How Did Shakespeare Influence the Renaissance?

By Staff WriterLast Updated Mar 29, 2020 12:48:28 PM ET
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Shakespeare influenced the Renaissance by standardizing the English language and expanding its vocabulary, deepening the humanity of the characters in his plays through emotional complexity and using elaborate references to Greek and Roman mythology in his writing. His attention to the intricacies of language, characterization and plot became an example to follow for future playwrights and other writers.

The renaissance began in Italy in the 14th century, spread across Europe and arrived in England by the late 15th century. It reached its zenith during the Elizabethan era in the 16th century. Shakespeare helped bring the Renaissance freedom, humanity and rebirth of appreciation of classical antiquity to the English theater. Until Shakespeare's time, although the English language was widely used, it did not have the complexity to express profundity adequately. Shakespeare created new words and expressions that enabled English to become a much more precise artistic instrument. His use of genres such as history, tragedy and comedy helped to hone the focus of theatrical production. Until Shakespeare's plays, soliloquies had been used mainly as a means of conveying information, but Shakespeare internalized the monologues and caused them to bring out the emotional depth of his characters.

Ironically, the Renaissance freedom brought to the English theater by Shakespeare and other writers also brought about its temporary demise. When the Puritans took over the government after the First English Civil War, all forms of theater were banned as immoral until the restoration of the monarchy in the late 17th century.