I always bookmark and retweet articles like this one that offers Three Reasons Why Shakespeare Remains Relevant. I am unabashedly biased on this question, and as long as there are people asking *if* he is relevant, then I’ll be there to post as many answers to the question as I can put my hands on.
But … I don’t like this lady’s answers. Her three reasons:
1) Adaptability. Great so you’re saying that his staying power comes from the fact that whatever parts we don’t like, we can just change or omit? I guess I get the point, that there is an underlying foundation to Shakespeare’s work that is not found in the details. But, still … it seems weird to say that he’s still relevant because you can change the parts you don’t think are relevant.
2) Popular Touch. This one I just flat out disagree with. I’d say that an equal number of people would cite to you all the kings and queens and royal courts and say, “People these days don’t want to watch a play about that.” True, you can adapt a story by turning the king into a mob boss or family patriarch, but still, once again, you end up arguing that Shakespeare is relevant because of the parts that you can take it upon yourself to make up out of whole cloth.
3) Great Publicity. Well, I mean, I suppose. It’s kind of weird that she uses the existence of the First Folio as the prime example, and doesn’t really mention David Garrick. Just the fact that Shakespeare’s works were published in Folio was not enough by itself to catapult him to the godlike status he enjoys today.
So let me ask you, then – why is Shakespeare relevant to you? How do you, personally, answer the question?
For me it’s more about the universality(?) of the work. By that I mean that all around the world, for the last several hundred years, most of the people on the planet have had something in common, whether they knew it or not. If I have seen Much Ado About Nothing, and you have seen Much Ado About Nothing, then there is a certain bond that exists between us that can be turned into something more. It does not matter if you live in the same country as I do, speak the same language, or if you’re twenty years younger or older. It’s like a constant against which all things are relative. It’s a building block.
Make sense? Back in high school I learned a bit of Esperanto. Anybody familiar with it? Esperanto is a language invented by L.L. Zamenhoff around one hundred years ago. He thought that if the entire world had a universal neutral language, that cultural boundaries would dissolve. You could start to share literature. You could travel all around the world, and always be able to speak the language. There would be no burden of “my country is more powerful, therefore if you expect to deal with me, you will learn to speak my language rather than me learning to speak yours” (I’m looking at you, english).
Shakespeare’s like that. Remember last year when The Globe did all the plays in all different languages? There you go.
P.S. – I also happen to own a copy of Hamlet translated into Esperanto by Doctor Zamenhoff himself. Apparently he too believed that our beloved Shakespeare could serve as a Rosetta Stone for achieving his dream.