Expert Answers
rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Shakespeare is famous for his plays and his sonnets. He probably wrote 38 plays during the course of his life (his authorship of some are disputed) and 154 sonnets.  Several of his plays are almost universally regarded as among the greatest literary works in the English language. Shakespeare's knack for a turn of phrase, his astonishing command of the English language, and his ability to express profound ideas with sometimes pithy, sometimes soaring phrases make him a central figure in the canon of English literature. His plays are so influential that many phrases now in common usage are derived directly from them: "for goodness' sake", "good riddance", "neither a borrower nor a lender be", "mind's eye", "dead as a doornail", and many other phrases first appear in Shakespeare's plays. Some of his characters: Hamlet, Lady Macbeth, Iago, Juliet, Falstaff, and King Lear to name a few, are among the most famous and complex in English literature. While his tragedies, including Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and King Lear, are perhaps his most widely-read, many of his comedies (As You Like It, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Twelfth Night, to name a few examples, and histories (the Henry IV series in particular) are equally admired by many critics and literary historians. So Shakespeare has been famous for centuries, especially the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, for the depth and elegance of his works as well as the fact that he was relatively prolific.