A man for all ages

From The Guardian:Shakes_2

According to many critics of his time, Shakespeare was vulgar, provincial and overrated. So how did he become the supreme deity of poetry, drama and high culture itself, asks Jonathan Bate, editor of the first Complete Works from the Folio for 300 years. In the spring of 1616, Francis Beaumont and William Shakespeare died within a few weeks of each other. Beaumont became the first dramatist to be honoured with burial in the national shrine of Westminster Abbey, beside the tombs of Geoffrey Chaucer and Edmund Spenser. Shakespeare was laid to rest in the provincial obscurity of his native Stratford-upon-Avon.

We now think of Shakespeare as a unique genius – the embodiment, indeed, of the very idea of artistic genius – but these two very different burial places are a reminder that in his own time, though widely admired, he was but one of a constellation of theatrical stars. How is it, then, that in the 18th and 19th centuries Shakespeare’s fame outstripped that of all his peers? Why was he the sole dramatist of the age who would eventually have a genuinely worldwide impact? There are two answers: availability and adaptability.

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