Shakespeare as a Universal Poet

Shakespeare as a Universal Poet

Literature has a universal appeal so as the poetry of the poet William Shakespeare. It is universal, therefore, read and accepted by every person living anywhere around the globe. Religions, customs, and social issues cannot interfere with literature if it is written on the basis of human nature. Although to some extent, culture and society are mingled in literature yet the purpose of a poet, said Aristotle, is to imitate life. Every poet imitates life through his talent, experience, knowledge and observation.

Thomas Hardy sees nature as an enemy of humans whereas William Wordsworth praises its beauty. It does not mean that Thomas Hardy is superior and Wordsworth an inferior poet or vice versa. Both have different points of view with respect to life. Every writer and poet has a universal purpose and that is to depict life in form of words.

Shakespeare as a Universal Poet

Shakespeare is not different from common writers and poets in this regard. He also imitates life; however, his thinking is vast. Nevertheless, the poet William Shakespeare is also universal so far as his contribution to writing poetry is concerned. Technology has advanced with the passage of time. Lots of changes have been made in every field of life; however, human nature has not changed since the creation of mankind. William Shakespeare depicts human nature in his poems which is common for every poet.

It is the only reason he is translated and read over the world. If today’s students of literature continuously study poet William Shakespeare the reason behind it is the universal themes in his poems. In spite of having different religions, customs, cultures and languages, his poetry is being discussed in every corner of the world. Ben Jonson Said:

“He was not of an age but for all time!”

Ben Johnson – English playwright

Universal Themes in Poetry of Poet W Shakespeare

It is crystal clear that one of the major reasons Shakespeare is an eminent poet is because of the depiction of universal themes in his poems and plays. Some common themes in the poetry and plays of William Shakespeare are:

  • Human sentiments
  • Lust
  • Greed
  • Jealousy
  • Hatred
  • Separation
  • Love
  • Morality
  • Death

Is lust devastated nowadays? Does jealousy not exist in humans? Has greed been overpowered? Is there no emotion of love, morality and hatred in humans nowadays?

Shakespeare’s work is apparent that he talks about the aforementioned issues and human sentiments. The poet William Shakespeare did not want to convey a universal message only to people of his era but who were yet to come. He has knowledge about human nature and the psyche though it was not the branch of science in those days.

Common Subject Matters in Sonnets

In addition, Shakespeare’s sonnets cover themes:

  • Passage of time,
  • Love,
  • Beauty
  • Mortality

His prominent poems grab the attention of readers. For example, in one of his poems titled “The Rape of Lucrece”, he portrays lust. The poem is about the innocent lady Lucrece, who has been raped because his husband discusses her physical appearance with his friends. He frankly declares his wife beautiful and chaste in front of his friends.

Everlasting Freshness in his Poetry

Time has passed but the universality of this poem is intact. Similarly, another poem by William Shakespeare “The Phoenix and Turtle” explores the theme of death. Likewise, in another poem titled “Venus and Adonis”, the poet William Shakespeare talks about universal themes of love and separation. The poem illustrates a love relationship between a human and a goddess. It is the story of a mortal and an immortal. The poet also depicts natural pastoral life. Venus was the goddess of love whereas Adonis was a hunter. Venus fell in love with Adonis. Subsequently lost him and eventually returned to the world of gods.

The poet schematises themes of love, lust and separation. Indeed, these are common and universal themes. Not only these poems but also his sonnets as well as plays have common themes which are rich in universal themes.

Most of the work of Shakespeare is secular. He hardly points out religious issues nor does he discusses any social issue. He is a man of letters who knows how to convince and paint human nature in form of words. It is the major difference between history and literature that literature appeals to everyone because it elaborates on everyone’s emotions, whereas history discusses only events. Shakespeare mainly focuses on emotions and less on events, therefore, many eminent critics declare him a universal poet of all ages


In short, only the Elizabethan period was not the age of Shakespeare. Shakespeare is alive and with us even today in literary form. His work is translated and filmed in many modern languages not only because it is the best but also because it contains universal themes. Elaboration of the human heart, spirit, feelings and nature are the main ingredients, which are noticeable in his poetry.

Greece literature is read and discussed today because of its universality. Similarly, the poetry of the greatest poet of history William Shakespeare cannot be declared stale as it would forever be praised due to the illustration of universal subject matters. Thus, the universality of life in his poetry makes him a universal poet.