Shakespeare - Why Is He Still so Widely Studied and Relavent Today?

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Anaylaze why Shakespeare is relevant
and so widely studied and performed today?

Denise Ooi

The History of Theatre
24 September 2008

For over four hundred years, the works of British playwright William Shakespeare has remained fundamental in the role of theatre, study of the English language and presumably, skills in the study of business management as critics claim. 1 Shakespeare's works had cultured the stage all over the world as well as in the development of English literature, which was amongst his contributions to the Westernized societies. Another significant contribution of his works is the expansion of the English language by over 1700 commonly used words and phrases. This is clear evidence of an ever-lasting reminiscence of his works. 2 His works include around thirty-eight plays which had survived are grouped into three categories, namely comedy, tragedy and history. Shakespeare also produced fine poetry and sonnets. All of these have been studied and performed world wide in many different languages. 3 The provenance of his works is dated during the Elizabethan era in London, where royalties and people from the higher social strata patronised his productions. 4 During this time, the stage had very much depended on words to communicate the plays to the members of the audience. There was an absence of theatre technology, props and other general forms of visual media unlike today, where modern theatre has greatly advanced. 5 Therefore Elizabethans London had very much likely encouraged the result of the massive manipulation of language used in Shakespeare's writings. Despite significant changes in the way theatre is run during the Elizabethan era and now, there are several common elements with regards to Shakespeare’s style and bodies of writings which had not changed with time. Firstly, the plots in Shakespeare’s plays had unique contexts as well as characteristics which allowed them to be appreciated by people throughout history, and thus explain why it is still so influential today. This is because Shakespeare's characters and plots in his plays were taken at face value; this means that there were no assumptions or expectations by the audience about the characters in the play. Unlike in modern motion pictures, the audience is encouraged to create expectations; this refers to how and what the characters should be like in the minds of the audience based on the race of the characters in the story for example, to bring the these characters into life. Take for example the 1996 motion picture Romeo and Juliet directed by Baz Luhrmann. 6 It showed that Shakespeare’s work could be successfully remade for the general public even though the original play was performed centuries earlier. This movie had the general public interested in it, regardless of whether they were interested in Shakespeare's original play. This illustrated that Shakespeare's works can still be widely appreciated today in a very distinctively different time and across cultures. The essence of the play is in the movie, and even though the director, Baz Luhrmann, modernised it (e.g. introduction of guns and bombs as compared to zero props in The Globe) members of the audience could still identify the movie as based from Shakespeare's original play. Secondly with regards to use of language, his works included sonnets and poems which were written in prose with poetry devices like iambic pentameters which stressed on the dialogue and creates a rhythm in speech. 7 As a result, Shakespeare's works encourages effective imagination, creativity and induces feelings for the readers and audiences while reading. Apart from poetry, Shakespeare also made a laudable contributed to the English dictionary with new words and phrases. This is commendable because since people find it difficult to communicate their thoughts and feelings in words to other people, the new words and phrases allowed communication to...
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