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It is possible to surpass Shakespeare? 
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Post It is possible to surpass Shakespeare?
Do you find it possible for a contemporary writer to ever match, or perhaps daresay, surpass the Bard in literary skill, social and cultural impact? If so, what would you suggest to such an aspiring writer in this hypothetical question?



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Post Re: It is possible to surpass Shakespeare?
Good question! I don't think we're in an age in which literature is cutting edge, as it was in Shakespeare's day. Literature is still important to a minority, but it will never again dominate culture, IMO. So it's not a matter of no one ever having an ability comparable to Shakespeare's, but of the culture providing a medium for a writer to assume such huge importance. Right now, the action seems to be with the made-for-TV series such as the iconic "Breaking Bad." Made-for-TV used be synonymous with trash, so that shows how things can change.



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Post Re: It is possible to surpass Shakespeare?
I think Shakespeare, Hemingway and Austen are all over-rated. I believe current authors such as Wilbur Smith are far better writers. I think it's time we updated our ideas on good literature - our expectations have changed.


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Post Re: It is possible to surpass Shakespeare?
I'm not familiar with Wilbur Smith, just one of many gaps in my acquaintance with literature. I think the interesting question your statement raises is to what extent contemporary popularity should be a factor in judgment of a work's timeless quality. I would say that such judgment should have nothing to do with how many people like a book at a given time.



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Post Re: It is possible to surpass Shakespeare?
Surpassed? How? Changes in theater, the invention of the motion picture, and computer generated special effects make the question meaningless. Shakespeare had to rely on dialogue.

However, as a side note, I must comment on one versions of my personal favorite Shakespearian work, "Macbeth."

In the play, following Duncan's murder by Macbeth, Duncan's two sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, fearing for their own lives, flee. Donalbain is never menthioned again, but Malcolm returns at the end, deposes Macbeth (who is killed by MacDuff), and takes the throne. The play ends with an invitation to the loyal nobles to witness his (Malcolm's) coronation. In 1971, Roman Polanski directed a film version, which forcused more on mood and setting than characters, but did add an excellent epilogue. Following the tradtional 'end' of the play, the scene shifts to the witche's cave. In the distance, a horseman appears, riding forward. As he draws near to the cave, we recognize Donalbain, the 'missing' son of Duncan. The implication is that he has come to consult wiith the witches concerning his own future, giving us an open and somewhat chillng, ending.


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Post Re: It is possible to surpass Shakespeare?
The theater was where it was at in the early 1600s in England, and as you say, the excitement has since moved on to other areas thanks to technology. The fact that theater dominated entertainment--and presented money-making opportunity--meant that a lot of talent was funneled into it. We wouldn't have had Shakespeare if a man couldn't become well-to-do in the theater business, as crass as that may sound.

Your Macbeth example makes me reflect on the unique flexibility of drama among the literary arts. Since a play represents a performance and requires a director, we can have different approaches to presenting the words, including rearranging the sequence of lines, eliminating lines, and transforming the scene and setting. But some changes would be off-limits, I think, such as Polanski giving Donaldbain lines at the end of the play.



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Post Re: It is possible to surpass Shakespeare?
As DWill says, it's difficult to compare Shakespeare's work with modern literary novelists. Shakespeare's work wasn't even meant to be read, it was written to be performed on the stage, with all the limitations and unique opportunities that live performance brings. Why is Shakespeare's work still relevant is a better question. Sadly, to many people, the Bard isn't relevant, but Shakespeare is still studied in college and still performed on the stage an astonishing 400 years after his death. I would suggest that his work is still relevant due to its exploration of universal themes of love and life and the corruption of power that resonate today as they did then. And Shakespeare explores the human condition with a beautiful command of the English language, even if some of that language is now archaic.

My other theory why Shakespeare is so revered among English scholars is how subtle and nuanced and ambiguous his works are, which lend themselves to multiple interpretations. As such, Shakespeare's work is much like the real world, not black and white, but shades of gray.

I came across this wonderful piece by Washington Irving in his "Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent."—a collection of essays and stories (including the classic stories, Rip Van Winkle, and Legend of Sleepy Hollow). This particular piece focuses on a conversation between the narrator and a very old book. It's well worth the read, but this passage in particular hits home.

http://www.bartleby.com/109/6.html

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There rise authors now and then, who seem proof against the mutability of language, because they have rooted themselves in the unchanging principles of human nature. They are like gigantic trees that we sometimes see on the banks of a stream; which, by their vast and deep roots, penetrating through the mere surface, and laying hold on the very foundations of the earth, preserve the soil around them from being swept away by the ever-flowing current, and hold up many a neighboring plant, and perhaps worthless weed, to perpetuity. Such is the case with Shakspeare, whom we behold defying the encroachments of time, retaining in modern use the language and literature of his day, and giving duration to many an indifferent author, merely from having flourished in his vicinity. But even he, I grieve to say, is gradually assuming the tint of age, and his whole form is overrun by a profusion of commentators, who, like clambering vines and creepers, almost bury the noble plant that upholds them.”


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Post Re: It is possible to surpass Shakespeare?
No. That's all I'm sayin'...


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Post Re: It is possible to surpass Shakespeare?
rchapman1tewantin wrote:
I think Shakespeare, Hemingway and Austen are all over-rated. I believe current authors such as Wilbur Smith are far better writers. I think it's time we updated our ideas on good literature - our expectations have changed.


If only people would stop telling me what my opinions are...


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Post Re: It is possible to surpass Shakespeare?
There is no way to truly compare in my opinion. Shakespeare was a completely different time. People were different. People expressed themselves differently, spoke differently, etc. I will say that I don't think that you can really compare any book or writer because beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as is understanding. People interpret things differently in general but especially with poetry. So my answer would be no. You can't match Shakespeare because people like different things. Now, with someone that has Shakespeare as their favorite writer then you may be able to compare but this is a really generalized question. I would just say don't worry about being better or doing better than someone else. Just be you and write how you write. People will come and either love it or hate it but doing what you love? Ah, that is the beauty. :)



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