Quick question for y’all. I’ve dug one of my old projects out of mothballs where I look at how people ask Shakespeare questions. And something’s come up that intrigues me. When speaking of “Shakespeare”, do you use present or past tense? In other words, would you be more likely to ask
Why did Shakespeare use iambic pentameter?
Why does Shakespeare use iambic pentameter?
From my research, the split seems to be fairly even. As a language geek it bugs me because technically only one is supposed to be correct – the past tense one. The man’s dead, after all, he’s not still using iambic pentameter.
The problem goes back to that ambiguity that’s come to be associated with the word. When you say Shakespeare are you referring to the man, or to the body of work? It’s sort of funny that when people speak of him being timeless, they really have just no idea how far that idea goes. In situations like this we’ve essentially made the man himself immortal, taking the works to be something we have in the present day while still describing them as if Shakespeare’s right here with us, having just written them.