Part 11 out of 11
ascertaining what effect he produced upon the life of his time. Until
after his death his influence was mainly direct, upon the play-goers,
and confined to his auditors. He had been dead seven years before his
plays were collected. However the people of his day regarded him, it is
safe to say that they could not have had any conception of the importance
of the work he was doing. They were doubtless satisfied with him.
It was a great age for romances and story-telling, and he told stories,
old in new dresses, but he was also careful to use contemporary life,
which his hearers understood.
It is not to his own age, but to those following, and especially to our
own time, that we are to look for the shaping and enormous influence upon
human life of the genius of this poet. And it is measured not by the
libraries of comments that his works have called forth, but by the
prevalence of the language and thought of his poetry in all subsequent
literature, and by its entrance into the current of common thought and
speech. It may be safely said that the English-speaking world and almost
every individual of it are different from what they would have been if
Shakespeare had never lived. Of all the forces that have survived out of
his creative time, he is one of the chief.