Why study Shakespeare?

We often get asked why it is still important to study the work of William Shakespeare in the 21st century.

The American author Marchette Chute in the introduction to her book Stories from Shakespeare wrote:

"William Shakespeare was the most remarkable storyteller that the world has ever known. Homer told of adventure and men at war, Sophocles and Tolstoy told of tragedies and of people in trouble. Terence and Mark Twain told comic stories, Dickens told melodramatic ones, Plutarch told histories and Hans Christian Andersen told fairy tales. But Shakespeare told every kind of story - comedy, tragedy, history, melodrama, adventure, love stories and fairy tales - and each of them so well that they have become immortal. In all the worls of storytelling, his is the greatest name."

Amanda Mabillard's Shakespeare Online website lists FOUR reasons:

- Illumination of the Human Experience
- his ability to summarise the range of human emotions in simple yet profoundly eleoquent verse
Great stories- Shakespeare's stories transcend time and culture
Compelling Characters - his truly great characters are unequalled in literature
- Ability to turn a phrase
- many common expressions thought to be cliches were Shakespeare's creations.

As Bernard Levin once famously wrote:

    "If you cannot understand my argument, and declare "It's Greek to me", you are quoting Shakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sorrow than in anger, if your wish is father to the thought, if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle, if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort or too much of a good thing, if you have seen better days or lived in a fool's paradise - why, be that as it may, the more fool you, for it is a foregone conclusion that you are (as good luck would have it) quoting Shakespeare; if you think it is early days and clear out bag and baggage, if you think it is high time and that that is the long and short of it, if you believe that the game is up and that truth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low till the crack of doom because you suspect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop) without rhyme or reason, then - to give the devil his due - if the truth were known (for surely you have a tongue in your head) you are quoting Shakespeare; even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I were dead as a door-nail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then - by Jove! O Lord! Tut, tut! for goodness' sake! what the dickens! but me no buts - it is all one to me, for you are quoting Shakespeare."


    CLICK HERE to link to the Shakespeare Online website


    Stories from Shakespeare by Marchette Chute was published by New York: World Publishing Company in 1956.

    Bernard Levin's observatios on Shakespeare originally appeard in his column in The Times newspaper and is part included in The Shakespeare Revue by Christopher Luscombe and Malcolm McKee

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