That is, William Shakespeare, otherwise known as “The Bard of Stratford,” national treasure of England and bane of English students everywhere.
That’s unfortunate because Will Shakespeare wasn’t a literary writer, although we’ve since enshrined him as such. He was instead a writer of popular fiction, fiction designed for the masses, meant to fill the theaters for a week before the audience in London demanded something new. He was in competition with the other writers of his time, looking for his spot on the Elizabethan equivalent of the best-seller list. Over nearly two decades, he was prolific enough and popular enough to retire to the country with a small fortune.
Good old Will wrote edge-of-the-seat drama, slapstick comedy, witty repartee, and sizzling romance.
That’s right, romance. In a two hour play, using just the lines of dialogue, this Bard guy gave us all the emotional insight we need to understand how two characters who verbally rip each other apart each time they meet can find their way to admit fault, apologize, and find love. Of course it takes some prodding by meddling friends, but that’s to be expected in a romantic comedy.
And then there are the two guys who want the same girl who runs off with one of them because her father wants her to marry the other one, but then “true love never did run smooth.” Of course there’s another girl spurned by the second guy who just has to chase him while he chases the lovers. Meddling fairies literally drag them through the mud until they sort out their true affections during a harrowing night in the woods
Fun stuff. Sounds like something you’d see on “Once Upon a Time” on TV today. Definitely not what critics would call “literary.”
If you’ve not seen Much Ado about Nothing starring Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh or A Midsummer Night’s Dream featuring Michelle Pfeiffer and Kevin Kline, visit your local library today and check out their movie section.
There’s a lot we romance writers can learn from this 451-year-old guy from Stratford-upon-Avon.
You rule, Will!