Culture and Recreation


Why is Shakespeare widely studied?

English dramatist Ben Jonson (1572–1637) said it best when he proclaimed that Shakespeare “was not of an age, but for all time.” Most teachers and students, not to mention critics and theatergoers down through the ages, likely agree with Jonson’s remark: Shakespeare’s canon (consisting of 37 plays, divided into comedies, tragedies, or histories, plus poems and sonnets) expresses universal and unchanging human concerns as no other works have. Shakespeare’s words are familiar even to those who have not studied them, not simply because of the many contemporary adaptations of his works, but because Shakespearean phrases and variations thereof have, through the years, fallen into common usage. Consider these few examples from Hamlet alone: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be”; “To thine own self be true”; and “The play’s the thing.” No other writer’s plays have been produced so often or read so widely in so many countries.


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