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William Shakespeare

Writers Influenced by Shakespeare

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By Paula Acevedo

Shakespeare has had significant influence from the time of his death until today, in contemporary movies, plays, and poems. Many authors have been influenced and inspired by his works, and the phrases and words he has contributed to the English language.

The reason Shakespeare has survived the test of time is due to what he writes and how he writes it. No one is better at summing up human emotions in simple, yet eloquent phrases. Shakespeare’s stories surpass time and culture, which is why many authors continue to adapt them. Shakespeare’s characters are like no other, particularly his tragic heroes. All of his characters are complex, Macbeth’s good nature turns into greed and ambition because of his wife who convinces him to kill the King.

Many writers have admired and thus been influenced and inspired by Shakespeare. He has influenced many English poets, particularly Romantic poets such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In the late 17th century, English poet John Milton wrote a well-known epitaph on Shakespeare called "An Epitaph on the admirable Dramatic Poet, W. Shakespeare". This work appears in the Second Folio, the 1632 edition of William Shakespeare’s works. In this work, Milton talks about Shakespeare’s influence on him and his immortality, Thou in our wonder and astonishment, Hast built thyself a live-long monument.

In the 18th century, there was Alexander Pope, one of the greatest poets of the Enlightenment. Pope wrote an edition of Shakespeare on 1725, with significant commentary. Pope also makes many references to Shakespeare in his many works.

In the 19th century John Keats, one of the principle poets of the English Romantic Movement, was so greatly influenced by Shakespeare that every time Keats would write, he would keep Shakespeare’s works next to him for inspiration and guidance. In Keats’s poems Shakespeare’s style is replicated and plenty of his imagery is found. Keats never failed to mention his greatest role-model in personnel letters to friends.

Shakespeare has also influenced major novelists such as Herman Melville, Charles Dickens, Thomas Dickens and William Faulkner. Dickens uses many of Shakespeare’s quotations throughout his works. Dickens has also derived at least twenty-five of his titles from Shakespeare. Melville was even more influenced by Shakespeare. He not only used devices such as formal stage directions and extended soliloquies in Moby-Dick. Melville used the classic Shakespearean tragic figure, as his novel’s main antagonist, Captain Ahab;a great man brought down by his faults.

Ironically, Shakespeare was loved by even those who mocked him. World renowned author, George Bernard Shaw ridiculed those who worshipped Shakespeare, inventing the term bardolatry, to denote the study of Shakespeare. He secretly greatly admired Shakespeare.