William Shakespeare World Literature Analysis
The high opinion in which Shakespeare has been held since the middle of the eighteenth century has often led to hyperbole in discussion of his literary merits. In The Riverside Shakespeare (1974), Harry Levin has observed that Shakespeare’s works have been “accorded a place in our culture above and beyond topmost place in our literature. They have been virtually canonized as humanistic scriptures, the tested residue of pragmatic wisdom, a general collection of quotable texts and usable examples” for guiding human actions. The dramatist’s works rank beside the Bible as the documents most referred to when explaining and illustrating the variegated qualities of human nature.
Any analysis of the general qualities of Shakespeare’s plays must focus initially on the writer’s ability to create characters. More than any other author in English, Shakespeare has been able to bring to life individuals who have the mark of reality about them. Throughout the dramas, Shakespeare tries to avoid the use of type characters, working instead to individualize his creations through patterns of speech and thought. In an age when society believed people were governed by “humors” and the dominant characteristics one exhibited were a consequence of these physical states, Shakespeare was somewhat unusual. His great contemporary, Ben Jonson, prided himself on his ability to capture the essence of types in his dramas. Shakespeare, on the other hand, strives...
(The entire section is 5268 words.)
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