What do we mean by 'Shakespeare?'Over the last 400 years the word 'Shakespeare' has come to mean so much more than the man who once lived in Stratford, wrote plays and performed them in London. ...

What do we mean by 'Shakespeare?'

Over the last 400 years the word 'Shakespeare' has come to mean so much more than the man who once lived in Stratford, wrote plays and performed them in London.  Today his legacy remains one of the most commercial and influential enterprises in the modern world.  So what does 'Shakespeare' mean to you?  Is it the T-shirts, mugs and posters; or perhaps the films, cartoons and manga/comic books or is it the language that he coined that now resonates in the fabric of y/our vocabulary?  What is this 'Shakespeare' and what does his legacy mean to you???? 

Really keen to get your ideas ....

Expert Answers
literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ask my students and Shakespeare means everything from "booorrring" to "cool". It is my job to make sure that I teach relevant hings which adhere to both the Core Curriculum and the needs of my students. I typically use texts which I find interesting so as to (hopefully) pass on my own enthusiasm to my students.

For me, Shakespeare means a body of texts which have been able to surpass time. The meanings and teachings in the text are as relevant today as they were when they were first written. Therefore, Shakespeare has become more than an author for me (as stated in your post). He has exploded into many different things for many different people. Some look at him as a comedian, a lover, a romantic, a historian, a sooth-slayer, a psychiatrist. I look at him as a combination of all of the above. Shakespeare is greater than his name- he is simply undefinable in simplistic terms.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shakespeare is to literature and romance what Einstein is to science.  He is the epitome of beautiful language, love, romance, and pithy sayings.  He is every universal theme known to the written word--love, death, revenge, jealousy, the supernatural, family relationships, trickery, guilt, mystery, humor, and humanity.

Shakespeare is favorite quotes, fun insults, and famous lines you never knew came from him, but rather attributed to Bart Simpson.

Shakespeare is more than strange language that takes time to become familiar enough with that we need not look up every archaic word...he is the embodiment of everything human.  He transcends gender, religion, time, space, and age.  His intellect surpasses all.  He is wonder and beauty.

wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think Shakespeare's ideas are an undercurrent in much of our literature today.  You'd be hard pressed to read a popular novel or watch a new romantic comedy that didn't have some hint of Shakespearean theme in it.  Perhaps, we over attribute these ideas the the man from Stratford.  He is the most famous example of romance, comedy, and tragedy.  There are a never ending list of comparisons for plays like Romeo and Juliet in modern literature.  The forbidden love affair has become a staple in romance.  Whether this actually came from Shakespeare or is just attributed to him is a separate question.  I think that is what makes him so timeless though.  He wrote these common themes in such a way that we can never escape his influence.

Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The word (the man?) Shakespeare, means less to me than "his" body of work.  I put "the man" and "his" in quotation marks here because there is controversy as to whether Shakespeare is actually a man.  He could have been yet another man (Kidd?  Marlowe? etc.), ... he could have been a group of men.  In all honesty, it doesn't matter when we have a wonderful body of work (plays, sonnets, etc.) that we can continue to learn from in regards to theme, style, ... even in connection to Elizabethan history!  It is this body of work that means the world to me when I speak of "Shakespeare."

bigdreams1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shakespeare, to me, is the embodiment of passion and romance. When I think, read, or see a Shakespeare work, I cannot help but be moved in some way...either to tears or to sighs or to laughter.

Despite his antiquity, his themes of lost love, betrayal, human folly, etc. resonante even today, which is why we stil study him, I think. Just think of all the modern works he has inspired? In a modern, technology-based, sterile world of today...it is interesting how many of us seek the raw passion that speaks to us in the world of Shakespeare.


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For me, "Shakespeare" means a set of characters and lines that have become part of the common culture that we all (at the very least in the English speaking world) share.  Shakespeare is Romeo and Juliet (the characters) and is why a current popular song can make reference to these two characters.  Shakespeare is "to be or not to be."  Shakespeare is "et tu, Brute?"

I'm a history/social sciences teacher so naturally I am more concerned with Shakespeare in society than literature teachers would be, but that is how I see "Shakespeare."

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well, I suppose I'm not a very expansive literarian because "Shakespeare" means to me the plays and characters and verse that the individual called "Shakespeare" (Marlowe? Earl of Oxford? Francis Bacon?) wrote in a cascade of beautiful innovative language (and sometimes annoyingly dull or ribald passages)--oh--and the mystery of his probable or not so probable identity.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The word "Shakespeare" raises images of productions I have witnessed, conjures phrases and uses of words that are humorous and/or descriptive beyond all imagining, and recognizes the wealth of our English language heritage brought to full bloom in the output of one (?) amazingly gifted individual. I doubt that any of us can even imagine how much duller our world would be if all references to Shakespeare were deleted from our existence.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Shakespeare" equates with the greatest volume of plays ever written. It's still amazing how his high quality of writing could have been accomplished in such a short period of time, and no other playwright has ever come close to assembling such a portfolio of exemplary work. And as a poet, Shakespeare ranks among the greatest as well. "Shakespeare" still suggests the pinnacle of the written word. 

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
To me, Shakespeare's legacy is that even after all this time people are still inspired and swept away by his stories and the power of his language. Since I teach middle school English, I get to be my students' first real exposure to the poems and plays. It really is magical.
double07 | Student

Shakespeare has taught me many values in life through his plays, even though they where made in the 16century they still relate to ever day things like relationships. Shakespeare knew a lot about human relationships and he displayed his knowledge of them through out each one of his plays. So I guess what I am saying is that Shakespeare means a lot to me as he has taught me values of life. The word Shakespeare means a lot to most people who have read his plays (not the remade movie versions of them) and have been moved by them have learnt something from them.

cdaveena | Student

 To me, Shakespeare has been the pioneer who actually introduced me to literature. I wont idolise him but simply say that he brought in much enlightenment to what i understood of Drama mainly!

From him, i've got to know other ancient canons of literature, particularly about drama, like Sophocles. I discovered Greek mythology. So, mainly, it was just falling in love with books all over again and i have not stop from being surprised each and every time i read a book, changed my view on the world! His book 'Hamlet' had a great impact on my life (even though, people might say that hamlet might be a psycho!!!)

To sum it all, i would just say that Shakespeare is my first love of literature!