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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Will We Ever Manufacture Another Shakespeare?


William Shakespeare, arguably the most well-known if not well-read writer in the history of civilization, is a dominant force in the English-speaking world.  He will have been dead 400 years this April. Why does he have such lasting power when the books of so many other influential authors have come and gone a generation or two after their passing?

Shakespeare penned dozens of influential works.  Because they are plays, they not only get read but performed.  You know the names – Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Julius Caesar, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, The Tempest, Richard III, etc.  They live on because they are a part of recorded history.  They have a meaning that resonates to this day.  Themes of jealousy, anger, love, power, and family rivalry will always be of value to us.  They reflect human nature and the challenge of being in a society that nurtures lust and greed.

His plays have spawned many other works and re-imaginations of his original art.  Because none of his work is copyright-protected, like the Bible, every publisher wants to reprint his works – royalty-free.  Plus let’s face it, his massive collection is well – preserved, so anything old and decent tends to live on and his works are not just decent, but masterful.

Shakespeare seems like he’s George Washington, Michael Jordan, Pablo Piscasso, and Martin Scorcese – all wrapped into one powerful entity.  Though teenagers may struggle to understand outdated English from a dead white guy, as one matures he or she can see that Shakespeare was a genius on so many levels.

The poet and playwright died April 23, 1616 at the age of 52, though back then, that was well beyond the average lifespan.  Seen as the world’s pre-eminent dramatist by scholars, teachers, and fans, his catalog of work consists of 38 plays, and 154 sonnets, and a few other works.  His works are performed more often than those of any other playwright. He even coined many words and phrases that became a part of our official language.

Could someone in our current era rise to the level of enormous popularity experienced by Shakespeare?  And if they do somehow rise to such an extraordinary level, can it be sustained for decades or centuries to come?

When Shakespeare wrote his works he had far less competition then than writers have today.  There were also fewer theaters back then.  For someone to pierce the public conscience, he or she would need to probably sell 40-70 million copies of their book in a short period of time, then have it made into a movie that can reach more people, and then he or she would need to dominate social media and traditional media.  Then he’d have to keep doing this, once or thrice a year.  For a few decades.  He’d have to be at the top of his game for the duration of an entire 18-20 year generational period and then hope that the next generation passionately carries his legacy with spin-offs, books about him and his works, spoofs, and translations.

Shakespeare has accomplished more in death than life and it is simply a remarkable run.

I didn’t fully appreciate Shakespeare while tackling him in school but I now look back and realize he was really a one-of-a-kind force.  My favorite?  Hands down it is Hamlet.

Hamlet, his longest play, remains one of the most influential tragedies in our language.  It’s a complex tale of ethical issues stained in the blood of cold, calculated murder.  It’s about making choices in the face of conflicting consequences.  Princeton.edu says:  “The play vividly charts the course of real and feigned madness – from overwhelming grief to seething rage – and explores themes of treachery, revenge, incest, and moral corruption.”

Try and find something better than that!

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016


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