Why is Shakespeare considered to be the greatest writer in English literature?

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enotes | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Shakespeare's reputation as the greatest English-language writer stems from at least five dimensions of his collective work. The first of these is the sheer scope of his achievement. Over some thirty-eight plays, Shakespeare addressed virtually every aspect of human experience. His plays include comedies, tragedies, histories, romances, and problem plays: it is difficult to think of a dramatic situation, a human dilemma, or a major theme that his works do not touch upon. That being so, although he wrote for a specific audience of a particular historical era, Shakespeare's works are timeless. In fact, many of his works have been updated to our own time. Depth is a third facet of the Shakespeare canon. His works recognize the complexity of our experience and often yield contradictory interpretations of their meaning. Working in the meter of natural or conversational English, his plays were and remain accessible. Granted, Shakespeare texts do include some words and phrases that require definition. Nevertheless, with the aid of a few explanatory footnotes, they can be easily understood. Lastly, creative innovation is a hallmark of Shakespeare's writing. Although he utilized dramatic, poetic, fictional, and historical sources and models, the Bard of Avon invariably put his own stamp upon these materials. Several of his works were experimental when they were first staged.

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