“To be or not to be” — is perhaps Shakespeare’s most popular phrase. It’s a question that Prince Hamlet asks in Act 3, Scene 1, of the English playwright’s longest play The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.
Centuries have passed since William Shakespeare wrote his plays but his influence on popular culture is as enduring as it is colossal. His works have become a literary paragon and have shaped different aspects of modern-day life.
Here are five ways the Bard of Avon has impacted pop culture:
The Forbidden Love Trope
This is arguably the best example of Shakespeare’s impact on modern-day culture. His play Romeo and Juliet is about forbidden love and the tragic end of a young couple. It’s a theme that has been used and overused by numerous novelists, playwrights, and filmmakers over the years. In fact, it has made troubled romance an integral part of any literary work.
Through his work, the Bard has shaped countless character stereotypes that authors to this day use to depict their antagonists, protagonists, and secondary characters. Romeo, for instance, has become a symbol of the fervent lover while Lady Macbeth is used as an archetype for ambitions and unremitting women.
Art as a Political Tool
William Shakespeare has become a point of inspiration for many artists who wish to change the world with their art. He has also paved the way for writers, poets, and moviemakers who wish to comment on socio-political issues through their work. Plays like Macbeth, Othello, Hamlet, and Julius Caesar are compelling political stories that have influenced several world leaders throughout the centuries.
Shakespeare and Star Trek
It may come as a surprise to many but the producers of Star Trek have heavily utilized the Bard’s work in their futuristic science-fiction franchise. Several of the episodes in the original series have titles that are borrowed from Shakespeare while different plots are almost entirely inspired by the English playwright.
It’s impossible to talk about Shakespeare’s influence on popular culture and not mention how he changed the English language. For example, popular phrases and idioms such as “wear my heart on my sleeve,” “love is blind,” and “the green-eyed monster,” were all coined by the Bard of Avon. Furthermore, his name has become an adjective used to highlight the grand stature of successful politicians, business persons, celebrities, athletes, etc.
William Shakespeare’s work will continue to impact future generations because his plays and poems will always be relevant regardless of the time, date, and year.