Why is Shakespeare considered to be the greatest writer in English literature?

Expert Answers
pholland14 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shakespeare's greatest contribution to literature would probably be the variety of material that he produced during his lifetime. He wrote histories, such as Julius Caesar. He wrote love stories, most famously Romeo and Juliet. He also wrote comedies such as The Taming of the Shrew. His poetry is often quoted as well as lines from his plays.  He single-handedly invented new words for the English language such as "assassination." His characters are quite believable and have been analyzed by critics ever since the plays were first produced. Shakespeare wrote at a time when plays were quite popular in England and he gave the viewing public what they wanted, whether they were the rich with good views or groundlings who could not afford good seats. Even in today's entertainment industry it is hard to create something that appeals to such a large group of people. Shakespeare's work is timeless and has been adapted to stage, screen, and even radio.

enotes | Student

Shakespeare's reputation as the greatest English-language writer stems from at least five dimensions of his collective work. The first of these is the sheer scope of his achievement. Over some thirty-eight plays, Shakespeare addressed virtually every aspect of human experience. His plays include comedies, tragedies, histories, romances, and problem plays: it is difficult to think of a dramatic situation, a human dilemma, or a major theme that his works do not touch upon. That being so, although he wrote for a specific audience of a particular historical era, Shakespeare's works are timeless. In fact, many of his works have been updated to our own time. Depth is a third facet of the Shakespeare canon. His works recognize the complexity of our experience and often yield contradictory interpretations of their meaning. Working in the meter of natural or conversational English, his plays were and remain accessible. Granted, Shakespeare texts do include some words and phrases that require definition. Nevertheless, with the aid of a few explanatory footnotes, they can be easily understood. Lastly, creative innovation is a hallmark of Shakespeare's writing. Although he utilized dramatic, poetic, fictional, and historical sources and models, the Bard of Avon invariably put his own stamp upon these materials. Several of his works were experimental when they were first staged.