The Importance of Shakespeare to Poetry

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The Importance of Shakespeare to Poetry

Short Lecture
English 240
June 16, 2004
William Shakespeare is one of the most influential and well-known
poets of all time and his works are essential to the understanding and
knowledge of all poetry. His poems have shaped, influenced, and motivated
countless poets and their poems throughout the centuries. The works of
Shakespeare are often referenced and have directly inspired not only many
poems, but also many other works of literature. Shakespeare’s poems must
continue to be read, analyzed, taught, and enjoyed because his works form
the foundation for poetry in the English language.

Shakespeare is perhaps the most read English poet, and for good
reason; his sonnets are masterfully structured, with beautifully
descriptive language and pleasing rhymes and rhythms, and his plays
continue to be performed and studied around the world and converted to
movies. Shakespeare’s work has permeated a vast majority of literature and
has been a popular subject for scholarly and literary essays. His works
are invaluable to the world of poetry because of their far-reaching effect
and universal appeal. Although his language is more challenging to read,
he writes about topics, ideas, and emotions most individuals can still
relate to today.

Shakespeare’s use of an earlier form of the English language is a
common complaint and often used as an excuse to read only the familiar
poems and plays. While the language can pose certain reading difficulties,
most editions of his works contain translations and clarifications and the
benefits of understanding his poetry are numerous. The older English
imparts a traditional, historic tone to his poems and plays, and, once the
reader grows accustomed to the differences, is very enjoyable to read.

Shakespeare’s language, while a more archaic form of modern English,
nevertheless incorporates complex layers of meaning, which complements the
old style of English.

A major reason Shakespeare remains a prevalent poet is his ingenious
utilization of humor, tragedy, love, and satire, all flavored generously
with wit and sarcasm. His plays possess witty dialogue spoken by
multifaceted characters and his sonnets are cleverly worded to encompass a
multitude of emotions and thoughts. Shakespeare’s originality and
creativity endear him to readers today just as in centuries past. Many
amusing sayings and witty phrases originated with Shakespeare; through
these and along with his works themselves, he has been immortalized in the
world of poetry.

Shakespeare’s work captivated me at a young age, even before I was
able to understand much of it, because every individual can find meaning
and can take pleasure in his work. The influence of Shakespeare’s work
must not be limited to a few plays and sonnets read in high school, nor
should it be confined to scholarly analysis in the intellectual university
community. His poetry should be widely read because it not only expands
the reader’s knowledge of Shakespeare himself, but it can also broaden the
reader’s horizons in poetry, open the door to other great poets of
Shakespeare’s time, such as Milton, Spenser, and Donne, and initiate a
desire to delve deeper into all poetry.