Shakespeare’s immense impact on the world of literature and language is still present today, over 400 years later. The themes, ideas, and messages across his works, still being relevant today, suggest he was not of an age, but in fact, for all time.
Shakespeare transformed nouns into verbs, verbs to adjectives, and suffixes and prefixes were added to adjust the meaning of particular words. His invention of more than 1,700 words and phrases including bump, lonely, amazement and upstairs, makes him a fundamental figure in the development of language. Find yourself using the term ‘gossip’ and you’re quoting him (A word which was first used in A Midsummer Night’s Dream). ‘The be-all and end-all’ is uttered by Macbeth as he contemplates murdering King Duncan. Shakespeare even invented the knock-knock joke in the Scottish play.
Shakespeare’s use of metaphors and similes in his plays and poems opened our minds to the possibility’s there are with comparison. Additionally, his impact exists through not only the way we express ourselves but how people experience and process the world around them. Had he not created the word ‘gloomy’ (in Titus Andronicus), would it be a sentiment we acknowledged in ourselves? His lasting impact on language is aided by the unforgettable characters, who voiced these new words.
Furthermore, Shakespeare’s plays remain relevant to us in modern times because we still struggle with the same issues that his characters faced. Most of us have times, like Hamlet, where, instead of facing our problems, we would prefer to disappear or like Shakespeare’s states, ‘dissolve into a dew’. His ability to create characters who, despite extraordinary factors, are totally and profoundly human in both their strengths and shortcomings is one of the many reasons he has always been so relevant.
Moreover, Shakespeare’s use of women is a further reason as to why Shakespeare was for all time. The role of women in his plays was very strange for his time. Although there are approximately seven times more male characters than female characters in his plays, his female characters often show displays of intellect, courage, recklessness, ambition, and pride, creating several vivid, independent, and free-thinking female characters in his plays. Additionally, Shakespeare’s depiction of equal relationships between men and women plays (which was rare at the time) creates a relevant storyline centuries later. Alluding to the possibility Shakespeare perhaps could be conceived as a progressive, advanced man, if not by today’s standards, then at least for his time. Perhaps Shakespeare helped pave the way for a slightly more equal society. In 1660 (44 years after Shakespeare’s death), King Charles II’s decree declared that ‘all the women’s parts to be acted in either of the said two companies may be performed by women’, giving rights to two theatre companies to allow women to act.
Shakespeare’s consistent importance in contemporary and modern society is also partly due to the messages his plays express. Across the three different types of plays he wrote, histories, comedies and tragedies, several themes are used across multiple of Shakespeare’s plays, such as appearance vs reality, ambition, and love, and all themes have lessons that can be taken from them. Love is a prominent theme seen in Romeo and Juliet, Othello, The Taming of the Shrew etc. In Othello, Shakespeare presents the idea that Love can be used against you and can be manipulated, as well as love’s ability to be blinding. The Taming of the Shrew presents the theme of love ultimately through characters finding a suitable partner for marriage. The key message being about courtship, marriage, and relationship and the emotional component is inferior to more dominant social and economic power structures, used for the benefit of husbands individually and broader family interests together. This message conveying to the contemporary audience how to act in marriage and reinforcing the reality of the patriarchal system in society.
Shakespeare significance in modern-day society can be shown through his influence on media. Shakespeare’s play, The Taming of The Shrew, was written in 1590. Four centuries later Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith created a movie adaptation of the play entitled 10 Things I Hate About You. Regardless of the different settings the plays take place in, certain things are constant, such as the ways the characters are portrayed and perceived. The movie reminds us that it’s traditional, virginal, shallow girls that are loved, whist independent girls with strong personalities and refusal to bow down to societal expectations are thought of as undesirable and unreasonable. Just like in Shakespeare’s time, fathers are still trying to control their daughter’s sexuality, where in The Taming of the Shrew, Baptista would not let Bianca get married unless Katherina does, resulting in Petruchio being found for Katherine, who only marries her for the dowry given by Baptista. In 10 Things I Hate About You the same plot is followed, Walter, the character based on Baptista, does not let Bianca date unless Kat does, and Patrick is paid to take Kat out on a date.
The ‘shrew’, Katharina, is irritable and critical at the start of the play. She continually degrades the men surrounding her, and she shows wild displays of rage, sometimes physically attacking whoever enrages her. Though she is also intelligent and independent. Kat is a shameless feminist, who is set with her values, but often contradicts herself over the course of the movie. She’s vocal about her loathing of the patriarchal society she lives in, and yet she is a character in a movie where the men ultimately get their way. However, in the end, both girls succumb to their male counterparts and a lot of their original values are lost. The similar plot lines and character traits show the impact of Shakespeare’s literature and his timeless storylines that are still appropriate in modern times. Whilst also suggesting to the contemporary audience that women should be mild-mannered, and subservient to their husbands.
To conclude, the key success of Shakespeare is due to the way he describes the emotions of his characters and the passion, love and hatred they have for each other. Additionally, the themes and messages present in much of his all compile into the multiple reasons as to why Shakespeare is still relevant and is continuing to be taught to younger generations.