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Is Shakespeare's writing universal and timeless? Show more Show less
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Ben Jonson described Shakespeare as being "for all time" - that is, his works resonate with all time periods and peoples. His body of work spans poetry and plays, many of which are the most praised, quoted and performed still today. Is the work of Shakespeare truly this universal and timeless?

Yes, Shakespeare is universal and timeless. Show more Show less

The depth and beauty of Shakespeare's writings helps them to resonate today and into the future.
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He addressed complex societal issues that continue today.

The wide range of issues Shakespeare wrote on - such as racism and gender identity - mean that he will always be relevant, as these discussions continue today.

The Argument

Shakespeare's work addresses a variety of complex societal issues which humans continue to grapple with today. For example, in "Macbeth" and many of his comedies, Shakespeare deals with gender roles and identity through power struggles, cross-dressing, and other plot points.[1] His work often seems to be more sympathetic to women and the nature of fluctuating gender identities than many authors of the past or even today. In "Othello," Shakespeare clearly displays Iago as a villain fueled by racism who enacts awful things upon the dark-skinned Othello.[2] In "The Tempest," he humanizes the native islander Caliban when many people saw tribal natives as savage cannibals.[3] Shakespeare's grappling with this issue shows his ability to look beyond himself and find a universality in human experience.

Counter arguments

Shakespeare's lack of explicit commentary on these issues is a moral failure, as one should be able to outright condemn racism or sexism. The works which most reaffirm our current social values are not necessarily the most universal.



[P1] Artwork should address societal issues. [P2] Shakespeare addressed societal issues.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] It is not necessary that artwork address societal issues.




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This page was last edited on Tuesday, 14 Apr 2020 at 09:01 UTC

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