Shakespeare's Success as a Playwright essay

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While Shakespeare attracted his fair share of criticism during his day, it is also clear that many of his contemporaries as well as the general public viewed Shakespeare's work in a positive light. For example, Callaghan (2004) points out that, "While we do not know how much Shakespeare was paid for the plays he furnished his company, it is clear that the greatest part of the handsome fortune Shakespeare had started to amass as early as the 1590s came from his share in the profits of his company rather than from his plays" (405). This relative affluence apparently helped to provide a sort of comfort zone for Shakespeare that allowed him to write when and what he wanted and for whatever audience he desired in ways that contributed to his ultimate success as a playwright as well as the enduring qualities of his works. For instance, Callaghan adds that, "For Shakespeare's contemporary playwrights, the situation must have been altogether different ... Shakespeare, privileged playwright that he was, could afford to write for the stage and the page" (405). Moreover, besides his well-attended plays at the Globe Theatre, the playwright also earned some other distinctions during his lifetime. For example, Harbage (1963) emphasizes that, "Shakespeare learned the dramatic value of a towering central figure, or pair of figures opposed or allied, as we observe by his practice in all his serious plays. Richard III has always been a great theatrical success, and was so in its own day. It was often reprinted, and its second quarto, 1598, was the first playbook to bear Shakespeare's name on its title page" (102).

The evidence in support of Shakespeare's enduring success as a high quality playwright is abundant. For example, during the 1990s, Blakely (2009) reports that, "The decade saw a boom in filmed Shakespeare on both sides of the Atlantic, with Hollywood finally and unequivocally taking Shakespeare into its loving embrace" (249). Likewise, Farley-Hills (1990) cites "Shakespeare's success in making Hamlet come alive" (32) as clear evidence of the enduring quality of his works. Moreover, an informal search on Google for "Shakespeare" provides almost seven and a half million matches. In addition, countless adaptations of Shakespeare's original plays have been developed for the theater, television as well as motion pictures (Mazer 2005). Indeed, Shakespeare no longer belongs solely to the English who have traditionally lorded his origins over the "colonialists" as a matter of literary superiority, but rather now belongs to the world, including many Asian cultures that have embraced his works as well (Huang 2006).

In addition, many of the works by Shakespeare have been translated into Arabic and are enjoyed throughout the Arab world today (Hanna 2007). This interest on the part of the Arab world, is not a recent phenomenon, but dates back at least a century or more. For example, Hanna reports that, "Arab translators started to take interest in Shakespeare's dramatic work in the 1890s. It was Shakespeare's tragedies, rather than his comedies and histories, which caught the attention of the early translators" (27). The majority of Shakespeare's works that appealed to the Arab world were his tragedies rather than his comedies, though. In this regard, Hanna adds that, "Whereas seven translations of Shakespeare's tragedies appeared during the period from 1890 to 1911, only one translation of a comedy was produced, namely that of The Two Gentlemen of Verona by Muhammad Ghalwash, published in 1905. Translations of the histories started as late as 1925 with Muhammad 'Abd al-'Aziz Amin's version of Henry VIII" (Hanna 28). Although these works and others by Shakespeare have frequently been adapted to satisfy local expectations, customs and value, the essence of his works has remained unchanged throughout the Arab world and continue to attract a following today (Hanna 2007).


The research showed that unlike many of his contemporaries, instead of being ignored and forgotten since his death in November 1623, the works of William Shakespeare have weathered the centuries to become even more popular in the 21st century than they were in the 17th century. Given the difficulty that many modern observers might have with understanding the language used by Shakespeare, the fact that his 39 plays continue to be the focus of scholarship and adaptations into modern versions for the stage and screen is proof positive of their enduring quality. Taken together, the research suggests that students in the 22nd -- and 23rd -- century will be studying Shakespeare and his works, and it is reasonable to conclude that the Bard now truly "belongs to the world."

Works Cited

Alexander, Peter. Shakespeare's Life and Art. London: James Nisbet, 1939.

Blakeley, John. (2009). "Shakespearean Relocations: The Final Scene of John Madden's

Shakespeare in Love." Shakespeare Bulletin 27(2): 249-250.

Blayney, Peter W.M. The First Folio of Shakespeare. Washington, DC: Folger Shakespeare

Library, 1991.

Cahn, Victor L. Shakespeare the Playwright: A Companion to the Complete Tragedies,

Histories, Comedies, and Romances. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1996.

Callaghan, Dympna. (2004). "Recent Studies in Tudor and Stuart Drama." Studies in English

Literature, 1500-1900 44(2): 405-406.

Farley-Hills, David. Shakespeare and the Rival Playwrights, 1600-1606. London: Routledge,


Hanna, Sameh F. (2007). "Decommercialising Shakespeare: Mutran's Translation of Othello."

Critical Survey 19(3): 27-28.

Harbage, Alfred. William Shakespeare: A Reader's Guide. New York: Noonday Press, 1963.

Huang, Alexander. (2006). "Shakespeare, Performance and…[continue]

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