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What has Shakespeare done for us?

What has Shakespeare done for us?

   William Shakespeare is one of the most famous poets and playwrights of his time. Having written 38 plays, 154 Sonnets and several poems, it is no wonder he is still, 397 years after his death, so famous and highly credited. Shakespeare began his career as an actor and a writer, working with a small organisation called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men; which changed its name to The Kings Men when Queen Elizabeth I died and the new King, James I, came to the throne in 1603. In 1599 the famous Globe Theatre was built, where the Chamberlain’s Men performed their newly written plays to the public, as well as in another theatre called the Blackfriars. This exposed the people of the 1600s to a new type of entertainment, the theatre, rather than the typical bear baiting they were used to.

    Most of Shakespeare’s plays are still performed and studied today. One of the most famous being Romeo and Juliet, written in 1591, which is the story of two star-crossed lovers in Verona who die tragically for love of one another. Other plays include Hamlet, written in three different drafts from 1603 to 1623, and Othello (1603) to name but a few.

   The plots and story lines are ones we a still familiar with today, with various film and television adaptations of Shakespeare’s work constantly emerging, it is difficult not to find yourself surrounded with the words of William; not to mention the Royal Shakespeare Company who still perform plays by Shakespeare for the public. Most of Shakespeare’s plays deliver lines and words which we are familiar with and still use today, with most of us quoting Shakespeare without even realising it. For example to “break the ice” is a term used in The Taming of the Shrew. The terms “dead as a doornail” from Henry VI, “It’s Greek to me” from Julius Caesar, “jealousy is the green eyed monster” from Othello and “own flesh and blood” from Hamlet are all common phrases that, unbeknown to some, were invented by Shakespeare.

   This influential man’s life and work not only affects the way we speak and what terms we use, but also in the way we draft and write. In English lessons today, Shakespearian techniques in writing are common place, as well as his sayings and phrases. Sonnet, is a term for the structure of a love poem used by Shakespeare. Known for its 14 lines and rhyming couplet at the end of the poem, it is one of the most well known forms of writing used in poetry.

   Shakespeare died in 1616 and was buried in Holy Trinity Church a few days after his death. His grave is shrouded in mystery, as written on his grave stone is a curse upon anyone who disturbs his bones or moves them and a blessing for those who leave him to rest. It is clear that Shakespeare was, and is still, a heavy influence on society, even hundreds of years after his death.

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