William Shakespeare, who lived from 1564 to 1616, is often regarded as the greatest poet and dramatist in history. He is frequently referred to as the “Bard of Avon” and England’s national poet. He has written about 39 plays, 154 sonnets, two lengthy narrative poems, and a few other verses, including works with collaborators. Ben Jonson comments, “He was not of an age, but for all time,” paying him a high tribute. Shakespeare is the Proteus of the theater, taking on every persona and experiencing all aspects of human nature.
He penned comedies and tragedies equally well and artistically. He was a thinker whose waves reached all intellectual coasts. Shakespeare is not without flaws, though, as Hudson notes: “At times, his manner is cruel; his wit is forced and inadequate; and his dramatic language is pompous.” But in comparison to the essential traits that have earned him the top spot among playwrights worldwide, these are insignificant.
Dramatic mastery of Shakespeare
Shakespeare’s dramatic talent is distinctive in many ways, but its universality stands out the most. No other playwright has ever been able to so effortlessly and profoundly penetrate the core of all human hearts. “A true poet is always of our time.” Shakespeare is a genuine poet. He does not fit into any single age; he exists in all eras and among all people.
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Shakespeare’s mastery of characterization impressively reveals his universality. His figures do not represent a particular ideology or belief. They are actual men and women. They are unique and peculiar in their own right. His Cleopatra is unmistakably a unique woman. His Othello stands for a particular soul that is suffering from the alleged betrayal of his faith. Without a doubt, his Shylock stands in for the persecuted Jew of the Middle Ages.
Shakespeare is a dramatist. However, he is also a poet. Shakespeare’s artistry is so astounding because of the way in which he seamlessly combines his talents as a playwright and poet. His poetry has a captivating charm that is hard to resist. His sentences’ wonderful melody arouses emotions and stimulates thought. His blank verse is there as well. Perhaps no one has ever been able to harmonize and effectively use the blank verse than Shakespeare.
Shakespeare’s Romances and Comedies:
Shakespeare’s comedies are known for being full of wit, irony, and clever wordplay. Shakespeare also wrote romances. They also have a lot of disguises and misidentifications, complicated plots that are hard to follow, and incredibly clumsy conclusions. Shakespeare’s comedies that are most well-known include “All’s Well That Ends Well”, “As You Like It”, “Measure for Measure”, “The Merchant of Venice”, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream“, and others. Shakespeare’s comedies are characterized by love, a predominance of female characters, wit, music, a blending of realism and romance, sophisticated character development, and complicated situations.
The plays “Pericles“, “Cymbeline”, “The Tempest”, and “The Winter’s Tale” are neither true tragedies nor true comedies. They are referred to as “romances” for lack of a better term. In stark contrast to the violent fury of the major tragedies that came before them, their tone is quiet and serene. Their core message is one of forgiveness and reconciliation. Romances deal with romance, marriage and have happy endings, much like comedies.
According to A.C. Bradley, Shakespeare had a feeling of tragedy, not a philosophy of it, but practically every Shakespearean tragedy is based on a set of solid principles. The protagonist is the central character who towers over other characters in a Shakespearean tragedy. The “female lead” only receives attention in love tragedies like Romeo and Juliet and Antony and Cleopatra.
Shakespearean tragedies almost usually include a man of exceptional social rank as the hero. Lear and Julius Caesar, for instance, were kings; Hamlet was a prince; Macbeth and Brutus were nobles; and Othello was a general. “The greater a man, the more stumping and effective is his fall,” says Bradley in favor of this Shakespearean hero idea.
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The fate of the hero is affected to some extent by the supernatural and chance. The three witches in Macbeth, the ghost in Hamlet, and Desdemona’s dropping the handkerchief at the key moment all have an impact in the tragedy. Shakespearean tragedy, however, largely embodies the proverb “Character is destiny.” “Lear’s tragedy is the tragedy of older years and poor decision making,” says Bradley, “just as Othello’s tragedy is the tragedy of faith, Hamlet’s tragedy is the tragedy of hesitation, Macbeth’s tragedy is the tragedy of aspiration, Antony’s tragedy is the tragedy of abandonment of responsibility, and so on.”
Shakespeare’s historical plays
Raphael Holinshed’s “Chronicles,” a combined collection of reality, hearsay, and fiction, served as the historical framework for all of Shakespeare’s historical plays. “Henry IV” (Parts I and II), “Henry V”, “Henry VI” (Parts I, II, and III), “Henry VIII”, “King John”, and “Richard II” and “Richard III” are among the ten historical dramas that Shakespeare created. Shakespeare’s primary goal in writing historical plays was to instill a sense of national pride in English men. In these plays, England is the hero, to paraphrase Hardian Craige. These plays were motivated by a sense of patriotism.
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Later theater and literature have been profoundly influenced by Shakespeare’s work. In particular, he enhanced the dramatic possibilities of characters, story, language, and genre, in particular. For instance, until Romeo and Juliet, romance was not seen to be a suitable subject for tragedy.
Shakespeare employed soliloquies to delve into characters’ minds rather than the traditional usage of them to impart information about people or events. Novelists including Thomas Hardy, William Faulkner, and Charles Dickens were affected by Shakespeare. Shakespeare has a big influence on the soliloquies of American author Herman Melville; his captain Ahab in Moby-Dick is a traditional tragic figure who draws inspiration from King Lear.
Shakespeare’s language use contributed to the development of contemporary English because English grammar, spelling, and pronunciation were less standardized in Shakespeare’s time. Samuel Johnson’s “A Dictionary of the English Language,” the first significant work of its kind, contains more quotations from Shakespeare than from any other author. The language of daily English speaking now includes Shakespeare’s phrases like “with bated breath” and “a foregone conclusion.”
Hudson claims that when viewed as a whole, Shakespeare’s plays represent the finest single body of work that any author has produced for our English literature. He was unsurpassed not only as a playwright but also as a poet, with unrestricted access to the realms of high imagination and exquisite fantasy.
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