When Shakespeare was writing, most of the public was not literate, his plays, therefore were written to be performed. A performed piece reached a much larger audience than anything printed at that time. His plays could be enjoyed by the rich and the poor alike, not just those few who could read and afford literature. Of course, Shakespeare's magnificient writing and use of language also played a huge role in why his plays were chosen to be performed. This essay: http://www.enotes.com/will-world-how-shakespeare-became-shakespeare-step/ by Stephen Greenblat is entitled "how shakespeare became shakespeare" and is a really intersting look at how/why Shakespeare became famous.