Talk:Shakespeare's reputation

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Please don't nominate this for Featured article, just in case anybody drops by and thinks of doing that (a conceited idea, I know!). It's fairly new, it's in flux, and it's far from comprehensive. Please see To-do list below (please help with the tasks!).--Bishonen (talk) 19:29, 15 Dec 2004 (UTC).

And please also see Peer review. I posted it there today, along with an appeal on Talk:William Shakespeare. That's it from me, I'm fresh out of ideas.--Bishonen | Talk 18:20, 8 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Removed listing from Peer review after three weeks without comment. Bishonen | Talk 23:38, 31 Jan 2005 (UTC)

edit·history·watch·refresh Stock post message.svg To-do list for Shakespeare's reputation:

An international perspective for each century, plus for the lead section.

Elizabethan theatrical conditions.

Most of the 20th century.

Please note suggestion below for creating a separate article for Shakespeare movies!

Inline citations

Article created[edit]

This is a great article. I would like to read a section on the 20th and 21st century reputation as well (in particular the shift from the perception of Shakespeare as populist anti-classicist to the common modern perception of him as associated with intellectual elitism?). The Singing Badger 21:12, 26 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Yeah, I'd like to read that, too, absolutely. I'm planning to put in a few lines about the late 19th c Elizabethan Stage Society, that revolutionized Shakespeare production by excavating the plays from under the Victorian scenery and props and brought them out past the fourth wall on to an apron stage again, and returned to something within shouting distance of the original text. At least I think that was it. I've got Michael Holroyd's Shaw biography right here, I think that's where I read about it, I'll check. Hope somebody else does the next 100 years, though. Thanks very much for the compliment!--[[User:Bishonen|Bishonen (talk)]] 22:19, 26 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Article title[edit]

Surely this should be titled William Shakespeare's reputation? violet/riga (t) 22:26, 26 Nov 2004 (UTC)

  • I hope not. Could you give the reasons why you think so, or point me to a policy that says so? I don't think the principles for naming the main article (William Shakespeare, not Shakespeare) apply here. "William Shakespeare's reputation" isn't to me a phrase you'd come across in normal discourse, as opposed to the phrase "William Shakespeare". And nobody's going to type in "Shakespeare's reputation" hoping to find for instance a page about Nicholas Shakespeare's reputation. Not because Nicholas (British novelist, b. 1957) is a writer to be sneezed at by any means, but because of the Shakespeare household name angle.--[[User:Bishonen|Bishonen (talk)]] 16:04, 27 Nov 2004 (UTC)
My theory being that names of "offshoot pages" should be based upon the full title of the original article. Since this relates to the William Shakespeare article it should be named William Shakespeare's reputation. Leaving this as a redirect would be fine, but I really think we should use the persons full name when referring to them in an article title. violet/riga (t) 20:21, 27 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Sorry, no sale. I don't think we should, and the practice is we don't. William Shakespeare already has the "offshoot pages" Shakespeare Apocrypha and Shakespeare's sonnets. Compare also the assumption made about surnames being OK on their own in article titles on this policy page: Use the title of the work as the article's title, following all applicable general conventions. To disambiguate, add the type of literary work in parentheses, such as "(novel)," "(novella)," "(short story)," etc. You may use "(book)" to disambiguate a non-fiction book. If further disambiguation is needed, add the author's surname in parentheses: "(Orwell novel)," "(Asimov short story)," etc. Thanks for bringing it up, though, I hadn't thought about it before.--[[User:Bishonen|Bishonen (talk)]] 21:43, 27 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Fair argument – still am leaning towards the fullname version but you've made some good points. violet/riga (t) 22:36, 27 Nov 2004 (UTC)


I've rearranged the small matter on popularity of staging and trimmed it and mentioned the great critical editors with the textual editors. I've consciously left out some folks like Hanmer and Warburton, as the former used Pope's text, and the latter didn't do much to improve Theobald's, and neither have lasting critical insights. Geogre 03:12, 27 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Dueling Shakespeares[edit]

Drury Lane and Covent Garden did the competing Shakespeares. However, I can't find, yet, the exact seasons. This was Rich vs. Cibber, and this was Garrick vs. all comers. Bishonen, do you know when this happened? This is what I got from the fusty musty 1911:
"Rich's management occurred the rival performances of Romeo and Juliet--Barry and Mrs. Cibber at Covent Garden, and Garrick and Miss Bellamy at Drury Lane--and the subsequent competition between the two rival actors in King Lear. "
Bad old 1911 habit of perpetuating the 18th c. habit of not giving women's names. Figured this might ring a bell for you. Geogre 14:29, 27 Nov 2004 (UTC)

  • I don't know what season that was, I don't have the relevant volume of the London Stage here. But most often such things are a measure of the heat of competition, more than of an author's dominance. From 1695 on, nobody had any rights to any particular authors or plays any more, so it was the law of the jungle, and sometimes a company would be quite willing to lose money, if they had it, in a bid to drive the other house out of business. Listen to what daddy Christopher Rich did in 1695, when he had capital and the other house didn't: hearing that Betterton's company at Lincoln's Inn Fields was to act Congreve's The Old Bachelor on a Monday and Hamlet on the Tuesday, Rich announced that Hamlet would be acted at Drury Lane on the Monday. Betterton, who was naturally playing the lead in both plays, replied by cancelling The Old Bachelor and moving Hamlet to the Monday also. Then Drury Lane shifted The Old Bachelor to the Monday, and announced that Powell would play the lead in it and mimick Betterton in doing so. That was right there in the announcement, "Powell to mimick Betterton". They weren't playing games, those guys, they were trying to kill each other. I don't know about the double 1740s performance, but my guess would be it was something of that nature.--[[User:Bishonen|Bishonen (talk)]] 17:59, 27 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Well, by now we have the seasons in question, as well as (and I don't feel like stating it, as it's irrelevant except to this talk page) that it was Mrs. Theophilus Cibber that would have been the draw. The reason that I thought the dueling Shakespeares was a good thing to put in, though, is that, while we know that it was a theater war, it's also a sign of Shakespeare's reputation that both houses felt that Shakespeare was the cudgel with which to beat the other guy. I.e. rival Lillo's wouldn't have gotten an audience sufficient for anyone to care, but a rival Shakespeare was the talk of the town. The implication is that everyone wanted to see the great actor play the great role, the great actress in the great part. Therefore, I think that this use of Shakespeare testifies to the regard in which he was held in the 18th c. Geogre 17:01, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Btw, I'm going to mention Nicholas Rowe's edition of 1709, that's the one everybody talks about as the first "modern" one. (I think you sort of hinted at that before.) I'm writing a separate section about the split between Bill on the stage and Bill for reading, that appears so early and becomes so wide (but that's maybe healing now). If anything comes of it. I'd like to stick in a bit more about Tate's and Lee's editions (the years, the nature of them) that you mention in there, but I can't find the info. (Google has a field day with anything like Shakespeare + Tate + edition. Even if I minus "King Lear!") Do you remember where it's from, or have you got the years?--[[User:Bishonen|Bishonen (talk)]] 22:17, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)

20th century[edit]

Any plans for a 20th century section? I could probably add a few lines on the modernists and bollocky bill from over the hill. Filiocht 15:32, Dec 1, 2004 (UTC)

Hi, Filiocht, that would be great, a 20th c section from you, I couldn't have hoped for better. See The Singing Badger at the top of the page, and me talking about the Elizabethan Stage Society and hoping somebody else will do the next 100 years? Not that you're not welcome to do the 19th century too, very much so. (The ESS wasn't in Holroyd like I'd hoped, so I've lost a bit of momentum there.)--[[User:Bishonen|Bishonen (talk)]] 16:24, 1 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Hi, I'm knee deep in The Cantos at the moment, but will do some reading around 20th c. Bill, maybe this weekend. Things that spring to mind are: modern dress productions. Pound, Eliot and Joyce and their use of WS. Louis Zukofsky on WS: sound and sight. Basil Bunting's plan to rewrite the sonnets removing all the padding. WS and film. Filiocht 08:48, Dec 2, 2004 (UTC)

I started that up for you guys. I've always wanted to use the word "punk" in an article on Shakespeare :> The Steve 05:23, Dec 3, 2004 (UTC)

Thanks, Thesteve, I noticed and appreciated it. I'm kind of proud of getting the word "adhockery" into the Restoration section, also. (Well, it'll have to go, but I'm leaving it for a while, I like it.) Thanks for your help.--[[User:Bishonen|Bishonen (talk)]] 06:21, 3 Dec 2004 (UTC)

On the 20th c., it's one of those potentially very touchy things. I mean, on the stage, the biggest thing seems to me the advent of psychoanalytic approaches and Marxist approaches to the plays. Hamlet we all know about: everyone wants Oedipus in there. Seems to me that if the article goes into any depth on the 20th c. stage vs. page, we get the fact that the stagings seem to respond to the challenges/innovations of Freud and Marx in one broad swathe, but then that two other swathes exist. One is the a democratic impulse, where various nations established programs to try to get Shake performances out to children, and free or low-cost productions about (Shakespeare in the Park in NYC is one good example of this, but just one), while some nations also set up official Shakespeare theaters, with the Royal being most important. These theaters do nothing but Shake and pals. Also, some libraries, like the Folger Library in Washington DC, do nothing but work on getting absolute authority of text and times. (As for the High Modernist reading, Hamlet, in particular, as a victim of "dissociative sensibilities" and the indecisive prince is kind of It.) Random thoughts, but all things in there, I suppose. Geogre 21:06, 3 Dec 2004 (UTC)

It's Folger Shakespeare Library in wiki-speak, though everyone I know just calls it "The Folger" or "The Folger Library." Anyhow, it's a perfect example, being 1918 or thereabouts and being an institution dedicated to getting absolutely every textual variant ever in one place. Geogre 05:44, 4 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I wonder if more should be said regarding the influence of Cultural Materialism (specifically Sinfield and Dollimore's 1994 Political Shakespeare and its ramifications) on Shakespeare's critical reputation in the last two decades of the 20th century. Also, need anything be said regarding the reputation of Shakespeare since the dawn of the internet? It seems to complicate the stage/page dichotomy. Cfsibley (talk) 20:36, 27 October 2012 (UTC)

International Billy[edit]

That sound great, Filiocht. I'm also painfully aware of how London-centric the article is at this moment, I'm hoping you will redress that somewhat in the projected 20th-century section. It would also be a very good thing if anybody had any input to giv e about Billy's rep in the rest of the world in the 18th-19th centuries. (How about the lively 18th c Dublin scene, Filiocht, do you know if it just reflected London, Bill-wise?) At a pinch, I could put in something myself about French neoclassical stand-offishness and German Romantic bard worship (worst case of bardolatry anywhere, I believe), I suppose, sigh... but real French and German contributors would do it better, and, anyway, coverage would still be very patchy. What about the U. S. in the 19th-c, did that merely reflect the British scene? Maybe I need to take International Billy to the Pump.--[[User:Bishonen|Bishonen (talk)]] 12:39, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I have a little book at home called 'Shakespeare in the New World' I'll root through. Wasn't Harley Granville Barker involved with the ESS? Maybe a bio of him would be good. For Ireland, a number of the articles on List of Irish theatres and theatre companies may contain some relevant material, but mostly Dublin imported London players and productions. Filiocht 13:19, Dec 2, 2004 (UTC)
G-B may have been a little too young, I believe (but I mention him as a "bridger" in the Stage and Study section). William Poel is the big ESS name. Shaw was very, very interested in the ESS. I have a little book of Shaw's theatre reviews, which was probably where I knew about ESS from, rather than Holroyd's biography as I thought. But Shaw's reviews aren't that useful as a source, especially not in non-searchable form (that's the trouble with little books). Dublin mostly imported London players, really? You're kidding. I keep seeing references to a brain drain in the other direction, with London theatre companies importing Irish actors. A steady stream of them in the 1690s for instance. And there seems to be this Restoration + 18th c idea that to be any good as an actor, a person would have to, if not be Irish, then at least have Irish ancestry. :-)--[[User:Bishonen|Bishonen (talk)]] 14:07, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Ah yes. As I remember, Peg Woffington was pretty good, and a Dublin lass, but it's a while since I last saw her on stage. Wonder if she's still working. Seriously, I'm not quite that old, but feel ancient in the (virtual) company of Wikipedia's brilliant band of 13-year-old editors. I'll try to do some digging around between reading cantos. The beauty of little books is that you can take them to bed/the toilet/etc when you want to do research, and I prefer them to online reading, which again reflects on my age. My first port of call will be modernist responses to WS. Filiocht 15:34, Dec 2, 2004 (UTC)
Yeow, gross! You do your research where? As I mentioned on WP:FAC, I was 110 at the time of the 1973 oil crisis, that's how I remember all the Barries and the great Barton Booth.--[[User:Bishonen|Bishonen (talk)]] 18:20, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)
P. S. Well, I got that wrong, I see, Booth was from Lancashire. The 1911 EB has topped me up on him: he never had a superior as the ghost in Hamlet, and played to perfection the gay Lothario.--[[User:Bishonen|Bishonen (talk)]] 18:36, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I saw it in a moooovie[edit]

Kind of a warning. I think we need to think about whether Shake in film is a good thing or not. Once that can of film gets opened, a lot of stuff will come flying out. My suggestion is that Shake on Film be only a hint in this article -- just as it relates to his reputation -- with possibly some suggestion that the number of adaptations (from West Side Story to King of New York) -- but that it transclude to another, separate article. Shakespeare films is either already or should be a separate, full length article. Geogre 21:09, 3 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I don't have time to do this for Shakespeare too, but Joan of Arc in art and Joan of Arc bibliography branched off from the main Joan of Arc page recently. Shakespeare films and bibliography would make legitimate articles too. This article at present says more about changing production customs than critical opinions about Shakespeare. Durova 00:23, 7 December 2005 (UTC)


The article probably needs something on Tolstoy's extensive (and vitriolic) criticism of Shakespeare. Haukurth 22:10, 16 Jan 2005 (UTC)

It seems to have been the time for it, then, I suppose: G. B. Shaw has some zingers, too. Do you want to put in some Tolstoy stuff? --Bishonen | Talk 23:39, 16 Jan 2005 (UTC)
I'd like to but I don't know enough. All I've read is Orwell's essay on Tolstoy's writings on Shakespeare. Someone should look this up in (I think) Tolstoy's letters to get closer to the source. I prefer editing articles where I'm more of an expert.Haukurth 20:56, 24 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Try Tolstoy's What is Art? Mandel 23:34, Feb 26, 2005 (UTC)

Critical quotations[edit]

If you work on this article, and look things up and stuff, maybe you'll come across some cool passages about Shakespeare. Please consider adding them to the Critical quotations section! It only runs from 1668 to 1775 right now, it could sure stand extending in both directions.--[[User:Bishonen|Bishonen (talk)]] 15:46, 4 Dec 2004 (UTC)

BTW, superb article. Not far from being featured, in my view! I'm thinking of someone doing stagecraft in Shakespeare - now here's a good candidate. Mandel 19:36, Dec 8, 2004 (UTC)
Thanks, Mandel. I hope this gets a chance to get a lot more comprehensive before it gets nominated for FAC, though. It has a problem of proportion (Rest + 18th c, which is my baby, being much fuller than the other sections, and comprising the whole of the Critical quotes section), and of being Anglocentric, no, England-centric, no, London-centric. Well, centric is OK, I guess, but it shouldn't be exclusively London, that's absurd for a world heritage writer whose plays are performed worldwide, no, Western-world-wide, no, I dunno where. I'm hoping more people will pitch in.--[[User:Bishonen|Bishonen (talk)]] 00:03, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Hmmm, you're right. I remember the Romantic German critics being one of the first to establish Shakespeare's reputation, and the fact that he transposes so well into other cultures (including those which seems remotely English, like in Kurosawa's Japan or Africa) attests to his lasting influence as a playwright and chronicler of human nature. Hopefully, those parts'll come. In the meantime, keep up the good work. Mandel 08:25, Dec 10, 2004 (UTC)

Critical quote from de Quincey[edit]

Maybe this could help fill a gap in the critical quotes between Johnson and Carlyle. On the other hand, it's pretty darned fulsome, which is why I didn't just go ahead and paste it in:

Thomas de Quincey, "On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth" (1823) (concluding paragraph):

O, mighty poet! Thy works are not as those of other men, simply and merely great works of art; but are also like the phenomena of nature, like the sun and the sea, the stars and the flowers,--like frost and snow, rain and dew, hail-storm and thunder, which are to be studied with entire submission of our own faculties, and in the perfect faith that in them there can be no too much or too little, nothing useless or inert--but that, the further we press in our discoveries, the more we shall see proofs of design and self-supporting arrangement where the careless eye had seen nothing but accident!

If that's just too much, there's probably something in Lamb that's a little more restrained that would fill the gap too. PRiis 05:32, 13 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Too much, how could it possibly be too much? Throw off your cultured restraint, Peter, wild and crazy bardolatry is what we want here. It couldn't be better, especially the "phenomenon of nature", I was already thinking about sticking in a few 20th c de-naturalizing Shakespeare bits. You know, Cultural Materialism and that. It would be great to be able to make a real contrast with this Romantic rhapsody of yours, I'm sticking it right in. Thanks very much. (Please feel free to follow and add a full-text link like the other quotes have, if you've got it.)--[[User:Bishonen|Bishonen (talk)]] 17:04, 13 Dec 2004 (UTC)

The quotes have moved[edit]

I have just created breakout article Quotations about Shakespeare and moved the critical quotes to it, please add to it!--[[User:Bishonen|Bishonen (talk)]] 21:04, 14 Dec 2004 (UTC)

The nomadic quotes have moved on[edit]

Quotations about Shakespeare has been moved to Timeline of Shakespeare criticism, in the hope that under this title, it will be the less likely to offend as being not a proper article (in contrast to, say, List of books with the subtitle "Virtue Rewarded") and get transwikied to Wikiquote. The reason I broke out the quote section at all, if it needs stating, is that Shakespeare's reputation is already long (nudging the recommended 32k limit) and will clearly need to be longer before it's comprehensive. Notable gaps: international perspective, Elizabethan theatrical conditions, most of the 20th century.--[[User:Bishonen|Bishonen (talk)]] 18:09, 15 Dec 2004 (UTC)

  • Is Quotations about Shakespeare now an orphan? If it serves no purpose, I can speedy delete it, as it has been superseded by Timeline of Shakespeare criticism. Geogre 20:36, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)
    • Unless you count Talk pages. Compare "What links here".--[[User:Bishonen|Bishonen (talk)]] 21:15, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)
  • Well, it's just a redirect now, and, as they say, "redirects are cheap." I don't figure there's much need to kill the redirect, as there isn't any duplicated content. I'm not sure that anyone would type "Quotations about Shakespeare" into a search box, but, if they do, they'll go to the right place. Geogre 02:29, 17 Dec 2004 (UTC)


  • The Carlyle quote appears in the introduction as well as the last paragraph. Use it once for punch - otherwise it loses its effectiveness. The "emblem of pride" appears again in the para at the end of the 19th century. So...he's been pretty consistent as an emblem of pride, yes? Why not state it that way? Throughout his time, Shakespeare has consistently been an emblem of pride?
  • What's the article's focus? On his reputation as a writer? Or his reputation as a theater dramatist? Remember: In an age when books were hard to come by, households often kept two books and two books only: The Bible and a copy of Shakespeare. This held true for centuries. You are relying on your strength here - as a historian of the British theater - instead of stretching your wings and presenting a more encompassing view of the Shakespeare who was a primary literary source. Does that go a long way to explain why he wasn't as popular in the Puritan era?
  • I think you're doing yourself a disservice by breaking this down into centuries, instead of by the highs and lows of his popularity - both in theatre - and as an "emblem of pride." You know that centuries don't begin with dates - they begin with movements. For example, we can debate when this century began - 2000 was relatively unremarkable. 9/11 however, was the defining moment. So it was with the 20th c. Edwardian era v. WWI was the defining moment of the 20th c. The point? You are creating artificial boundaries by keeping within these "century" definitions and it's strangling you.
  • You make a lot of literary references to why he's the crowning glory of the British empire but you don't touch why he has endured four centuries. Why? What is it about Shakespeare? He's not easy to read, yet we still do...And you are corrrect- actors still jump through hoops to play Shakesperian roles on the stage.
  • your citations: you could find a dozen written within the past five years. That alone is a testament to his reputation. --allie 10:16, 25 Jan 2005 (UTC)
This article at the moment seems to provide a completely balanced and comprehensive view of Shakespeare's perceived reputation. Regarding the above comments I think it prudent to consider the following before too many editorial changes are made.
"In an age when books were hard to come by, households often kept two books and two books only: The Bible and a copy of Shakespeare. This held true for centuries" This statement is complete claptrap, or at best Victorian melodrama, while those that could not read may have had a copy of the bible, and even that is debatable. Educated European households had libraries of books. Is Shakespeare hard to read ? - I know 16 year olds who read him for pleasure - perhaps this is the reason he is popular, and hence is so obvious it does not need to be stated.
Read a history book and you will find the reasons Shakespeare was less well read in Cromwellian times (Puritan is rather North American don't you think?) He was for a time banned in England, and represented the former regime, all those histories of Kings etc. -think about it.
For Europe (and in the rest of the World, I believe) the 20th century rather conveniently started in 1900, (Queen Victoria even more conveniently, for the Edwardians died in January of 1901) the century began 1900 years after the supposed death of Christ, which is the point of marking centuries. In the fullness of time most other happenings pale into insignificance. While the 11th September was a catastrophic date for the civilized world it did not mark the beginning of the 21st century, no more than the current Tsunami disaster has caused the century to be restarted. Centuries begin on 1st January every 100 years. There is no other complete and simple indicator of time, that does not have to be explained by endless footnotes which are both borring and distracting from the issues discussed. One also has to assume a certain level of global education on the part of the reader. One is not writing for 4 year olds. Giano 21:22, 25 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Thanks very much for your input, allie. To keep the discussion chronological and yet be able to respond point-by-point, I'll repeat your comments in italics here, and interline my own responses.

The Carlyle quote appears in the introduction as well as the last paragraph. Use it once for punch - otherwise it loses its effectiveness. The "emblem of pride" appears again in the para at the end of the 19th century. So...he's been pretty consistent as an emblem of pride, yes? Why not state it that way? Throughout his time, Shakespeare has consistently been an emblem of pride?

I don't state it because I don't think it's true. Longer articles like this one have a "Lead section", which introduces and summarizes the article, before the TOC. The Lead isn't about the first period of Shakespeare's rep, but is a representation in little of the whole of the article. Thus the mention in the Lead of "an emblem of national pride" refers to the 19th century, just as it does in the 19th-century section below. I don't by any means believe that Sh has been consistently an emblem of pride--a rallying-sign for patriotism--but that he specifically became one in the 19th century, in a way that Carlyle endorses, but also very acutely analyses, in Heroes and Hero-Worship in 1841. Thank you for telling me that this lends itself to misunderstanding, that's useful, and I'll certainly try to make it clearer.

What's the article's focus? On his reputation as a writer? Or his reputation as a theater dramatist?

Well, I think the article should appropriately be about both aspects. Wikipedia is meant to provide encyclopedic information to those who seek for it, rather than a means of self-expression for me (or even for a grouop of editors). The article's not an essay or academic paper: intrinsically, it doesn't have a focus. That said, pattern-making is pleasing to both writers and readers, and I've tried to provide some of that by doing a bit of a running comparison between the theatre rep and the literary rep—Shakespeare on the stage vs Shakespeare on the page—though apparently without much success, if you didn't pick up on it.

Remember: In an age when books were hard to come by, households often kept two books and two books only: The Bible and a copy of Shakespeare. This held true for centuries. You are relying on your strength here - as a historian of the British theater - instead of stretching your wings and presenting a more encompassing view of the Shakespeare who was a primary literary source. Does that go a long way to explain why he wasn't as popular in the Puritan era?

I started the article, but it isn't "mine"—fortunately, as the subject is both huge and pretty specialized—it covers 400 years of world literary and theatrical history! No one person is likely to be able to cover that little lot, unless by relying on received clichés. Knowing just how ignorant the clichés are that surround the drama of my own favorite period 1660-1700—they are basically the handed-down rags of Victorian prejudice—I'm very reluctant to venture into other well-researched fields that I in my turn only have a few half-baked notions about, and would write equally ignorantly about. But then this is exactly the kind of situation where, I hope, the wiki principle will come into its own. I've put in what I know—say, British theatre and literature (I do feel able to manage literature as well as the theatre, in fact it's my primary field) 1660—1800 or so, and even, when nobody else seemed to want to do it, writing a piece on the 19th century. Obviously that leaves a lot, compare the "To do" template I've put at the top of this page. Other people have chipped in, but with rather small-scale contributions so far. The 20th century is one big hole, and so is the international perspective. If possible, I'd also like a Victorian specialist to rewrite the 19th century bit—I'm fervently hoping that part isn't an actual disgrace, but I would sure like for someone who really knows to review it, at least.

I think you're doing yourself a disservice by breaking this down into centuries, instead of by the highs and lows of his popularity - both in theatre - and as an "emblem of pride." You know that centuries don't begin with dates - they begin with movements. For example, we can debate when this century began - 2000 was relatively unremarkable. 9/11 however, was the defining moment. So it was with the 20th c. Edwardian era v. WWI was the defining moment of the 20th c. The point? You are creating artificial boundaries by keeping within these "century" definitions and it's strangling you.

The difficulty to my mind is in breaking down the development of Shakespeare's reputation chronologically at all, because there were no sharp breaks in it, and all divisions will artificially suggest that there were. Still, for convenience of reference, 400 years do need to be broken down into smaller units, it can't be helped. Making those smaller units specifically centuries, on the other hand, is to my mind no problem at all. You'd have to make an ideological analysis, and be sure of a coherent view of world history and what its defining moments were, before subdividing according to "movements". The Victorians had the confidence to do that, because they just knew their view of history was the only correct view; modern historians don't, and certainly modern Shakespeare scholars don't. If you doubt that an analysis that sees the 21st century as beginning with 9/11 is idelogically based, compare Giano's answer to it. You think dividing the huge time-span by centuries is strangling me? A century is just a figure. It's an obviously artificial division, which leaves the reader as free as possible to see through it. A division by movement would really need just as much simplification, and would be a sneakily artificial division, that attempts to impose its values on the reader. You could summarize my argument here by saying that I think you're more concerned with not strangling the writer, while I'm more concerned with not strangling the reader.

Or, to put it at the most practical level, compare with your own statement that "we can debate" when this century began (and when all the others did, too). Right, if we abandon the neutral nakedness of centuries, we not only can, we must, debate it. We'd have to debate it in the article itself, obviously, in order to be NPOV about it, and try to reach consensus about it. Sheesh. Heat and dust of "debate" about when periods properly begin, and what their significant features are—that would strangle this article.

You make a lot of literary references to why he's the crowning glory of the British empire

You really think I do? As I mention above, I only believe Shakespeare was constructed in this way in the 19th century (and in the early 20th c, actually, but that section's basically still to do). Intentionally, I only mention national pride and the British empire with ref. the 19th c, so please let me know if it's snuck in anywhere else, and I'll take it out.

but you don't touch why he has endured four centuries. Why? What is it about Shakespeare?

Because there is an article William Shakespeare, and articles about the separate plays. My own feeling is that discussion of enduring or somehow context-transcending qualities goes better in those, though certainly others may disagree. Mind you, few modern Shakespeare scholars believe there are any context-transcending qualities, but then that fact needs to be part of the discussion, too.

He's not easy to read, yet we still do...And you are corrrect- actors still jump through hoops to play Shakesperian roles on the stage. your citations: you could find a dozen written within the past five years. That alone is a testament to his reputation. --allie 10:16, 25 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Yeah—not sure what your point is here. I could probably find a thousand. There's a huge academic Shakespeare industry out there, growing almost by the hour. The nearer we get to our own time, the easier it becomes to find, and the harder to select. The 20th century section really needs to be written, or at least largely contributed to, by a Shakespeare specialist, by somebody in the industry, IMO: only they are likely to have the bird's eye view needed for good selection. There are people like that on wikipedia, too—I don't know why they've so far been too lazy to help out here! ;-)

Thanks very much for thinking about the article, allie, you've certainly given me food for thought. Many things in there need further work to make them clearer, obviously. --Bishonen | Talk 01:48, 26 Jan 2005 (UTC)


This is a hugely impressive article, and I'm reluctant to add my tuppenyworth to it for fear that I'll disrupt the flow of it, but I have a couple of comments, and maybe I'll try to add some stuff at the weekend (just a warning!) Firstly, I think the distinctiveness of the Romantic Shakespeare is played down too much. Yes, of course, the contrast of Jonson's 'learned sock' and Shakespeare, 'fancy's child', warbling his native woodnotes is longstanding, but the the difference is, surely, that Romanticism transformed that notion of what 'nature' means - no longer simply unfettered and untutored, but rather something 'far more deeply interfused' than rules could ever achieve. This notion that there is an organic unity to S's work could, perhaps, be explored more. I think the tendency of some Victorian writers - e.g. Ruskin and Delia Bacon - to treat S as though his works are a kind of secular Bible could also be mentioned.

My main problem, though, is the British emphasis of the article. There's nothing on Shakespeare in the writings of the Schlegels, or Hugo's essay on the grotesque for example. There's nothing on the famously intense relationship that many Russian writers have had to the Shakespeare canon. There's a brief, dismissive, reference to Voltaire -- who was the primary source of Shakespeare in translation during the 18th century, not just in France but across Europe -- but that's about it.

Obviously there's a danger that the article might become unwieldy if we add too much, but at the moment there's no explanation for the fact that it is only about Shakespeare's reputation in Britain. Paul B 13.22 15 March 2005 (UTC)

  • Well, no explanation in the article itself, no. The explanation is in the to-do template ("Pending tasks") at the top of this page. Also in my Peer review appeal (which garnered no response at all) and in this request on Talk:William Shakespeare (ditto). I think I asked for help on the Village Pump, too, and expressed my frustration on User:The Singing Badger's talk page... in other words, I've tried quite hard to get help. The present incomplete text is mainly my work, and the international perspective is missing because I'm not qualified to supply it, by no means because I fail to see the need for it. It's not the only thing missing, but I agree that it's the most glaring. As for the 19th century, I did a placeholder there with some reluctance, since nobody offered, but as you can probably tell from the imbalance of the whole, I feel more at home in the 17th and 18th centuries. Bishonen | Talk 14:46, 15 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    • Now I feel really bad. I did say I'd do something here, but got waylaid with other projects. I'll try to add some stuff over the next few weeks. Blush Filiocht 15:48, Mar 15, 2005 (UTC)
      • Ha. Nothing's gonna make you feel bad on your well-deserved Cantos high, I bet, nor should it. Bishonen | Talk 16:05, 15 Mar 2005 (UTC)


Perhaps these should be a 'dissenting voices' section, otherwise this seems rather tacked-on and irrelevant,

"Not everyone is enthousiastic about Shakespeare. Bukowski articulated another opinion when he stated:'He's (Shakespeare ed.) unreadable and overrated. But people don't want to hear that. You see, you cannot attack shrines. Shakespeare is embedded through the centuries. You can say "So-and-so is a lousy actor!" But you can't say Shakespeare is shit. The longer something is around, snobs begin to attach themselves to it, like suckerfish. When snobs feel something is safe...they attach. The moment you tell them the truth, they go wild. They can't handle it. It's attacking their own thought process. They disgust me.'"

Seems to me that bit would seem tacked on and irrelevant whatever the section, actually. Surely there must be some more articulate, analytic, and illuminating dissent to quote. Returning to the present incompleteness of the article, I hope any further passing Shakespeareans and other specialists will take the time to read my pleas for assistance with this incompleteness all over this Talk page, rather than expect explanations of shortfalls in the article itself, as that is not where such explanations appropriately go ("Avoid highlighting the incomplete state of an article", or words to that effect, is Wikipedia policy.) Please pitch in rather than point to the outrages by omission that I have committed. --Bischånen|Tåk 16:52, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)


I recently purchased a book on Auden's lectures concerning all of Shakespeare's plays, and I know his obsession with the Bard (leading, of course, to his lengthy poetic treatment of The Tempest) was a lifelong one. Is he a prominent enough critic to warrant mention? If so, should I be looking for a good quotation? And would it be better to bring in more of Auden's praise of Shakespeare, or his criticisms? In my limited awareness, Auden seems willing to do both. Any thoughts or guidance would be most welcome. :-) Jwrosenzweig 17:57, 15 July 2005 (UTC)

As an example of a passage I might use (this is too long, really -- I would pick an excerpt to quote, I think...and any suggestions of which lines would be best are welcome), here's the end of his concluding lecture from Lectures on Shakespeare, ed. by Arthur Kirsch, a student of Auden's.
There is a continual process of simplification in Shakespeare's plays. What is he up to? He is holding the mirror up to nature. In the early minor sonnets he talks about his works outlasting time. But increasingly he suggests, as Theseus does in A Midsummer Night's Dream, that "The best in this kind are but shadows" (V.i.214), that art is rather a bore. He spends his life at it, but he doesn't think it's very important. His characters behave like men of action, but they talk so like Shakespeare himself, so subtly and sensitively, that if they were real, they would not be able to act, they'd be exhausted. I find Shakespeare particularly appealing in his attitude towards his work. There's something a little irritating in the determination of the very greatest artists, like Dante, Joyce, Milton, to create masterpieces and to think themselves important. To be able to devote one's life to art without forgetting that art is frivolous is a tremendous achievement of personal character. Shakespeare never takes himself too seriously.
I don't know if that's a good choice, but it's an example, perhaps, of what I was thinking of adding. Jwrosenzweig 18:14, 15 July 2005 (UTC)
It's great to get a bit of help with the 20th century. Go for it, be bold! The best place for your quote in its entirety, I submit, is Timeline of Shakespeare criticism, please see the section "Critical quotations" in the article. That's how I've used quotes throughout: used maybe just a sentence from illuminating sources in the article, and put fuller versions of the very same passages into the Timeline. It's entirely up to you, it depends on the points you want to emphasise, but me, for the article, I would go for the more "shocking" phrases. My taste might be a little garish! I like the bits about art being a bore, and some great artists being irritating. :-) Bishonen | talk 19:39, 15 July 2005 (UTC)
Done. :-) I even fiddled with pictures a little...hopefully not a bad job. I wish I knew more I could do with this article, but I don't think I have a comprehensive enough knowledge of Auden to offer his general perspective on the Bard. I'll mull it over, and contribute when I can. Sorry it's not more! Jwrosenzweig 22:57, 15 July 2005 (UTC)

Sarah Siddons[edit]

I doubt a dispute over dates is a good reason to remove all reference to Sarah Siddons. Leading men of the eighteenth century get named in this article. Right now the piece says nothing at all about the emergence of women in the profession, which is certainly a major change in theatrical custom. Was there any renowned and influential actress who predates Sarah Siddons? Durova 00:06, 7 December 2005 (UTC)

Terry Hawkes quotation in caption[edit]

I've removed the quotation by "Terry Hawkes" from the caption of the lead image. There is no Terry Hawkes article and no other reason to believe that it is encyclyopedic that Terry Hawkes said Shakespeare was "up for grabs". Mike Dillon 06:34, 18 May 2006 (UTC)

Terry Hawkes = Terence Hawkes, a well-known scholar in the field of Shakespeare's reputation. But I agree that the quotation isn't very meaningful out of context. The Singing Badger 12:16, 18 May 2006 (UTC)
Right. I wrote the caption originally, intending to add more material about modern/academic Shakespeare criticism to the article, and to give Hawkes a proper mention there. Or rather, not being a Shakespearean (though I've written most of the article), I was primarily hoping somebody else would. Badger, I don't know if you remember the time I used to nag everybody to come help out? I've kind of given up on that; if somebody wants to, I guess they'll do it, and otherwise the page will have to stay a bit unbalanced, with a rather undesirable focus on the periods I'm best at (Restoration and 18th century). Anyway, the reason I put the three-word Hawkes quote in the caption was that I thought "up for grabs" was an economic suggestion that Shakey, in our own day, is up for grabbing by many different camps, and able to serve different ideologies. (Hawkes is making the point that Sh has been pressed into the service of a conservative and patriotic agenda, especially the way he's read in British schools.) Clearly the suggesting bombed, though, since two people have removed it today. I'm cool with that, but I still think it would be rather nice if somebody found a better short modern quote to replace it with. In fact, if nobody can, I'd be inclined to remove Coleridge from the caption as well; having only Dryden would make better sense than Dryden plus Coleridge and then nothing, I reckon. But perhaps I study it too deeply. Bishonen | talk 20:11, 18 May 2006 (UTC).
I think "up for grabs" by many ideologies makes perfect sense; it was only the three words on their own that were baffling. Indeed, when put in this context, the Hawkes quote on its own summarises well the whole page.
By the way, if anyone has the time and energy to start expanding the 20th century section (a Herculean task, be warned) the best starting point is Gary Taylor's Reinventing Shakespeare, a very readable history of Shakespeare criticism. It's full of pithy quotations that could help summarise the state of Shakespeare's reputation today. The Singing Badger 22:44, 18 May 2006 (UTC)
(After a Google search) OK, I would have written "Terence" if I'd known that Terry, or Terri, Hawkes is also the English voice actress of Sailor Moon for most of the first and second season. ^_^ Bishonen | talk 23:13, 18 May 2006 (UTC).
Thanks for clarifying. I realized that "Terry" was "Terence" from the "References" section after I left this note. I agree that having a quotation to show a modern critical perspective would be useful and informative, I just thought that "up for grabs" by itself was a little puzzling and out-of-place. Mike Dillon 16:06, 21 May
2006 (UTC)

W. S. Gilbert cite[edit]

I've added a cite and external link. I hope that's alright. Adam Cuerden talk 16:14, 22 November 2006 (UTC)

Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool[edit]

A link to Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool somewhere in the article might not be amiss. Haukur (talk) 12:55, 13 March 2008 (UTC)

first sentence[edit]

"In his own time, William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616) was seen as merely one among many talented playwrights and poets, but ever since the late 20th century he has been considered the supreme playwright,"

you say 20th century, but shakespeare's fame took off in the early 19th century (as is stated later in the article). a typo? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:39, 26 November 2010 (UTC)

Removing discussion of the book Human Accomplishment[edit]

Per the discussions at Talk:Leonhard Euler and WikiProject Mathematics, I am removing the discussion of Charles Murray's Human Accomplishment from the body of the article, for the same basic reasons mentioned in the above discussions. Murray's work is primary research about a topic that Murray is is not a recognized expert. aprock (talk) 17:23, 22 July 2011 (UTC)

That is just one view regarding as it applies to Euler. See the discussion on the talk page for that article. Others have suggested that the book is an acceptable source but maybe not mention the book itself.Miradre (talk) 17:28, 22 July 2011 (UTC)

21st century[edit]

I propose the addition of a 21st century section. In the last twenty years the body of Shakespeare criticism have been seriously concerned with the effects of its own existence: this article, by nature, is part of that metacritical body and would benefit from such a reflection. I propose consideration of the following: Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World, Majorie Garber's Profiling Shakespeare and Shakespeare and Modern Culture. Thoughts? Cfsibley (talk) 20:10, 27 October 2012 (UTC)

What a good idea, such a section would be a great improvement. Please do add it. I created this article in 2004, and a 21st-century section didn't feel as urgent at that point, nor was I the right person for the job. I'm more of an 18th-century buff than a Shakespearean, and Greenblatt's book is the only one I've read of the three you mention. But I'm all for it, I'll cheer from the wings. Bishonen | talk 22:24, 27 October 2012 (UTC).

Move discussion in progress[edit]

There is a move discussion in progress on Talk:William Shakespeare's influence which affects this page. Please participate on that page and not in this talk page section. Thank you. —RMCD bot 17:29, 19 April 2013 (UTC)

It's no longer in progress, but has been closed as consensus for moving to the shorter form. I've moved it accordingly. Bishonen | talk 00:25, 9 May 2013 (UTC).

18th Century[edit]

I'm unsure of the best way to improve the following sentence with citation: "After the Licensing Act of 1737, a quarter of plays performed were by Shakespeare,[citation needed] and on at least two occasions rival London playhouses staged the very same Shakespeare play at the same time (Romeo and Juliet in 1755 and King Lear the next year) and still commanded audiences." The statistic about one in four plays performed on the London stage being Shakespeare plays refers to the 1740-1741 season (source is Michael Dobson's The Making of the National Poet: Shakespeare, Adaptation and Authorship, 1660-1769 p. 161. And as Dobson points out that statistic was not repeated during Garrick's time on stage (so through until his retirement in 1776). It is also significant to note that Shakespeare scholars Michael Dobson, Gary Taylor, and Emmett Avery attribute the one in four ratio of Shakespeare plays performed during the 1740-1741 season to the efforts of the Shakespeare Ladies Club, this information should be reflected in this section of the Shakespeare's reputation article.Ladytheatrehistorian (talk) 15:08, 1 May 2016 (UTC)