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Exploring the Impact of Shakespeare on Modern English

by Claire Morris

Image Credit: Unsplash

Exploring the Impact of Shakespeare on Modern English

William Shakespeare is a poet, playwright, actor, and important figure who shaped the English language. Though many people are unaware that he invented some words, he significantly impacted theater, cinema, and language. We still use many words presented by Shakespeare. 

Many students learn about him as part of their detailed English literature study notes. Both native and non-native speakers study his creations, and considering what an influential writer he was, it makes perfect sense. His creative language use made English more sophisticated and expressive. But how did Shakespeare influence the English language? Read our article to find out more about his contributions and impact. 

The Impact Shakespeare Had on the English Language

Shakespeare's influence on the English language cannot be denied. His unique works and new words introduced English into the global language we know today. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Shakespeare's works helped standardize English grammar and rules

Some claim he was the first to use about 1,700 new words he created by borrowing vocabulary from other languages. He added prefixes and suffixes, switching verbs into nouns, and so on. Little did people at the time know that the new words and phrases would enter the English language and remain there for the following centuries. Some words he invented were added to Samuel Johnson's "A Dictionary of the English Language". 

He provided numerous instances of words still commonly used today in his writings. For example, Shakespeare created the word "gloomy" by transforming a verb into an adjective. However, some more words and phrases became very familiar to his audience, including:

  • Radiance
  • Blanket
  • In a pickle
  • Watchdog
  • Wild goose chase
  • Courtship
  • Rant

Shakespeare and the Words He Contributed to the English Language

So, how many words did Shakespeare contribute to the English language? When people learn about the writer's impact on language, they frequently ask themselves this question. Our English vocabulary is so vast today thanks to his contributions, but not all students understand how precious he was for the development of the language. 

English was a language that had been standardized before Shakespeare started creating his plays. But once his works took off, standardizing English vocabulary, spelling, and grammar began. People need to be made aware that Shakespeare added 1,700 original words into the English language, as well as numerous phrases. We still use many of them today, despite the English language's changes since his time. Some of these words and phrases include:

  • Heart of gold
  • Frugal
  • Lonely
  • Undress
  • Birthplace
  • Break the ice

Besides this, he influenced literature and poetry - for example, the blank verse became a standard thanks to him. He is the one who perfected it. As such, many writers had Shakespeare as their influence, including Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, Herman Melville, and many others. 

How Did William Shakespeare Impact the World?

Learning all these details, you might wonder: what influence has Shakespeare had on modern culture? When students go deeper into the poet and playwright's life and work, they must be made aware of how fundamental he was for global literature and culture aside from the English language. 

Nowadays, his works are still studied in various organizations and schools across the planet. It took some time for his works to be added to school curricula, as this happened only in the late 1700s. Students from Harvard even began reading his creations alone, then demanded the addition of his works into their studies. 

William Shakespeare's works inspired different plays and movies. Many used traditional storylines and adapted them in unique ways. Even authors, screenwriters, and film producers took advantage of Shakespeare's genius, reimagining different plots in books, movies, and more. 

The Influence Shakespeare Had on Modern Culture

Many people who study Shakespeare wonder, "How did William Shakespeare impact the world?" Well, he had an influence not only on the English language but also on modern culture. He was the one who further enlarged the idea of genre, plot development, and characterization. Moreover, he was the first author to link tragedy and romance in a lasting way. Tragic events, in his opinion, required a relationship. 

Many film adaptations and stage productions worldwide keep exploring Shakespeare and bringing his works to life for new generations to see and learn. His creations served as inspiration for a number of works, including:

  • Romeo + Juliet (1996)
  • Richard III (1995)
  • Julius Caesar (1953)
  • King Lear (1970)

Some books and films that reimagined his works are:

  • Brave New World (1931)
  • Moby Dick (1851)
  • The Lion King (1994)
  • Deliver Us from Eva (2003)


So, how did Shakespeare change the English language? Simply put, he introduced new words and phrases and helped standardize English. Overall, the world would have been different today if William Shakespeare hadn't created his amazing works. 

He influenced the world of theater, literature, and movies by exploring different techniques and ideas. At the same time, he changed the English language. Shakespeare introduced new words and phrases that are still used today, and students will keep studying him for a very long time moving forward.


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