Shakespeare – An Unforgettable Literary Figure



Shakespeare is an unforgettable literary figure and it is not exaggeration if we say that literature is nothing without him. Unfortunately very little is known about him, he is known for what he wrote.

All the writing of Shakespeare deal with love, life and death and these universal themes get beautiful touch by him. His poetry and dramas reflect that he had extraordinary knowledge of human psychology. Therefore, his characters have become memorable in the field of literature.

Shakespeare explored poetry and drama but it is drama that brought fame for him. Even his dramas are poetically crafted. Poetry is inseparable from his writing. He has given immortal lines. “To be or not to be” is oft quoted line from “Hamlet” that is reflected in a modern man who is caught in the same idea of perplexity.

Shakespeare was influenced by the Roman tragic dramatist Seneca and by the medieval ‘mystery’ plays. Seneca dealt with the theme of revenge and showed blood and horrible deeds on the stage without hesitation. Seneca was admired greatly in England at the time of renaissance. Numbers of tragedies were written following his style.

Shakespeare very much enjoyed making fun of the languages of scholars and courtiers. This is probably the reason why in some of his dramas we find the use of pun.

Works of Shakespeare

Though there are certainties of Shakespeare’s, the First Folio contains thirty-six plays generally attributed to him. Depending upon his growth and experiences there are four different periods of work:

1. Period of Early Experimentation (from his arrival in London to 1595):

It is marked by youthfulness and exuberance of imagination by extravagance of language. Sometimes, there is frequent use of rimed couplets with blank verse. The works of this period are Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love’s Labor’s Lost and Richard III.

2. Period of Growth and Development (from 1595 to 1600):

This period is marked by artistic work, better plot and fine knowledge of human nature. The work includes the plays like The Merchant of Venice, Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, and Henry IV.

3. Period of Gloom and Depression (from 1600 to 1607):

This period marks the maturity of his powers. Sonnets, Twelfth Night fall in this period. It is the period where you see the great tragedies, Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, Othello, and Julius Caesar.

4. Period of Restored Serenity:

The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest are the best of his later plays.

Plays of Shakespeare

Plays of Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s Poems

It is generally said that if Shakespeare had written no plays, his poems alone would have given him a commanding place in the Elizabethan Age. His two long poems, The Rape of Lucre and Venus and Adonis both contain much poetic fancy but the subjects of the poems are unpleasant. Both of them are seen to be extended to unnecessary length just for showing the play of youthful imagination.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets (one hundred and fifty-four in number) are direct expressions of his own feelings whereas his plays are the most impersonal in the world of literature.

Shakespeare’s Influence, Place and popularity

Shakespeare holds the foremost position in the world’s literature. His works and genius includes all the world of men and nature. The study of nature in his work is nothing but exploring a new country and the study of man in his works is just like visiting a great city. His works shows that good always overcomes evil in the long term.

Goethe expresses the influence of Shakespeare by saying that “I do not remember that any book or person or event in my life ever made so great an impression upon me as the plays of Shakespeare.” The following lines are perfectly suited to him:

His life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, “this was the man!”

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Summary

Basically, Hamlet is a story of murder and revenge in the tradition of Seneca.

Hamlet holds
• The powerful opening where the soldiers are seen to be waiting for the ghost to appear.
• Sad story of Ophelia.
• Violent actions (Hamlet’s killing of Polonius, the dueling at the end)


The use of poetry and the psychological insight of Shakespeare gave the play uniqueness.

Hamlet is the most universal because it has something for everybody:
• The study of human relationship (husband-wife, parent-child, lover-lover)
• The discussion on religious and philosophical issues.
• The complicated character of Hamlet in which every one sees a reflection of himself or herself.

Unending Popularity of Hamlet:

Hamlet’s popularity lies in its universal appeal. It puts before us the most important human problem: thought vs. action.