The Life and Works of William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare is widely regarded as being one of the most important writers in world literature. Many people consider him to be the greatest writer that has ever lived. He is famous for his contribution to theatre and created characters that continue to resonate with audiences. Shakespeare plays and poems have been translated into over one hundred languages. More than four centuries after his death, people of all ages continue to read the words that he wrote. His work is included within the education of students across the world.

The Influence of Shakespeare Plays

The powerful themes explored within Shakespeare plays, such as love, ambition and revenge, have inspired many writers. His influence on theatre has been immense. Playwrights, directors and actors interpret the works of Shakespeare for modern audiences. Shakespeare comedies, tragedies and histories, are performed within informal improvised spaces, grand theatres, on television shows and in movies. They are an important part of our global culture. However, the influence of Shakespeare upon how we live today goes far beyond the plays and poetry, for which he is famous.

Shakespeare plays included many words which would have been new to his audience when they were first performed. Hundreds of words that Shakespeare invented remain in common use today, along with well-known phrases and popular names. In addition to expanding the vocabulary of the English language, Shakespeare influenced the formation of the way in which modern people think. His works included explorations of personal and national identity, the meaning of life and our perception of reality.

The Human Condition

Through his plays and poems, Shakespeare demonstrated an understanding of the human psyche that was far ahead of his time. People had previously experienced such thoughts and feelings. However, it was the genius of Shakespeare that brought deeper meaning and understanding to them. He helped people to better comprehend their inner life and what motivates human action or inaction. His ideas influenced the work of writers, psychologists and philosophers, during subsequent centuries. Some of those whose work he inspired became famous in their own right.

Modern audiences might perceive Shakespeare plays, sonnets and poetry somewhat differently from those alive when he wrote them. We bring to his work our perspective on history and experience of living within a post enlightenment, industrialised world. However, the ability of Shakespeare to understand and express thoughts and feelings, can still help people to more deeply understand themselves and each other. Teachers have found that through his works, they are able to develop classes that can help students to improve their ability to express themselves.

Through his work, Shakespeare has influenced our understanding of history. The words that he wrote bring to life characters based upon people who lived in a world very different to our own. Among the characters that he created, were representations of men and women from many different backgrounds and social classes. He gave voice to them in a way that can make them relatable to modern audiences. We can recognise many of our own concerns within them, which can help to provide some perspective on our own lives. Shakespeare plays, sonnets and poetry, continue to entertain, inspire and generate controversy within each new generation that reads the words that he wrote and watches them performed.