Discuss Shakespeare's greatness as a playwright.

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Shakespeare has a way of capturing the best and worst of who we are, and he does so in language which is poetic and compelling and enduring.  His words have become part of the fabric of our language, so reading him somehow resonates in an extraordinary way with me. 

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yes, one thing I love about William Shakespeare is that whatever I'm watching, listening to or reading - there is poetry in it. In every speech, sonnet and every piece of dialog there is beauty of imagery and of sound. Any of his works is a joy for a poet.

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Never having developed an appreciation for Shakespeare or his writings, I still have to confess he sure could write!  He had a way with words that no one else did.  He must have been a great playwright if people are still performing his works hundreds of years later!

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Excellent posts, all! A couple things come to mind (outside of his skill with words, etc.) and that is the fact that the plays have withstood the test of time and that the content is, in many ways, timeless. I relate to the antics of the comedies and the pain of the tragedies like I'm experiencing a contemporary event. When the plays are put in "modern" costume/settings, it's sometimes hard to remember that the text was written hundreds of years ago.

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Shakespeare is difficult to master, any student who has ever tried will tell you that, and that's part of what makes him so cool in my mind.

Shakespeare is intellectually challenging because the language is from another time, but a word study will prove to you that he had the pulse of the people mastered, he got human nature. Shakespeare also made his words necessary to be interpreted. Many times, he had his actors say one thing on stage that you could take two ways. One famous example of this is when Juliet (from Romeo and Juliet) is speaking with her mom of how she hates Romeo and would like to be a part of poisoning him. We as the audience know she wants to weaken any poison given to Romeo while Lady Capulet thinks Juliet wants to make it strong.

Shakespeare is also good at toying with every human experience... EVERY human experience. He knew how to keep an audience invloved, every member of the audience. His works combine the voices of like Saturday Night Live, Grey's Anatomy, Survivor, and the most passionate love stories you can think of. This has earned him timeless fame. Most writers can't do ALL of that.

 

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There are numerous points one could raise in detailing Shakespeare's greatness as a playwright.  I'll make a few points. 

He added words to the lexicon of the English language like no one else has ever done.  Words like amazement, bedroom, bump, critic, exposure, lonely, pious, and useless were probably all first written down by Shakespeare.  Not to mention phrases that have become so common they're now cliches:  "Too much of a good thing," and "Come full circle," come to mind.

He is a product of his time, as all writers are, but he transcended what any of his contemporaries accomplished.  Others were writing revenge tragedies in his day, as many writers had done before him.  But he reaches a sophistication and complexity that is unmatched.  His word play, his use of motifs, his themes, his characterization are all superior to what anyone else was doing at the time.  Shakespeare takes a common plot (Hamlet's revenge) and turns it into a complex masterpiece, for instance.

His vocabulary, his phrasing, and his transcendence make Shakespeare a great playwright.  I'll leave the rest for other editors.

 

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The reasons for Shakespeare's excellence are many and various - and very fascinating. For a start, for such an accomplished writer, he had a surprisingly un-aristocratic background. He was the son of a glove manufacturer - just a tradesman. he was, however, lucky enough to be sent a little grammar school. His writings show great awareness of the classics and traditional stories - yet he did not go to university, but worked in his dad's business. Amazing then, that by 1592 he was already known in London as both an actor and playwright. His greatness perhaps came out of an ability to learn quickly and to adapt that knowledge to what he knew audiences wanted - for example he took many of his early plays from England's history.

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To me William Shakespeare is synonymous with greatness for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was his ability to take ordinary situations and make them intensely comical and/or interesting, and to do so in a way that relied almost completely on well-arranged dialogue to do so.

But he wasn't just a gifted comedian.  He also was able to very deftly take on serious subjects, especially power and intrigue, which, at the time, would have been fantastically interesting to the average British reader or audience.

Also, Shakespeare was incredibly prolific, turning out play after play over the course of his career, leaving us with a rich and varied body of work to appreciate.

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