From the poem Shakespeare by Matthew Arnold, who are the "others" mentioned in the first line and how does this create contrast ?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Matthew Arnold wrote his poem Shakespeare as a tribute to William Shakespeare who, in his estimation was a poet in a class of his own. In his opening line "Others abide our question. Thou art free" there has been much discussion as to Arnold's precise meaning. It is naturally assumed that the "Others" he refers to are poets other than Shakespeare himself; Shakespeare being such an authority that this distinguishes him from any other writer of poetry and creates the contrast. Arnold is not intending to write only from his own perspective but as an authority on Shakespeare, thereby representing all sectors of an educated society when he asks "our question." The fact that Shakespeare is "free" reveals how he is treated differently from other poets and not subject to expected constraints perhaps placed on poetry in general.