Despite having been written more than four centuries ago, the works of William Shakespeare are loved by millions today. His plays are still read, re-worked, and performed the world round. Why, after all this time, is Shakespeare considered so important that his literature is commonplace in the classroom and a staple of both professional and amateur theater?
One reason may be that Shakespeare wrote plays with themes that are common to most of the human experience. Love, lust, betrayal, grief, even the power struggles between people of differing genders and classes. The context and setting of Shakespeare's work may be quite far removed from our own lives, but the stories still resonate with us because we can relate to the characters and stories.
Shakespeare's work also had a great influence on the trajectory of English language literature. In his time, English was far less standardized than it is today, and his putting pen to paper both recorded and helped standardize written and spoken English. He is credited with coining hundreds of new words and phrases, but it is probably more accurate to say that he was the first to write down and legitimize some of the colloquialisms he encountered. I don't mean to suggest that if he had never written down such words, they would not have persisted in the English language. However, his sheer influence over the history of English literature means that we can surely thank Shakespeare for introducing us to terms like arouse, elbow, and unreal.