William Shakespeare


William Shakespeare

The Bard

I once recall hearing or reading a quotation expressing the following idea:

If you want to be famous in your lifetime;
become an actor.
If you want to be famous forever;
become a writer

Nobody has driven that point deeper than William Shakespeare; the actors of his day are unknown -- buried deeply in the dust of history -- but Shakespeare's name is known to the entire world in nearly every language. The incomparable poet and playwright is widely considered to be the world's pre-eminent dramatist, leaving a legacy of approximately 38 plays, 154 sonnets, and two long narrative poems (there is some disagreement over exact numbers because scholars debate over which work should and should not be attributed to Shakespeare).

William Shakespeare painting of his plays by Sir John Gilbert, 1849

His most prolific period was between 1589 and 1613. Until 1608 his major works consisted of epic tragedies, including Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth. He then turned his attention to tragi-comedies (romances) and collaborative efforts with other playwrights.

While famous and respected in his own time, it wasn't until the nineteenth century that his fame ascended to a point of reverence and global renown. You might enjoy reading Leo Tolstoy's critical essay, Tolstoy on Shakespeare.


William Shakespeare quote Shakespeare's Sonnets are adored throughout the literary world. Here are some reader favorites to get you started:

"Sonnet 18"

"Sonnet 116"

"Sonnet 1"

"Sonnet 73"

"Sonnet 29"

William Shakespeare's The Globe Playhouse, 1599-1613

Consider visiting American Literature's collection of Shakespeare's Insults on Pinterest.

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