Encyclopędia Britannica's Guide to Shakespeare

Few authors can match William Shakespeare for broad appeal and sheer endurance. For centuries he has entertained readers and theatregoers, helping us see our commonalities and revealing our humanness. His tender scenes of reconciliation, such as that between Lear and Cordelia, continue to break hearts in the 21st century, though they were written centuries ago. The themes of his love stories, such as Romeo and Juliet, are as fresh and universal today as they must have been when he wrote them. Teenagers still memorize his lines. Words he coined are an intrinsic part of the English vocabulary. His works are translated worldwide. So why does Shakespeare stand out so far among his contemporaries? What makes his speech so compelling? Where did he obtain his depth of understanding, his wit? Who was he exactly?

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