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YMMV / William Shakespeare

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  • Common Knowledge: Usually it’s assumed that the famous sonnet Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day, was written to a pretty lady, maybe the same Dark Lady in later sonnets. Instead it was written to a man he called the Fair Youth, whom Shakespeare obviously admired.
  • Complete Monster: William Shakespeare has produced timeless works with quite the incredible and diverse output. From some of his plays have come villains who are impressive in their depravity centuries later.
    • Othello: Honest Iago is one of the most famous examples of this trope in English Literature. A bitter Venetian officer who resents the promotion of another man over him by his commander, the Moor Othello, Iago schemes for revenge by ingratiating himself with Othello and driving him to madness with insinuations his beloved wife Desdemona is having an affair with the officer Cassio. Iago undermines Othello while acting as his friend. Iago murders his accomplice and even his own wife to cover for himself, and at the end, convinces Othello to murder Desdemona. At the end, Iago displays no remorse and refuses to speak one word more in his whole life. Through the play, Iago goes through various motives for his evil: racism, envy, suspicion Othello is sleeping with his own wife... but at the end he simply concludes there is no motive. He simply enjoys this.
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    • Richard III is one of the most famous examples of a Historical Villain Upgrade in English drama. Richard informs us early on that he is determined to prove a villain and ruin the day for everyone else. To that end, he seduces Anne Neville, whose noble husband he himself murdered, with every intent of discarding her later. He has his brother George, Duke of Clarence, sent to the Tower of London and murdered, drives his older brother King Edward IV into an early grave and has Edward's two young sons imprisoned in the Tower of London, before having them murdered. He poisons Anne herself, and even begins having his allies killed. On the night before his battle with Henry Tudor, he is visited by the spirits of his victims, who tell him to despair and die. Richard is left alone, deserted by all, and at the end, he admits that even he has nothing but hatred for himself.
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  • Growing the Beard: Believe it or not, even the Bard had to grow into his talents, and his earliest works can be very spotty. Most scholars would agree he didn't really hit his stride as a playwright till somewhere around the time he wrote Romeo and Juliet, which was something like his eleventh play! ("Something like" because, owing to the patchy nature of early-modern record-keeping, we can't be absolutely certain when Shakespeare wrote anything.)
  • Older Than They Think: On account of being the most prolific and most popular playwright of his generation, and one who in succeeding centuries became the most influential writer on the English language, many audiences coming to Shakespeare credit him with far more than his already considerable achievements:
    • Contrary to Anonymous and others say, Shakespeare was not the first to write drama in blank verse. That honor goes to the obscure play Gorboduc a 1561 play by Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville. The first major Elizabethan tragedy in blank verse was Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy the Trope Codifier for Elizabethan Tragedy, with its Anti-Hero protagonist, play-within-the-play, Gambit Pileup plot already containing much of the elements which prefigures the work done by Christopher Marlowe (who was seen as the greatest talent of his day) and then by Shakespeare.
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    • Indeed many critics note that with the exception of two works, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest, no work by Shakespeare can claim to be original, and even those two have predecessors. Many of them were based on pre-existing sources and even Hamlet was based on an earlier lost work called Ur-Hamlet by critics. Many of his plays were popular commissions that was Pandering to the Base (For instance, Macbeth had witchcraft and sorcery that appealed to King James I's hobby-horses). Likewise, since the Elizabethan stage was subject to censorship, it was unlikely that Shakespeare had much of a choice in the subject matter of his work, as such authors who see him as pro-royalty or anti-royalty are more or less hampered by Wish Fulfillment since Shakespeare didn't really have a choice in the matter in most of his works. His history plays and subjects were already done by multiple playwrights and leading lights of the day and his Richard III was based on work done by Sir Thomas More.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: This has happened to some of Shakespeare's works, since a lot of people are familiar with the works inspired by his own (or even quotes) that the plays come off as rather run of the mill.


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