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Shakespeare Lives

  • Author:YA
  • Source:China Daily
  • Release on :2016-02-28

   This year's four hundredth anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare is not just an opportunity to commemorate one of the greatest playwrights of all time. It is a moment to celebrate the extraordinary ongoing influence of a man who – to borrow from his own description of Julius Caesar – “doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus.”

   Shakespeare's legacy is without parallel: his works translated into over 100 languages and studied by half the world's schoolchildren. As one of his contemporaries, Ben Jonson, said: “Shakespeare is not of an age, but for all time.” He lives today in our language, our culture and society – and through his enduring influence on education.

   Shakespeare played a critical role in shaping modern English and helping to make it the world's language. The first major dictionary compiled by Samuel Johnson drew on Shakespeare more than any other writer. Three thousand new words and phrases all first appeared in print in Shakespeare's plays. I remember from my own childhood how many of them are found for the first time in Henry V. Words like dishearten, divest, addiction, motionless, leapfrog – and phrases like “once more unto the breach”, “band of brothers” and “heart of gold” – have all passed into our language today with no need to reference their original context. Shakespeare also pioneered innovative use of grammatical form and structure – including verse without rhymes, superlatives and the connecting of existing words to make new words, like bloodstained – while the pre-eminence of his plays also did much to standardise spelling and grammar.

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