting actor to write works such as King Lear and The Comedy of Errors. He knew in the most delicate detail the possibilities of the actor’s skills and elevated them to the level of the great (“Everything Shakespeare” np). He lived at a time when sophistication of audiences had not yet come to demand such plays without impurities, so far more had to be assigned to the domain of imagination. When there were battles, the battles are shown in isolated parts of the conflicts.

The suggestive powers of the actor demanded a far greater burden then they do today, for time and space had to be placed with people and decorated by the persuasion of the word and gesture. A boatman rowing across an unseen river finds the way of suggesting not only water but also wind and current by the movements of his body(Rowse 57). Naturally enough, technical advances of three centuries have served to weaken the demands on the public imagination and to assign the actors to roles of simple instruments in an ever-growing orchestra. The stage made a dramatic change from the upper and lower stage of the Elizabethan playhouse, yielding in the seventeenth century, to the proscenium that we know today. Shakespeare was performed under what must have been extraordinarily cumbersome conditions (Cahn 230).

Shakespeare was in fact fortunate that he lived in the period he did. It was an era when English drama flourished. His works were based on many different aspects of that period. Many of his plays are traced back to the life or works of saints, biblical accounts, and morality plays, which were particularly from the medieval ages (Cahn ix). The Elizabethan era that he lived in brought about a renewed interest in classical drama. Shakespeare drew upon the literary brilliance of other great writers in that same time period such as Christopher Marlowe, Sir Philip Sydney, Edmund Spenser, Holinshed, and Edward Hall. Shakespeare was influenced by elements of classical literature to create his own distinct form of poetry and drama. His history plays borrow from English histories, and his comedies often incorporate aspects of English folklore. His mythological themes were modeled after Ovid’s works (Cahn 5). Much of Shakespeare’s stylistic qualities of writing can be attributed to elements of Roman classicism, derived from Plautus and Terence. The themes of his comedies are often reflected by Italian Renaissance literature. His history plays tend to trace the English monarchy from the fourteenth century to the emergence of the Tudors in the sixteenth century (Cahn 283).

There are numerous reasons as to why William Shakespeare is so famous. He is generally considered to be both the greatest dramatist as well as the most brilliant poet who has written in the English language. Many rationales can be supported to explain Shakespeare’s enormous appeal (“The Shakespeare” np). His fame can be attributed to his vast knowledge and understanding of human nature. He was able to find human qualities and employ then into situations in which complex characters were derived that prove to be individual as well. The struggles represented in his works are applicable to everyone. Sometimes the characters are successful, sometimes they fail, and sometime the outcome is tragic (Cahn 1).

William Shakespeare’s first experiences, which influenced his numerous writings, with theatre began shortly after the “dark years.” These years were a time where Shakespeare’s life was not well documented until he became known as a dramatist. He probably became acquainted with professional acting companies touring the provinces and made his way to London, where his first plays, the three parts of Henry VI history cycle, were presented. Ovid’s Metamorphoses influenced Shakespeare to issue a pair of narrative poems by directly modeling his (Evans 276).

Shakespeare further established himself as a professional actor and playwright when he joined the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, an acting company formed by Henry Carey. The Lord Chamberlain’s Men began performing at the Theatre and the Cross Keys Inn, moving to the Swan Theatre when municipal authorities banned the public presentation of plays within the limits of the City of London (Martin 65). After this event, Shakespeare and other members of the company financed the building of the Globe Theatre, the most famous of all Elizabethan playhouses. The success of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men is largely attributable to the fact that after joining the group, Shakespeare wrote for no other company (“TheShakespeare” np).

Shortly after James I accession to the throne, he granted the Lord Chamberlain’s Men a royal patent, and the company’s name was altered to reflect the King’s direct patronage (“Everything Shakespeare” np). They were entitled the King’s Men. The King’s Men played at the Blackfriars Theatre, where Shakespeare’s late plays where first staged. The intimate setting of the theatre influenced Shakespeare’s use of increasingly sophisticated stage techniques.

In conclusion Shakespeare had a tremendous influence on cultures and literature throughout the world. His works reflected aspects of his lifestyle, as well as expansion of the ideas of others into literary works of his own. His contribution to the development of the English language offered many words and phrases that have become a part of speech and capable of comprehension. Shakespeare’s plays and poems have become a requirement in curriculums and education in schools for the purpose of teaching. His history plays have been implemented to teach about history, in substitution of history books, as well as his comedies and tragedies are used to teach literary devices. His personal ideas on romance, love, comedy, and tragedy have influenced the perception of millions of people today. He is a great and renounced writer that generates such continual interest through his endless contributions.


Rowse, A.L. William Shakespeare: A Biography. New York: Harper and Row, 1963

Burgee, Anthony. Shakespeare. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970.

Cahn, Victor L. Shakespeare the playwright: A Companion to the Complete Tragedies,

Histories, Comedies, and Romances. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991.

Evans, Gareth, and Barbara Lloyd Evans. The Shakespeare Companion. New York:

Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1978.

“Everything Shakespeare: History.” Online

http://www.field-ofothemes.com/shakespeare/shakehis.html. 26 Nov. 1999.

Martin, Michael Rheta, and Richard C. Harrier. The Concise Encyclopedic Guide to

Shakespeare. New York: Horizon Press, 1971.

“The Shakespeare Resource Center: An Encapsulated Biography.” Online.

http://www.bardweb.net/man.html. 26 Nov. 1999.

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