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How Relevant is Shakespeare in the Contemporary World?

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How Relevant is Shakespeare in the Contemporary World?

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Much like any other iconic writer of the past or present, William Shakespeare is known to have attained great heights. Therefore, it’s not surprising that people still make references to him and his work even in the 21st century, i.e. nearly 400 years after his plays were first performed. Unfortunately, critics credit Shakespeare’s fame to the academic hype and the fact that some of his works are required reading for high school and college students. Although it’s fair to say that these were contributing factors at best, they can’t be considered decisive ones.

One may get the impression that the educational system has been feeding students irrelevant materials which are nothing but fruits of Shakespeare’s imagination. Fortunately, that isn’t the case, and anyone who’s ever read or seen the English writer’s plays can attest to that. Shakespeare’s works have stood the test of time mainly due to their merits. Academics and readers like his plays and poetry because of their author’s perfect command of the English language and his ability to raise problems any human being can relate to.

And that brings us to the main point: If Shakespeare was such an expert in human behavior (despite having no degree in psychology), then what issues raised in his plays could be considered contemporary? It’s safe to say that the themes Shakespeare focused on in his numerous plays were accurate recounts of issues that were considered hot topics in his era. And although Shakespeare probably didn’t take into account the longevity of his plays, it does not disprove the fact that the human heart and mind remain unchanged at their core, irrespective of a historic era. So what are some of the issues the English playwright addressed in his works that could be considered relevant in the modern world? Let’s take a look at some of them:

  • Ambition
  • Superstition
  • War
  • Murder

Ambition

Being a burning and passionate desire, ambition is something the young and old possess an equal measure. That’s because everyone wishes to achieve certain goals in their lives. However, it’s nearly impossible to accomplish these objectives without resorting to the aid of other people. For example, without the expertise of more experienced writers, it will be impossible for college students to come up with their own shakespeare research topics. Therefore, we should strive to make the most of the opportunities that present themselves to us.

On the other hand, without hard work and perseverance, no amount of external influence will do you any good. Dr. Ben Carson, a renowned pediatric neurosurgeon, once said, “The person who has the most to do with what happens to you in life is you”.

Superstition

Superstitions, including irrational belief in the existence of ghosts, hell, heaven, God, demons, angels, etc., are very controversial topics in the modern world. We can see a fair amount of that in Shakespeare’s works, too. Take Macbeth, for example. He began his rise to power based solely on the prophecies of the three witches he encountered. Prince Hamlet, in his turn, strengthens his resolve for vengeance against Claudius based on the confession of his late father’s ghost.

Being upholders of beliefs similar to those of Macbeth and Hamlet, some religious extremist groups today commit crimes against humanity in the name of doing God’s work. As a result of these attacks, many families get killed or suffer deep psychological wounds. Despite the actions of the said extremist groups, the majority of religious believers simply want to be left alone and allowed to believe in whatever they please because they consider it their basic human right. There are also people who believe that concepts like God, ghosts, etc., are nothing but figments of our imagination. And that is what makes our life so beautiful. Our differences create diversity, and even though certain over-enthusiastic individuals seem to carry it to extremes sometimes, superstitions can’t stop us from being humans.

War

In Shakespeare’s works, people go to war for different reasons, including revenge, power, ambition, and love. And the same can be said of the modern world. At the turn of the 21st century, many experts believed it would mark the beginning of a new world in which all people would live in peace and harmony. Unfortunately, terrorists called that theory into question.

Although there hasn’t been an all-out war between countries, there have been several internal conflicts which have resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of human lives. What this means is that we, as human beings, haven’t changed much and are still the way we were many years ago. We have achieved a lot in terms of infrastructural and technological advancement but deep down inside we are still driven by the same desires. That said, we still cannot give up on ourselves because all we have is each other.

Murder

Another issue Shakespeare addressed in his works is murder. And there are quite a few examples of that: the murder of Julius Ceazar by conspirators, Hamlet murdering Claudius and Macbeth, Duncan killing several innocent people in order to keep his throne, etc..

It’s sad that people get murdered for less ambitious reasons nowadays. Unfortunately, it has become quite common for certain minority groups, such as people of color, to get killed due to preconceived perceptions. And the longer it continues, the more unsafe the world remains.

In conclusion, Shakespeare’s recount of events reaffirms the simple truth that human nature hasn’t changed much in the last 400 hundred years. However, that shouldn’t stop us from improving ourselves. We aren’t perfect but we still have each other. So let’s just keep hoping that we can create a better world in the not-so-distant future.

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