Without the Bard, there would have been no Royal Shakespeare Company. While it’s possible that this legendary company could have been named for another equally prolific playwright, the fact remains that William Shakespeare was, without equal, in his day. He left a lasting legacy that will influence the course of both, drama and literature, across the globe for generations to come.
While a number of Shakespeare’s contemporaries have also left their mark on future generations, none have had nearly the impact that Shakespeare had. Perhaps, the only contemporary worth singling out is Christopher Marlowe, who was a big influence on Shakespeare himself. It was also recently discovered that Marlowe was a co-writer of Shakespeare’s Henry VI trilogy.
Such was Shakespeare’s impact on the drama world that there was a massive decline in the art form after his death. His plays were popular because it gave audiences a slice of life. Besides being entertained, audiences were also informed. After his death, audiences increasingly went to the theatre just to be entertained, and only when they had nothing better to do.
It took a while after Shakespeare’s death before he received the continued acclaim he enjoys today, but since the late 17th century, he has been held as the greatest English dramatists. During the 18th and 19th centuries, being a star on the British stage also meant being an accomplished interpreter of Shakespeare. Even today, there is a plethora of renowned British stage actors who cut their teeth on Shakespeare as members of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
We are lucky to have great Shakespearean actors in our favourite film franchises. No one can deny the brilliance of Maggie Smith in Harry Potter, Judi Dench in James Bond, and Ian Mckellan and Patrick Stewart in X-Men. And let’s not forget about Alec Guinness in Star Wars and Anthony Hopkins in his three outings as Hannibal Lecter.