How did William Shakespeare influence English literature

Shakespeare's Influence - Shakespeare's influence

Shakespeare's influence ranges from theater and literature to contemporary films, western philosophy and the English language. William Shakespeare is widely considered to be the greatest writer in the history of the English language and the greatest playwright in the world. He transformed European theater by expanding expectations of what could be achieved through innovations in characterization, plot, language and genre. Shakespeare's writings have also influenced many notable writers and poets over the years, including Herman Melville, Charles Dickens, and Maya Angelou, and continue to influence new writers today. Shakespeare is the most quoted writer in the history of the English-speaking world after the various writers of the Bible. Many of his quotations and neologisms have become commonplace in English and other languages.

Changes in English at the time

In comparison to Greek, Hebrew and Latin, early modern English as a literary medium was not fixed in structure and vocabulary and was in constant flux. When William Shakespeare started writing his plays, the English language quickly adopted words from other languages ​​due to wars, exploration, diplomacy, and colonization. By the age of Elizabeth, English was widespread with the expansion of philosophy, theology, and physics, but many writers lacked the vocabulary to express such ideas. To take this into account, writers such as Edmund Spenser, Sir Philip Sidney, Christopher Marlowe, and William Shakespeare expressed new ideas and distinctions by inventing, borrowing, or adopting a word or phrase from another language known as neologization. Scientists estimate that between 1500 and 2018, nouns, verbs, and modifiers of the Latin, Greek, and modern Romance languages ​​added 30,000 new words to the English language.

Influence on the theater

Shakespeare's works had a decisive influence on the later theater. He developed the theater to an astonishing extent and changed the current type of theater. Shakespeare created some of the most admired plays in Western literature (being Macbeth, Hamlet and King Lear among the greatest plays in the world) and transformed English theater by expanding expectations of what could be achieved through plot and language. Especially in pieces like Hamlet Shakespeare "incorporated the characterization into the plot" so that the plot would be completely changed if the main character were in any way different. In Romeo and Juliet Shakespeare mixed tragedy and comedy to create a new genre of romantic tragedy (prior to Shakespeare, romance was not considered a worthy subject for tragedy). In his monologues, Shakespeare showed how plays can explore a character's inner motivations and conflicts (until Shakespeare, monologues were often used by playwrights to "introduce [characters], convey information, hold an exhibition, or reveal plans").


His plays showed "spectacular violence, with a relaxed and episodic plot and with a mixture of comedy and tragedy". In King Lear Shakespeare had deliberately merged two acts from different origins. Shakespeare's work has also been praised for its insight into emotions. His issues relating to the human condition make him better known than any of his contemporaries. Humanism and contact with popular thinking gave vitality to its language. Shakespeare's plays borrowed ideas from popular sources, folk traditions, street brochures, and sermons. Shakespeare also frequently used groundlings in his plays. The use of groundlings "saved drama from academic rigidity and retained its essential propensity for entertainment in comedy". Hamlet is an excellent example of the speed and responsiveness of Groundlings. The use of Groundlings enhanced Shakespeare's work practically and artistically. He represented the English more specifically and not as puppets. His abilities have found expression in chronicles or story games and tragedies.

Shakespeare's earliest years were marked by history plays and some comedies that linked to the later tragedies. Nine out of eighteen pieces he produced in the first decade of his career were chronicles or stories. His stories were based on the prevailing Tudor political thought. They described the follies and achievements of the kings, their wrong government, their church and the problems that resulted from it. "By shaping, compressing, and altering chronicles, Shakespeare acquired the art of dramatic design. In the same way, he developed his remarkable insight into character, continuity, and variation." His characters were very close to reality.

"Shakespeare's characters are after Love's Labor's Lost more sharply individualized. "His Richard II and Bolingbroke are complex and solid characters, while Richard III has more" humanity and comic enthusiasm. "The Falstaff trilogy is very important in this regard. Falstaff, while a supporting character, has its own powerful reality "Shakespeare uses him as a commentator who assesses the events depicted in the play in the light of his own exuberant comic vitality." Although Falstaff lies outside the "predominant political spirit of the play," he gives insight into the various situations that take place in the play This shows that Shakespeare had developed the ability to see the plays as a whole, something more than characters and expressions put together. In the Falstaff trilogy he wants to show through the character of Falstaff that in society "where the touchstone of behavior is." is a success and in which mankind adapts to the demands of expediency there is no place for Falstaff, "a loyal person.

Shakespeare brought together the three main streams of literature: verse, poetry, and drama. To the versification of the English language he conveyed his eloquence and diversity, which gave the highest expressions with elasticity of the language. The second, the sonnets and the poetry, was structurally bound. He gave the language frugality and intensity. In the third and most important area, drama, he saved language from vagueness and vastness and brought it to topicality and liveliness. Shakespeare's work in prose, poetry and drama marked the beginning of the modernization of the English language by introducing words and expressions, style and form into the language.

Influence on European and American literature

Shakespeare influenced many writers in the centuries that followed, including notable writers such as Herman Melville, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, and William Faulkner. Examples of this influence include the large number of Shakespeare quotations in Dickens 'writings and the fact that at least 25 of Dickens' titles are from Shakespeare while Melville is in Moby-Dick frequently used Shakespeare devices, including formal stage directions and extended monologues. Indeed, Shakespeare so influenced Melville that the main novel - antagonist, Captain Ahab, a classic Shakespeare - tragic character is "a great man put through his mistakes." Shakespeare has also influenced a number of English poets, particularly romantic poets like Samuel Taylor Coleridge who were obsessed with self-awareness, a modern subject that Shakespeare like in plays Hamlet anticipated. Shakespeare's writings were so influential in nineteenth-century English poetry that critic George Steiner has called all English poetic dramas from Coleridge to Tennyson "weak variations on Shakespeare themes".

Influence on the English language

Shakespeare's writings greatly influenced the entire English language. Before and during Shakespeare's time, the grammar and rules of English were not standardized. But once Shakespeare's dramas became popular in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, she helped contribute to the standardization of the English language, with many Shakespearean words and phrases being embedded in the English language, mostly through projects like Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language, who quoted Shakespeare more than any other writer. He expanded the scope of English literature by introducing new words and phrases, experimenting with empty verse, and also introducing new poetic and grammatical structures.


Shakespeare's greatest contributions to the English language must include the introduction of new vocabulary and phrases that have enriched the language and made it more colorful and expressive. Some estimates of the number of words coined by Shakespeare are several thousand. Warren King explains this by saying, "In all of his works - the plays, the sonnets, and the narrative poems - Shakespeare uses 17,677 words: of which 1,700 were first used by Shakespeare." He is also known for his borrowings in classical literature and in foreign languages. He created these words by "converting nouns into verbs, converting verbs into adjectives, joining together never-before-used words, adding prefixes and suffixes, and developing completely original words". Many of Shakespeare's original phrases are still used in conversation and speech today. These include, but are not limited to; "seen better days, strange bedfellows, a sad sight" and "full circle". Shakespeare added a considerable number of words to the English language compared to additions to the English vocabulary made in other times. Shakespeare helped evolve the style and structure into an otherwise casual, spontaneous language. Written Elizabethan English stylistically followed the spoken language exactly. The naturalness gave strength and freedom, as there was no formalized prescriptive grammar that linked the expression. While the lack of prescribed grammatical rules introduced the vagueness in literature, it also expressed feelings with profound vivacity and emotion that evoked "freedom of expression" and "liveliness of presentation". It was a language that expressed feelings explicitly. Shakespeare's gift was to use the exuberance of language and the decasyllabic structure in the prose and poetry of his plays to reach the masses, and the result was "a constant reciprocal exchange between scholars and popular, which together create the unique combination of classy seaweed and majesty wrought splendor informing the Shakespeare language ".

While it is true that Shakespeare created many new words (the Oxford English Dictionary lists over 2,000), an article in National Geographic on the findings of historian Jonathan Hope, who wrote in Shakespeare's 'Native English' that "Victorian scholars read The texts for the first edition of the OED paid particular attention to Shakespeare: his texts were read more thoroughly and cited more often, so that he is often ascribed the first use of words or literal senses that can actually be found in other writers. "

blank verse

Many critics and scholars regard Shakespeare's early plays as experimental, believing that the playwright still learned from his own mistakes. Gradually his language followed the "natural process of artistic growth in order to find its appropriate projection in dramatic form". As he continued to experiment, his writing style found many manifestations in pieces. The dialogues in his pieces were written in verse and followed a decasyllabic rule. In Titus Andronicus decasyllables were used throughout. "There is a considerable pause; and while the inflexibility of the line sound is little affected, there is a certain overflow of senses." His work is still experimental in Titus Andronicus . In Love's Labor's Lost and The Comedy of Errors there is, however, "a perfect abundance of hoarfrost, a lot of prose, the arrangement in verse". After these two comedies, he continued to experiment until he reached a maturity of the style. "Shakespeare's experimental use of trend and style and the achieved development of his empty verse are evidence of his creative invention and influences." By experimenting with three-syllable substitution and the decasilbic rule, he developed the empty verse to perfection and introduced a new style.

"Shakespeare's empty verse is one of the most important of his influences on the way the English language was written." He used the empty verse throughout his writing career to experiment and perfect it. The rhythm of free speech gave Shakespeare more freedom to experiment. "The adaptation of the rhythm of freedom of speech to the established framework for empty verse is a prominent feature of Shakespeare's poems." The conspicuous choice of words in everyday empty verses "influenced the course of the verse itself, expanding into images that eventually seem to bear a significant repetition, and with the appropriately developed representation of character and plot formed a more subtle and suggestive unit". . Expressing emotions and situations in verse gave the language a natural flow with an added sense of flexibility and spontaneity.


He introduced two main factors in poetry - "verbal immediacy and stress molding for the movement of living emotions". Shakespeare's words reflected the passage of time with "fresh, concrete vibrancy" and gave the reader an idea of ​​the time frame. Noteworthy was his remarkable ability to analyze and express emotions in simple words:

"When my love swears it's made of the truth,
I believe her, although I know that she is lying - "

In the above sonnet he expressed in very simple terms "complex and even contradicting attitudes to a single emotion".

The sonnet form was structurally, thematically and in terms of expression limited. The liveliness of Shakespeare's language and the strict discipline of the sonnets gave his writing style frugality and intensity. "It has promoted the association of compression with depth of content and a variety of emotional responses to an extent unprecedented in English." Complex human emotions found simple expressions in Shakespeare's language.

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