Not all writers have a universal appeal but William Shakespeare’s works have transcended geographical boundaries because of the universality of his themes. Although it has been a long time since the writer has died he is still remembered by many and his works have been made into so many films across languages. William Shakespeare was a playwright who wrote stories of so many genres and in each of these genres he left his own stamp. On one hand you have the likes of King Lear, Hamlet etc which leave you heartbroken, on the other side there are the likes of Tempest, Twelfth Night etc which leave you with a smile on your face.
Also Read: Not villains; Victims of Circumstances
While Vishal Bhardwaj’s trilogy of Macbeth, Othello and Hamlet is well known there are also other movies which are slightly less known. For example, you have the Telugu film Gunasundari Katha directed by KV Reddy. KV Reddy took inspiration from King Lear but changed the ending into a happy one. Comedy of errors was made in both Hindi and Bengali. The Hindi one was directed by Gulzar and starred Sanjeev Kumar and Deven Verma in leading roles. Comedy of errors is a story about two pairs of identical twins and the chaos that happens as a result. The story ends with the twins finding each other and their parents. Together they resolve the entire problems caused earlier. In Bengal the film was made as Bhrantibilas starring Uttam Kumar.
Also Read: Joji: Malayalam’s Macbeth
I haven’t seen the Bengali one but Gulzar’s adaptation was a hilarious comedy with lots of fun elements. It is a complete family entertainer which is something you cannot say about all the comedies. The star cast made the film even more special. While Sanjeev Kumar is as good as usual Deven Sharma matched up equally.
Following are some of the things in Shakespeare writings which explain his universality.
- Plots and Themes- Shakespeare’s plots and themes are something which are timeless. They are not limited to a particular place or time. For example there is the ill fated love of Romeo and Juliet. Although the story is set in England you can place the plot anytime and anywhere in the world. The reason for that are racial, ethnic and the class divisions. Similarly if we talk about Macbeth you have the themes of good versus evil, the dangers of ambition and the influence of supernatural powers. All these themes are as relevant today as they were when Shakespeare wrote the play.
- Complex Characters- One of Shakespeare’s biggest strengths was how he wrote his characters. His characters come with distinct behavioral patterns. He presents human beings with all their vices, virtues, strengths and weakness. Because of that his characters feel like living, breathing human beings instead of being superficial. There are times when he allows the mysteries to go unsolved knowing very well that in real life most people don’t know all secrets about their neighbors, their fellow employees or even themselves for that matter.
- Universality- Because his plots and themes have universal appeal every culture has a Macbeth, a Lear, and an Othello. Versions of all his plays have appeared in almost every language. These include Turkish, Japanese, Korean etc.
- Authenticity- because he had vast knowledge obtained through self education and school he used that knowledge in his writings to make them authentic and believable. He was versed with many languages which include Latin, French and Italian. He also knew many subjects like history, medicine, geography, Flora and fauna, politics and government etc. Last but not the least he was also very well acquainted with human nature and that clearly showed in his writings.
- Observations about Humankind- Shakespeare was someone who didn’t mince words about human nature. He openly expressed his observations about humankind without any flattery or political blandishments. Blandishments are a pleasing statement or an action that we do as a means of gently persuading someone to do something for us.
In totality these are some of the reasons which can be attributed to Shakespeare’s universality. Just like Ramayana and Mahabharata his works will continue to be made forever. You will have new filmmakers exploring his stories in their own ways. The latest being Malayalam film Joji which is inspired by Macbeth.
I will end this feature with a big thanks to William Shakespeare. Thank you sir for writing stories which are so relevant even today.