Literary Birthday: William Shakespeare

Centuries after the passing of William Shakespeare (born today in 1564), there are almost as many superlatives appended to his writing as there have been productions of his work. Whole swaths of libraries are devoted to studies of his plays, which regularly top lists of the greatest works ever produced in the English language.

But it is possible that with his book Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, the great critic Harold Bloom may have topped just about all of the plaudits hurled at the Bard. Bloom argues in essence that during the time that Shakespeare was writing, so little serious thought had yet been turned to the human condition without being seen through the lens of religion, that his insights about character were nearly as critical as anything conjured up by scholars and philosophers. “Shakespeare will go on explaining us,” Bloom writes, “in part because he invented us.”