Death of Shakespeare

Art By: Ella Sutherland


Lainey VanSumeren, Editor in Chief

Welcome to the twentieth century! We live in a fast-paced world that grants instantaneous gratification, immediate answers, and immense knowledge on any subject. In this super-charged world, you would think that people would choose to expose themselves to more information, specifically on the influences that have had the biggest impacts on our culture. However, this is not the case. Our past is being left behind, forgotten, made a chore by texts books, and droning teachers. We may be getting further away from the origin of our culture. So it makes sense that we may be witnessing the death of Shakespeare.


Who was Shakespeare? A writer who drank himself to death?  A poet with a sick sense of humor? Or one of the most influential writers in history? William Shakespeare was a renowned English poet, playwright, and actor who was born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon. He died on his birthday, after drinking himself ill with Ben Johnson and Micheal Drayton. Is that who Shakespeare was? No, he was so much more and so much more cynical.


Shakespeare was the eldest son of Mary and John Shakespeare who were respectable, middle-class parents. William was their third child and first son. He was raised during the bubonic plague, he was born on the specific year it began to ravage Great Britain. He originally had eight siblings but only five made it to adulthood. Shakespeare grew up surrounded by Death, Disease, and loss. Which may have affected his pieces later in his life. 


Shakespeare has had a lasting impact on our culture but as of late our generation has turned a blind eye to his works, and the story they tell. His pieces in their youth helped to build philosophies that have helped to build the world we live in today. His characters no matter how beloved or hated made impacts on the world. Shakespeare helped to bring about the opinions, and insights that lead to Women’s Rights, Governments without a king, and even how we named the moons in our solar system. 


Though his name is seen few and far between he continues to affect our culture from behind the scenes. 


The 1999 high school comedy “10 Things I Hate About You” for example is based on the play “Taming of the shrew”. The ballad tells the story of a marriage in which the husband must tame his headstrong wife. Like Shrew, the story features a family with two sisters, the younger of whom is seen as mild and desirable. Whereas Kat is foul-tempered and sharp-tongued at the start of the movie, and insults and degrades the men around her. Like the wife in “Taming of the shrew”, she is also prone to wild displays of anger, during which she may physically attack whoever enrages her. Throughout the movie, the directors placed a character who acts as Kats best friend who even points out the similarities between the movie and Shakespeare’s play blatantly. For example referring to Kat as “The Shrew”, for me the connections to a ballad from the 1500ś to a movie of the much more recent past makes the movie that much better. 


A movie that I am sure almost everyone knows, but may not know is a Shakespeare play is the 1994 “The Lion King”. At its core is the playwright “Hamlet”, which focuses on a King who is murdered by his brother, and his son avenges him. In both the Lion King and Hamlet the struggle is mostly internal and the characters must win the battle in their mind before they could defeat their Uncles in reality. However in “The Lion King” only Mufasa and Scar die, and once the conflict is resolved all characters live happily ever after,  Simba and Nala even get married and have a baby. Whereas in Hamlet most of the characters, including all the main characters, die. Shakespear is a lot more cynical than Disney and unless it’s a comedy most of Shakspeare’s more popular ballads end in a tragedy. 


Shakespeare’s influence has even extended into our western philosophy. Which by definition is “The love of wisdom”, which is a main motivator for the advancements of the world thus far. His plays and Writings have had lasting impacts and commentary referenced by philosophers for centuries. One you may not know by name but by a specific quote is René Descartes. Famous for his quote “I think therefore I am.” originally “Cogito, ergo sum.”(in Latin which he spoke), the philosophical question behind the quote is the idea that all ideas words, statements could be doubted or proven to be wrong from another perspective. Specifically, the statement was the result of a statement that could not be doubted. He found that he could not doubt that he existed, as he was the one doing the doubting in the first place.  This Modern Philosopher’s quarrel with oneself and then the discovery was inspired by many questions and ideas from fellow Philosophers, and Artists alike. One of which was Shakespeare. Around the time that Shakespeare began one of his most famous plays Romeo and Juliette. In which two lovers from opposing worlds fall in love and try to find a way to be together against all odds. Sorry to tell those who have yet to see the play but it is a true tragedy, one of Shakespeare’s best. However, there is a line from Juliette in the play which is believed to have helped inspire Descartes’s “Discourse on Method”. The line “A rose is still a rose by any other name.”, the line although short, is undeniably true. An object or person is still that object by any other name. The line spurred an entire generation of Philosophers who questioned the relativity of names, truths, and values.

Someone whose creativity has spurred the ideology of the future, whose plays have been put on for centuries, and a poetic style that has been impossible to perfectly recreate. That is who Shakespear was. He was an emotional, intelligent, and traumatized human being. One who we should never, and hopefully, will never forget. Yet he seems to have lost his place amongst our generation. His words falling on deaf ears, his plays falling unto uneager actors, and his ballads dismissed as utter gibberish. So remains the question. Is this the Death of Shakespear?