Could there be another Shakespeare?

Every time I attend a performance of a Shakespeare play (and I have seen some of those plays many times) I am amazed all over agin by the brilliance of his work. From the intricate and inventive wordplay, to the depth of the characterizations, to the perfection of each plot and character arc, these plays are both astonishing and inspirational.

Some modern playwrights, such as Tom Stoppard, can reach moments of brilliance that remind me of the Bard, but for sheer continual inventiveness, musicality, psychological richness and depth of understanding of the human condition, nothing really comes close.

I imagine readers of Racine in the original french might feel a similar regard for that playwright’s perfect Alexandrine dramaturgy. But in English, I don’t think any talent rivals that of Shakespeare.

Which leads me to wonder: Could another playwright’s collected works ever be as good? Or was such a feat of inventiveness possible only in the Elizabethan Era?

2 thoughts on “Could there be another Shakespeare?”

  1. I have a private theory about the Bard. Note his commitment to meter, particularly to very strict systems like iambic pentameter and sonnets. Note also the volume of his production. I hypothesize that he was practicing restrictive poetry.

    I know an artist who struggles because she doubts the quality of her art. She is a bit of a perfectionist. Having made the leap to art as a profession rather than a pastime, she now depends on her work, which only adds to the pressure. The issue is that she must first create and then edit, and then judge whether the result is good enough or requires more work.

    By contrast, a poet can choose to satisfy a rigid scheme, and if it is sufficiently challenging just accept the result when it satisfies the scheme. For example, if I write what I had for breakfast, I might say “This morning I took some bread, thin and white, and made it into a golden crisp base merely to support the glory of the marmalade”. But if I have to fit it into a haiku, then it becomes “Breakfast, ‘tween children / The glory to weary eyes / of crisp orange joy”.

    What if that was the crux of Shakespeare’s explosion onto the Elizabethan literary scene? Did he master first his mind, so to release his creativity, and then his genius? He was, I believe, frequently under pressing deadlines, money concerns and so on; self-doubt or perfectionist would have silenced him, so he had some kind of secret weapon against it.

  2. OK, I think that what you’ve really said
    Is since the Bard wrote fast and off the cuff
    He put down just what came into his head
    And maybe that was always good enough.
    Between his mind and all the world around
    There was a kind of rapid cosmic link
    On setting down the words he quickly found
    It’s better just to do, and not to think.
    Hamlet, Lear, Macbeth were sitting neatly
    Within his head, and not from toil or sweat
    But all at once — already done completely!
    I sort of buy it. What I just don’t get
          Is if our Mr. Shakespeare played this game
          Why couldn’t Marlowe simply do the same?

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