In this paper I shall be endorsing the position that Shakespeare rightly enjoys the position of hegemony that has been accorded to him in the English literary canon, cemented by his reputation as a dramatist and a poet over centuries. Shakespeare is perhaps the most influential writer of all times and the importance give to him can be gauged in a way by the emphasis given to his texts even today, be it from high schools, colleges or universities, to television or cinema adaptations or even as examples of fine writing…
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805). Interestingly, Shakespeare himself was alive during this period. The term ‘literary canon’ is however, far older and was originally used in the context of the books of the Bible that were deemed genuine and possessing authority, but whose meanings were later expanded to include other writings. This literary canon now includes works by Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Dickens, Dante, and all such authors who are seen to be writers of the classics and worthy of serious academic attention. Writers who have been given canonical status are generally celebrated names with universal acclaim (Stevens, 2007). It is true that Shakespeare holds a hegemonic position within the literary canon, but it is not without reason. It can be justified in many ways. To say that he had creative writing ability would be an understatement seeing the enormity of his written work - drama or poetry - and the consistency that he maintains in his writing throughout. Shakespeare’s popularity can also quite simply be attributed to his enormous popularity among lovers of literature over the four centuries following his death and that popularity beyond generations alone validating and cementing his reputation as one of the best if not the best dramatist of all time. A point to be kept in mind is that the rise in Shakespeare's popularity to the reaches of being called 'hegemonic' is a phenomenon that started to occur after his death and not during his lifetime. This lends more credence to the fact that sheer popularity among his audience has more to do with why Shakespeare is the subject of this paper. That raises the question of 'What is the reason of Shakespeare's universal appeal?'. And truly it is an intriguing question because it brings one to contemplate over the reasons how an unknown country boy from Stratford-upon-Avon, poor and poorly educated according to the standards of his age arrives at the great city of London and goes to work at odd jobs in a theater. In a year or two he is associated with scholars and dramatists, the masters of their age, writing plays of kings and clowns, of gentlemen and heroes and noble women, all of whose lives he seems to know by intimate association. . . Play after play runs from his pen, mighty dramas of human life and character following one another so rapidly that good work seems impossible; yet they stand the test of time, and their poetry is still unrivaled in any language. (Long) If we look at the age in which Shakespeare was writing, we learn that he was not the sole progenitor of the age's literary vitality on the stage. A star in his own right, Shakespeare shared the sky with others like Ben Jonson and Francis Beaumont among whom Beaumont happened to be the first dramatist who was honored with a burial in Westminster Abbey while Shakespeare was relegated to the obscurity of Stratford-upon-Avon, his hometown. (Jokinen) There are many reasons for Shakespeare's massive appeal but primarily it appears that Shakespeare's continued popularity has been due to the continued availability of his texts over the centuries and due to their adaptability. The first instance
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