Actor, Poet, Playwright

I saw a discussion the other day where somebody argued that Shakespeare was these three things – actor, poet, playwright – specifically in that order. In other words he was an actor first, a poet second, a playwright last.  I don’t think he meant chronologically, either.

I disagree.  I think that while he may have gotten involved in the theatre as an actor, he certainly found himself as a poet shortly after and then spent the rest of his career putting poetry on the stage.  Nobody ever speaks of Shakespeare’s name among the great actors of his generation.  He was no Burbage or Kempe.  He acted, sure, and he started out as an actor. But I don’t think it’s accurate to say that he was primarily an actor.

Thoughts? This is another spin on the old, “Did Shakespeare really know he was that good, or was he just doing whatever it took to pay the bills?” argument.  Discuss.

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One thought on “Actor, Poet, Playwright

  1. Although I'm really just arguing semantics, here goes:

    In the First Folio, Heminge & Condell list Will first (Burbage is #2) among
    "The Names of the Principall Actors in all these Playes". Obviously we can chalk up the positioning as a great courtesy and homage to the guy who wrote all which follows. But I submit that S. more than likely continued to act in the plays, given casting constraints– doubling, tripling, etc. Also, do ya think someone with such talent for tailoring roles to actors could resist writing one or two for himself?
    But the main point of my 'treatise' comes in the form of textual analyzation–surprised? 🙂
    Shakespeare could only know how to write so well for actors while employing the poetical/dramatic technique he practically re-invented FOR them because he was "first, foremost", and I believe always, an actor. (Actually, an actor/director in this case). Again, semantics play heavily in my opinion, hence the quotes.
    Since the poet and the playwright monikers are so heavily intertwined, I refrain from an opinion on which one might occupy the #2 and #3 spots. Ultimately, again with the semantics, 🙂 I think they're technically inseparable.

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