The Quick 10: 10 Ways Shakespeare Changed Everything 
by Jamie Spatola – December 2, 2011 – 2:21 PM


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http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/109014#ixzz1fsgI


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The basic thesis of Stephen Marche’s How Shakespeare 


Changed Everything becomes obvious very early on (as in, it 


is expressed in the title). According to this fun, lyrically written 


and well-researched book, here are just ten of the many 


ways that Shakespeare changed everything:


1. He gave us a lot of new words
Just say some words real quick and you’ll probably say one 


he coined – nearly 10% of his 20,000-word vocabulary was 


new to his audiences. You may consider yourself quite 


fashionable or softhearted. You may consider this post to be 


lackluster. But you couldn’t consider any of those things to be 


those ways if Shakespeare hadn’t made up the words for 


you.


2. He inspired an assassin
On November 25, 1864, actor John Wilkes Booth starred as 


Marc Antony alongside his brothers, Edwin as Brutus and 


Junius, Jr. as Cassius, in a one-night benefit performance of 


Julius Caesar at New York City’s Winter Garden Theatre — 


incidentally raising money to place a statue of Shakespeare 


on Central Park’s Literary Walk. Five months later, on April 


14, 1865, JWB would put on a more impactful performance 


at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC, as a real-life Brutus, 


assassinating the leader of a nation.


3. He inadvertently caused a pigeon problem
His statue in Central Park is covered in pigeon droppings, 


and strangely it’s kind of his fault. (Yes, the same statue for 


which the Booth brothers’ benefit raised the funds). It’s hard 


to believe that the veritable starling infestation of New York 


City came as the direct result of an innocent bird-lovin’, Bard


-lovin’ pharmaceutical manufacturer named Eugene 


Schieffelin but, alas, ‘tis true.


In March of 1860, Schieffelin released a mere sixty starlings 


into the Central Park air as a part of his effort to introduce 


every bird mentioned in Shakespeare to North America. 


Scientists estimate that the descendants of this and another 


small 1891 Schiefflin-released flock now number in the area 


of 200 million.


4. He named a lot of babies
Simpson, Biel and Rabbit, just to name a few. The name 


“Jessica” first appears in Shakespeare. The original Jessica 


was Shylock’s daughter in The Merchant of Venice.


5. He cleared the path for Freud
Shakespeare thought sexual repression was for the birds. 


His plays are bawdier than anything the Farrely Brothers 


have devised and, while his own rowdy Globe Theatre 


crowds ate it up (they were all drunk anyway), future 


generations found it necessary to censor the Bard 


substantially. Bell’s Shakespeare from 1773, the first 


collection of Shakespeare’s plays as they were performed 


on the English stage, contained only 2/3 of the original 


material.


6. He helped us understand teen angst
Those who want to see Romeo and Juliet as the 


embodiments of purity and love, like 18th-century English 


playwright David Garrick, are met with an imposing editorial 


task. Garrick’s first cut was the elimination of the character of 


Rosaline, the source of Romeo’s heartsickness at the play’s 


outset (she’s the one making his “sad hours seem long” in 


Act I, Scene 1) and one of many examples of the young 


man’s rash and impetuous teenage behavior. Apparently, 


people enjoyed the wishful notion of the purity and sensibility 


of teenage love, Garrick’s edited version of the play survived, 


unchanged, for over a hundred years.


7. He invigorated Nazis and anti-Nazis alike
While it’s difficult to categorize Shakespearean politics, it’s 


easy to find justification of one’s own prejudices and beliefs 


in the Shakespeare canon. Many groups and movements 


have sought to claim him as their own. Shortly after Hitler 


became Chancellor of Germany, the Nazi Party issued a 


pamphlet entitled Shakespeare – A Germanic Writer. Three 


years later, during the height of Hitler’s rule, there were more 


performances of Shakespeare’s works in Germany than the 


rest of the world combined.


But those opposed to Hitler’s ideals could also find support 


in Shakespeare’s works, particularly in Shylock’s well-known 


speech from The Merchant of Venice.


8. He raised questions about race and prejudice
Just ask Paul Robeson – African-American actor, athlete, 


activist, and all-around rock star who, in 1943, played the 


role of Othello on Broadway. To this day, that show’s run of 


296 shows is the longest ever for a Shakespeare play on 


Broadway.


9. He ticked off Tolstoy
Big time. The works of the very-bearded Russian great 


aside, Shakespeare’s literary influence is immeasurable. 


Dickens and Keats credited nobody more. Eliot claimed that 


the modern world can essentially be divided into two 


categories: those things influenced by Shakespeare and 


those influenced by Dante. William Faulkner, Aldous Huxley, 


Vladimir Nabokov, and David Foster Wallace each titled one 


of their works directly from a line in Shakespeare.


But perhaps the influence Shakespeare had on Tolstoy’s 


writing was even more profound, since Tolstoy wrote a whole 


book about his disdain for the Bard. Tolstoy on Shakespeare 


reveals, unequivocally, that Tolstoy did not merely lack delight 


in Shakespeare’s work, he derived from it, “irresistible 


repulsion and tedium” and found the literary world’s reliance 


on and reference for Shakespeare to be “a great evil – as is 


every untruth.” Yowza.


10. He killed a tree in Bidford
And he did so years after his own death! Legend has it that a 


retired lush of a Bard stumbled under said tree – the crab 


variety – and slept off a night of competitive drinking with 


Bidford’s supposedly prolific booze hounds. Tourists tore the 


poor tree to shreds, taking home souvenirs of old Willy’s wild 


night. In the absence of any really reliable biography, we cling 


to legends and potentialities to help us understand anything 


at all about the man whose writing has helped us to 


understand so much.


And he could have changed even more!
Marche reminds readers of the tantalizing fact that there are 


lost Shakespeare plays – two, at least, that scholars know 


existed but we have never had the pleasure of reading or 


seeing performed. One is Love’s Labors Won, the sequel to 


Titus Andronicus (just kidding). Love’s Labors Won is 


mentioned in two different sources, one being a bookseller’s 


list, meaning the play was likely in print at one time.


The other is Cardenio, which scholars assume from the title 


is an adaptation of scenes from Don Quixote. 18th-century 


editor Lewis Theobald allegedly discovered a copy of this 


manuscript and developed his own play, The Double 


Falsehood, based on the manuscript. But he never showed 


the manuscript to anyone and lost it in a fire — either that or 


he made the whole thing up. Many scholars do believe, 


however, that The Double Falsehood does, indeed, contain 


elements of a play originally crafted by Shakespeare.






Read the full text here: 


http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/109014#ixzz1fsg


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–brought to you by mental_floss! 

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