Who Even Is William Shakespeare?

We all know the expression “Heroes live forever, but legends never die”, and I believe it is certainly valid to say William Shakespeare is quite legendary. An average, everyday man with broad ideas and excellent writing skills is still circulating around 400 years after his death. William Shakespeare created and published so many great works and language that it is still used prominently today. From his creations we have adapted and contributed to our own creations as to who Shakespeare was, and still is, to this day.

An example of this can be seen in his monument at Westminster Abbey. His memorial sits in the middle of the wall, far superior to size and detail than the neighboring ones, who were also phenomenal poets and authors. It seems, however, to mask the impurities of Shakespeare’s stature during his life. In a giant shrine dedicated to the worship and mourn of prior kings, queens, and other royalty, perhaps it seemed unfitting to portray the poet as his natural self during his life. This man deserved more for his legendary and everlasting accomplishments that came after his death, and Westminster Abbey recognizes that. Shakespeare’s legend is forever preserved in the way he was perceived as opposed to the way he was.

Other elements of the statue make it quite unique in its portrayal and efforts to recreate and preserve William Shakespeare. He is seen leaning on a pedestal, and on the pedestal there are multiple faces on it. Atop the pedestal sits a pile of books in which Shakespeare leans on, pointing to a piece of paper with a quote on it. It’s as though to signify that William Shakespeare’s words contribute to the knowledge we have today. His words and ideas have molded our thoughts, speech, and even language itself into its more modern forms.

The quote on the piece of paper William Shakespeare is holding is from the Tempest, and is believed by many to be a farewell to the world. The quote reads “The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind”(Act IV Scene 1). I believe this quote is chosen because Shakespeare was unaware of how much of a legend he would become. He feared that all his work, and the accomplishments he had, would diminish and fade. Yet, here we are, 400 years later, still learning and trying to understand and recreate his genius mind.