Debt to Shakespeare

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Who really cares about the never ending controversy about who Shakespeare really was? The author of many gripping plays and emotive poems has made a large contribution entertainment and to the English language.

Still, you’ll find questions about him like: Who was the author? Did Shakespeare write his own plays? Could other writers have written the poems and plays? Was Shakespeare a Woman?

Many remember trying to understand Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays at school and wondering why these texts had to be studied. When you write yourself and re-read the poems and plays you realise how incredibly well they were written.

Only a dullard can’t be stirred by these lines (Sonnet 65):

Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
But sad mortality o’ersways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?

So relevant to the corruption and evil-doers of today are these lines from Julius Caesar:

“The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.”

Even Shakespeare’s plots have inspired modern-day adaptations and spin-offs. Japanese film-maker Akira Kurosawa produced : Throne of Blood (1957), a retelling of Macbeth, and Ran (1985), the story of King Lear. In the US, adaptations include Forbidden Planet (1956), West Side Story (1961), The Lion King (1994), and 10 Things I Hate About You (1999). [Respectively, The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and The Taming of the Shrew.] A classic western starring Gregory Peck, Anne Baxter and Richard Widmark is based on The Tempest: Yellow Sky (1948).

Words and phrases from his plays have been used for novels and films from Brave New World (Aldous Huxley) and The Sound and the Fury (William Faulkner) to The Glimpses of the Moon (Edith Wharton) and The Dogs of War (Frederick Forsyth).

Here are some common words (check the Internet for many more than 400 words that Shakespeare came up with) that first appeared in Shakespeare’s plays and their meanings:

admirable – something that deserves respect or admiration
auspicious – favorable; promising success; a good omen
baseless – without a foundation; not based on fact

Some phrases that Shakespeare is said to have invented:

“Break the ice” (The Taming of the Shrew)
“Cold comfort” (King John)
“Come what come may” (“come what may”) (Macbeth)
“Eaten me out of house and home” (2 Henry IV)
“In a pickle” (The Tempest)
“What’s done is done” (Macbeth)

We can learn a lot about writing from Shakespeare. Above all he shows us how to write about human emotions. Stories with human emotion are always popular. Learn like Shakespeare to write about the range of human emotions, from love, envy, procrastination, greed and despair.

Peter James in the Guardian says if Shakespeare was a 21st century novelist he’d be a crime writer. “I believe it is because these writers – like Lee Child, Ian Rankin, Ruth Rendell, PD James, Michael Connelly and so many others – tackle the most important issues of our times while making them accessible to everyone… he produced brilliant, classy potboilers, with high body counts and peppered with sex. I rest my case…”

Shakespeare’s writing is hard to read and becoming increasingly so as education deteriorates in many countries. But if we can overcome this we can obtain great value from his works.

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