Or why Shakespeare is essential in Literature
William Shakespeare,bard of Stratford: Hardly is a name of a long-gone playwright as familiar.Theatres,devoid of audience,rings of his name,four centuries later.It is hard to differentiate between Shakespeare the writer,and Shakespeare the poet.He is to a lover,what Gabriel was to the Prophet,a tumbler of love.From Romeo,to Hermia,Shakespeare has always maintained the drama,and an omnipresent sense of unadulterated love alive in his prose and sonnets,while perfectly building up tension and releasing it with humour.Ben Johnson,another great poet and writer,wrote of Shakespeare,that he “was not of an age,but of all time”.Under the flame of his greatness,was a wick of genius,floating in his creative rapidity and unhindered passion.Under this flame,many shadows are borne,few kissed by death.Burning along his flame are others,in the likeliness of Dante,Shaw and Byron.
In modern literature,Shakespeare has set the precedent for plays.He has set,what one may call,a pathway for lost travsvers.One has seen the past playwrights write in poetic fashion,while Shakespeare transcended over time to a more prosaic approach to play,with it’s focus on drama rather than verses.The firm control that Shakespeare had over English also paved way for him to pervert the language. “Lacklustre”: A word oft used in modern literature,birthed from the crevices of Shakespeare’s mind.He conjured phrases out of thin air,but it was substantiated by an intuitive sense of semantics.It is rare of any artist in modern literature to conjure words that acquire the status of a word frequented upon the lips of men several centuries later.Another reason why Shakespeare is oft given preference over other greats of his time or genre: That is the ease with which he contrasted several emotions.His use of comedy to relieve dramatic tension,or his use of soliloquy to bring out the thoughts of the character,without giving it too much of a “Theatre-feel”.The consistence of the motif and story in his plays are noticeable,Shakespeare didn’t lose the story in trivial side-stories,or even during recital of crucial back-stories.His plays were like a barren tree,with the trunk being the idea of the play,and the the stems being the stories he built the flow of the play upon.Several amateur writers,or even professional writers,either have too many stems to their tree or too little.In ‘The Clifton Chronicles’,Jeffery Archer has too many back and side stories to his main story,while in ‘No Orchids for Miss Blandish’,James Hadley Chase hasn’t enough back or side stories to back up the main story.While these too writers are at the zenith of writing,contrasting their books to W.Shakespeare does give us a drift of this idea.His imagery was to-the-point,and his use of prose could describe every feeling man has felt.Shakespeare did not shy away from having complicated,hard to understand characters.His plays consisted of characters that weren’t purely black or white,but rather were shades of grey.In the following
“Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.”
One can’t help but soften for Shylock and turn a suspicious eye to Antonio.We must not forget that we do not know the back-story,about what Antonio may have done to Shylock,and whether it was out of pure racist hatred or as a revenge,nonetheless,we soften for him and find another perspective that helps us analyse the story in multiple ways.
His usage of character gradient can also be seen here:
“Rivers. Have patience, madam; there’s no doubt his Majesty
Will soon recover his accustomed health.
Grey. In that you brook it ill, it makes him worse.
Therefore for God’s sake entertain good comfort
And cheer his Grace with quick and merry eyes.
Queen Elizabeth. If [the King] were dead, what would betide on me?
Grey. No other harm but loss of such a lord.
Queen Elizabeth. The loss of such a lord includes all
(An excerpt from Richard III)
Rivers in this paragraph might come across as concerned for the king,but he certainly isn’t,all he cares about is presenting himself in good fashion to the Queen,so as to acquire a higer position in office.This treachery of words is common to his ways.
“Et tu Brute?”
(An excerpt from Julius and Caesar)
This iconic three lettered sentence has become an ironic way of referring to minor distrust between friends.
There are multiple such examples and if we count them,we’d run out of numbers,metaphorically of course.
Over time,Shakespeare has been reduced to textbooks and memorised repetition-instead of where he belonged,in the hearts of broken lovers and theaters.
And that,audience,is the tragedy.