Shakespeare, that’s who.
For my Modernist Fiction class I had to read Mrs. Dalloway, and in the first three pages, I noticed two distinct references to Shakespeare. As the book progressed, I found more, and more, and more.
Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
That’s from Cymbeline, one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays.
I say “lesser known” because people don’t know anything beyond Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, and maybe, maybe Othello. They know one, maybe two of his Sonnets, and almost always the sonnet happens to be:
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
He has so much more to offer.
Othello is a beautiful tale of jealousy and how human mind can easily be corrupted. Hamlet is a tale of revenge and insanity. Macbeth is one of treachery, and hubris and witches. The opening lines are so iconic:
When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
There is something about his language, something about the rhythm, the cadence, everything. There is just something about Shakespeare, and it is so seductive.
So Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. It’s really good. Virginia Woolf though, she quotes Shakespeare like it is her second language. She quotes it like a pro.
There is so much detail to uncover in his plays, that maybe even a lifetime devoted to his works would not be enough; and the joy is finding it, uncovering it on your own. He has some keen insights into the human mind, which at that time would’ve been impossible to have at that point in time. I mean, there wasn’t a Freud to tell people they were repressing sexual feelings for their mother, or repressing sexual feelings in general. But, I digress, as usual. Look at the opening lines of Hamlet: Who’s There? So much can be read in to it. I was telling my friend about it recently, about how it is one of the most interesting opening lines of any play, so I won’t bore you with this. She’s already got the whole deal.
The point is, Shakespeare is an amazing chap, with some amazing plays. I find it strange that people dismiss him so easily, he is the king of dirty puns and sexual innuendos.
Another thing about Shakespeare is that his works are timeless classics. Somehow these stories are relevant even in recent times, with maybe a slight change in context. But they are relevant. The timelessness allows for such brilliant interpretations of the plays. Most recently, I caught a touring company called Filter Theatre who performed Twelfth Night. It was so so good. It was hilarious, it was crazy, it was magical. And one of my fondest memories are with that particular show.
I could go on and on, but I guess you have read enough.