The continuing importance of William Shakespeare

A group of students stand in front of William Shakespeare's birthplacei n Stratford-upon-Avon, England on April 9, 2010. (Lawrence OP/Flickr)

The second any student hears the name William Shakespeare, their eyes probably roll-maybe they mention that time in their high school English class when they read or did not read that play they cannot remember the name of. However, Shakespeare is still culturally significant and a name that one cannot just ignore what he did.

Shakespeare invented many words and made famous many phrases we still use every day.  BBC writer Hephzibah Anderson gave a few examples in an article from last year, stating that “gossip” came from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” while “bedazzled” was used in “The Taming of the Shrew” and “gloomy” from “Titus Andronicus.” As of 2014, the Oxford English Dictionary attributes the first use citation of about 2000 words to William Shakespeare.

Phrases such as “end-all” and “the be-all” also come straight out of Macbeth’s mouth in “Macbeth.”  Ever wonder why green is synonymous with jealousy? That comes from Portia in “The Merchant of Venice” when she says “green-eyed jealousy.”

“For me, what makes Shakespeare great is that he was the first to break theatrical convention,” seventh-semester acting major Harry Elfenbaum said. “He is the bard. The greatest playwright there was because his plays are timeless. Every character is still living.”

Shakespeare created timeless imagery and stories relatable across all social groups. What would teen angst be if not for “Romeo and Juliet”? The bitter familial feud between the Capulet’s and Montague’s furthermore exemplifies an irrational hatred for another person. No one ever really knows the true reason for their rivalry, but despite this conflict, Romeo and Juliet remain in the throes of teenage love, expressing all the extremes that can be attributed with that.

In our world today, how many conflicts are fueled by an irrational something or other? It’s Shakespeare who, at the end of the day, was the best at taking conflicts and putting them in front of people. And in a way, that has lived on for more than 400 years. 

Shakespeare’s writings are not just versed language meant for flowery authors and theatre majors. He contributed to the development of the English language and immortalized the experience of his characters in his plays to a degree where elements of those stories are understood and are able to be used to tell a new story.


Matthew Gilbert is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.gilbert@uconn.edu.