Shakespeare’s Secret

Posted by Anthony North on January 20, 2011

Okay, I’ve conned you. If you’ve come to this post to learn some amazing secret about Shakespeare’s enigmatic life, then you’re not. Rather, I wanted to grab your attention, and in doing so I used a classic storytelling device
No, the secret I want to impart is why Shakespeare remains the most popular and well known classic writer of all time. One answer people don’t realize is ‘availability’. The plays were quickly collected into a single folio, so he is easily accessible, even if his actual writing isn’t.
Shakespeare is a psychologist’s dream. This in itself is an important point. His characters can be mad, often ridiculously in love, or hungry for power. They don’t begin with this, so the writer explores the points of transition from sanity to madness. We are fascinated by the reasons for this.
Similarly, his characters are ‘archetypes’. By this, I mean they fit a standard type of character. He writes about classic heroes and heroines, villains and buffoons. A glimpse of each exists in our own minds. Hence, they filter straight through the words and bury themselves deep in our psyche.
His plays revolve around situations. This may seem an obvious point. Most stories do. But Shakespeare tells them in the raw, unaffected by incidences of place. His love affairs, schemes and conspiracies – his murders and supernatural events – are timeless and fit any place at any time.
Shakespeare is therefore universal. He delves deep into human situations, the reasons, the impulses. And in doing so he speaks directly to the person. And through this, his plays apply directly to you, be you sat in an Elizabethan audience, a modern theatre, or the medium being used in a thousand years hence.
More than any other writer in history, Shakespeare understood the eternal now.

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4 Comments

  1. David King said on April 24, 2011

    Your last sentence is the one that clinches it for me.

  2. Anthony North said on April 24, 2011

    Hi David, thanks for that.

  3. Chrs J said on November 22, 2011

    For me, the genius of Shakespeare is his sharp insight into human nature, whether it is found in a character he has created or the audience for whom he is writing.

  4. Anthony North said on November 22, 2011

    Hi Chrs J, yes, very true – but human nature that is timeless?

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