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A rare portrait of William Shakespeare
Associated Press/Photo by Lefteris Pitarakis
A rare portrait of William Shakespeare

Bucket List Books: The works of William Shakespeare

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I don’t think I would go so far as to call William Shakespeare’s works Christian classics, but they are certainly classics that came out of a Christian culture. And they certainly ought to be read.

The Bard of Avon is among the greatest playwrights of all time. And, of course, I would encourage you above all to go see his plays. But in the absence of an affordable acting company that regularly performs Shakespeare’s plays, reading is the next best thing. Reading out loud is preferable.

There are many reasons one should read Shakespeare, not the least of which is the fact that his plays are fun. But Shakespeare’s greatest contribution to Western culture was not his plots. Most, if not all, were not original, being taken from folklore, history, and classical literature.

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No, his greatest contribution was perhaps to the English language itself.

Much like Homer, Shakespeare first penned many phrases still in use today. It was Shakespeare who determined that jealousy had green eyes (Othello), that colds are caught (Cymbeline), and that love is blind (Merchant of Venice). “The world is my oyster” came from Merry Wives of Windsor, “wild goose chase” came from Romeo and Juliet, and “in a pickle” came from The Tempest.

Aside from these, Shakespeare is also credited with creating more than 1,700 words in the modern English language, including “hobnob,” “lackluster,” and “rant.” Where would English be without Shakespeare? Seventeen hundred words short, apparently.

Of course, it’s important to note that not every one of Shakespeare’s works is appropriate, and many include immoral characters. But for the most part, the lessons that can be learned from Shakespeare’s plays are good ones, and include examples of forgiveness, mercy, honor, and kindness.

General consensus says that Shakespeare wrote 37 plays, though the number is not completely solid. From those, here are my personal favorites that might be a good place to start:

  • As You Like It
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Julius Caesar
  • Hamlet
  • A Winter’s Tale
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • Twelfth Night

Happy reading! 

Rachel Lynn Aldrich
Rachel Lynn Aldrich

Rachel is a student at Patrick Henry College. Follow Rachel on Twitter @Rachel_Lynn_A.

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