'The God of our Idolatry' Shakespeare's Fame

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In 2016, the four-hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare's birth was celebrated.

From China to South America, India to sub-Saharan Africa, Shakespeare's plays and poems are studied in schools and performed in theatres. How did we get here? Why is Shakespeare compulsory in every English literature syllabus? Why is this playwright, more than any other English writer, so famous? This module will try and answer some of these questions by returning to eighteenth-century England, the period in which Shakespeare rose to fame for the first time.

This module is in several parts: once you have read the brief section about the eighteenth century in general, feel free to tackle the following sections in any order:

- The Price of Shakespeare, which discusses the role played by economic factors in making Shakespeare famous
- Shakespeare's Ladies and Shakespeare's Morals, which explores the social context of Shakespeare's celebrity, in particular the belief that his work could improve people's morals.
- David Garrick, which looks at the influence of the eighteenth-century Britain's most famous actor on Shakespeare's status.
- Adaptation, which analyses the many versions of Shakespeare's plays printed and performed in the period.

The conclusion of this unit traces modern parallels for these historic events, and ask larger questions about celebrity and literature, and why we read or watch the things we do.

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