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 moreShow less
The depth and beauty of Shakespeare's writings helps them to resonate today and into the future.
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. 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. In "The Tempest," he humanizes the native islander Caliban when many people saw tribal natives as savage cannibals. Shakespeare's grappling with this issue shows his ability to look beyond himself and find a universality in human experience.
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.