Shakespeare’s Literary Legacy: How His Writing Inspires Modern Authors
William Shakespeare is widely regarded as one of the most influential writers in history. His works, which include plays, sonnets, and poems, have been studied, analyzed, and performed for over four centuries. Despite the passage of time, Shakespeare’s literary legacy remains as relevant and inspiring today as it was during his lifetime.
This article explores how Shakespeare’s writing has influenced and continues to inspire modern authors.
1. Shakespeare’s Themes and Characters
Shakespeare’s themes and characters have had a lasting impact on literature and continue to inspire modern authors. From the themes of love, jealousy, and betrayal to the characters of Hamlet, Romeo, and Macbeth, the literature has a universal appeal that transcends time and place.
As a result, the authors have drawn inspiration from Shakespeare’s works to create new stories, characters, and themes that resonate with contemporary audiences.
Shakespearean literature has an enduring influence in incorporating his themes and characters into contemporary form. For instance, Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Arts in English includes a study titled “Shakespeare’s Influence on Contemporary Literature,” which explores the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries and their influence on modern literature.
Through this program at Maryville University, students can better understand Shakespeare’s themes and characters and how they have impacted the literary landscape.
Furthermore, Shakespeare’s themes and characters have been adapted and reimagined in countless ways. One common trend is retelling his plays in a modern context, such as West Side Story, a retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in 1950’s New York City. These adaptations allow audiences to connect with Shakespeare’s timeless themes and characters in a contemporary setting.
2. Shakespeare’s Use of Language
One of the most remarkable aspects of Shakespeare’s writing is his use of language. According to Statista, Shakespeare wrote all 37 plays between 1589 and 1613, or in less than a quarter of a century. In his plays, his mastery of the English language is evident in his rich vocabulary, poetic techniques such as meter and rhyme, and ability to create unforgettable phrases and images.
Shakespeare’s language has profoundly impacted the English language, and many of his expressions have become part of our everyday vocabulary. Phrases like “to be or not to be,” “all the world’s a stage,” and “fair play” are just a few examples of how his words have entered the common lexicon.
Shakespeare’s language inspires present-day authors, who have drawn on his techniques and style to create their works. For example, in his novel The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje uses poetic language to create vivid images of war-torn Italy, much like Shakespeare did in his plays.
3. Shakespeare’s Narrative Techniques
In addition to his language and characters, Shakespeare’s narrative techniques have significantly impacted literature. Shakespeare was a master of plot, pacing, and suspense; his plays are known for their complex and intricate storylines.
One of Shakespeare’s most notable narrative techniques is his use of dramatic irony. It occurs when the audience knows something the characters on stage do not, creating tension and anticipation as the events unfold. This technique can be seen in plays like Romeo and Juliet, where the audience knows that Juliet is not dead, but Romeo does not, leading to his tragic end.
Another technique that Shakespeare used was the art of foreshadowing. He would plant hints and clues throughout his plays that hinted at future events, building suspense, and keeping the audience engaged.
4. Shakespeare’s Exploration of Human Nature
One of Shakespeare’s greatest achievements as a writer was his ability to explore the complexities of human nature. His characters are multifaceted, often embodying conflicting desires and motivations that make them deeply relatable to audiences across time and space.
Shakespeare’s exploration of human nature is evident in his plays. Also, according to Poetry Foundation, Shakespeare’s sonnets, which were written in or around 1592–1593, explore topics like love, jealousy, power, and the human condition.
In Othello, Shakespeare examines the destructive power of jealousy, showing how it can drive a man to madness and ultimately lead to tragedy. In Hamlet, he explores the nature of revenge, asking whether it is justified and showing how it can consume a person’s soul.
Today, writers continue to draw inspiration from Shakespeare’s exploration of human nature, using his themes and characters to explore timeless questions about the human experience. In his novel Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie examines issues of race, identity, and belonging, much like Shakespeare did in his plays.
5. Shakespeare’s Adaptability
Shakespeare’s writing is often described as timeless, partly due to his remarkable adaptability. His plays and sonnets have been adapted and reimagined countless times over the centuries in various contexts and mediums.
One reason for Shakespeare’s adaptability is his universal themes and characters, which continue to resonate with audiences across time and place. In addition, his study of human character and temperament, his use of language, and his mastery of narrative techniques make his works endlessly adaptable and relevant.
Shakespeare’s adaptability is evident in the many adaptations and retellings of his works. His works have also been adapted into operas, ballets, and even video games, showing how his writing can be inspire writers for centuries and be interpreted in countless ways.
6. Shakespeare’s Impact on Genre
Shakespeare’s impact on literary genres is significant, as his works have been credited with shaping and defining several literary genres that are still widely respected today.
One genre that Shakespeare is often associated with is tragedy. His plays like Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and Hamlet are considered some of the greatest tragedies in English literature. His exploration of themes like fate, revenge, and the nature of humanity has shaped the genre for centuries. Many modern tragedies still draw inspiration from Shakespeare’s works in their themes and narrative techniques.
Shakespeare is also credited with shaping the romantic comedy genre. His plays like A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night feature elements like mistaken identity, love triangles, and romantic entanglements. These have become staples of the romantic comedy genre.
Shakespeare Left a Significant, Lasting, and Inspirational Literary Impact
According to Agecroft Hall & Gardens, Shakespeare ended his playwriting career in 1613, but his legacy remains and is forever vast and enduring. It continues to inspire and influence writers across time and place. His human nature exploration, use of language, mastery of narrative techniques, adaptability, and impact on literary genres make him one of the greatest writers in the English language.
Shakespeare’s themes and characters are timeless, and his works have been adapted and reimagined countless times over the centuries, showing their enduring relevance and influence. As long as there are writers and readers, Shakespeare’s legacy will continue to inspire and shape the literary world.