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Shakespeare's Legacy in the UK

22.03.2012

As Shakespeare's birthday approaches, it's interesting to look at how the 16th Century poet and playwright still influences his home country to this day.

Born in the South Warwickshire town of Stratford-upon-Avon on 24 April 1564, no one could have predicted how a young, working-class William Shakespeare would grow to become the world's most famous playwright. Though centuries have passed since Shakespeare's lifetime, his legacy remains strong to this day.

In a recent online survey of people in the UK that asked which writers and playwrights they studied in their English courses at school, Shakespeare was ranked number one. The Renaissance playwright transcends the likes of William Wordsworth, William Blake, W.B Yeats and other great English poets to receive the highest number of responses. Over half of the respondents (51%) said they studied the famous Englishman and his many renowned works during their school years.

One of the most fascinating aspects of William Shakespeare's work is the sheer volume of plays he produced during his lifetime. His known works include 38 plays, 154 sonnets and several other poems. From the beloved romantic tragedy 'Romeo and Juliet' to comedies like 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and 'The Taming of the Shrew', Shakespeare's range of writing styles surpasses that of nearly every famous author from history and the modern day.

Shakespeare has so many impressive works, so it's unsurprising that most survey respondents could not pick a favourite (27%). Despite this, 'Romeo and Juliet' was revealed to be the most popular Shakespeare play, with 16% of respondents saying it is their favourite. The classic tale of star-crossed lovers beat 'Macbeth', which was the favourite of 11% of survey respondents.

Such is the popularity of Shakespeare that many respondents (77%) believe Shakespeare should be taught in schools. Among those respondents, some (33%) believed Shakespeare's works should be taught because he is an important historic and cultural figure in Britain. Others (32%) think it's important that Shakespeare is taught in schools because his works still have relevant themes and ideas. However, a small number of respondents (5%) did say that schools should not teach Shakespeare and instead focus on more modern, relevant works.

Thus, Shakespeare's legacy means something different to everyone; though there's no doubting his enduring popularity. Reward surveys showcase just how relevant the English-born author is to this day. This is also evidenced every year in the lead-up to his birthday, when theatres across the world perform his plays. Most notable of all the birthday celebrations is perhaps the one held in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon, where the streets fill with literature enthusiasts wanting to make merry in Shakespeare's old stomping grounds.