Friday, September 17, 2010

Guest Post: Anne Fortier, author of Juliet

Anne Fortier grew up in Denmark and emigrated to the United States in 2002 to work in film. She co-produced the Emmy-winning documentary Fire and Ice: The Winter War of Finland and Russia and holds a Ph.D. in the History of Ideas from Aarhus University in Denmark. The story of Juliet was inspired by Anne Fortier’s mother, who always considered Verona her true home … until she discovered Siena. You can visit Anne Fortier’s website at

The Bard Forever

People often ask me what it is about Shakespeare that has made him – probably – the most famous English writer of all time. I am no expert, but even if I were, I suspect the answer would be anything but simple.

It is true that when we look at Elizabethan theatre, Shakespeare was but one of several gifted playwrights at large at the time, and we might well ask ourselves why almost all of his contemporaries are now forgotten. Even the 1998 film classic `Shakespeare in Love` (which I highly recommend to anyone who has not yet seen it) makes it clear that the Bard had a very able rival in fellow playwright Marlowe, and Marlowe was by no means the only one.

Part of the explanation for the survival and success of Shakespeare`s oeuvre might be that he had very persuasive advocates in later generations; certain famous actors – such as Edmund Kean – deftly promoted their own career while honoring their favourite playwright, and certain poets and writers – such as Coleridge and Keats  – who were clearly indebted to the Bard happened to become extremely popular in their own right. To speak in business terms, we might say that Shakespeare came to dominate the market because he happened to have excellent multipliers; that he went viral long before anyone knew what that meant.

That said, obviously the bulk of the answer lies in Shakespeare`s own genius. After all, old hats generally don`t go viral. In all his plays and sonnets the Bard addresses universal themes such as love, love lost, friendship and betrayal, and steers clear of elements that pin him down in time and space. Even his historical plays feature characters that delineate the essential human passions, and this is undoubtedly why his work has been able to travel across all time and all cultures with relative ease.

And so I believe this is why Shakespeare continues to be so popular: There are as many possible interpretations of his lines as there are directors, actors, and readers; we can all identify with the characters, and yet they will always surprise us.

For more about this author, please visit:


Many thanks to Anne Fortier for this thoughtful post, and to Pump Up Your Book Promotions for arranging the tour!

I completely agree with Anne. Shakespeare managed to crystallize something essential about human nature that speaks to us across space and time. He has pervaded our culture with his invented words and powerful turns of phrase - we often quote Shakespeare and don't even realize it! I'm a huge fan of the Bard and have been reading a lot of his works of late, so Juliet and this post couldn't have come at a more fitting time. I'm so glad I could share this with my readers.

Why do you think Shakespeare's popularity has endured through the ages?


Molly said...

This one is next on my list! I CAN"T WAIT TO START IT!!!

While I'm here, I wanted to let you know that I changed my blog title, but in thinking that it would coincide well with the title, I change my URL. NOT A SMART MOVE ON MY PART! LoL! So, if you were following my blog under the old URL, could you pretty please unfollow me and refollow me at the new url of I'd appreciate it! THANK YOU!!!!

Melissa said...

Shakespeare was certainly a genius, but I think that Anne Fortier makes an interesting point when she aligns part of his staying power with the fact that other canonical writers preferred Shakespeare to the other Renaissance playwrights. History gets written in a particular way for a reason, of course.

Still, I think that, ultimately, as Fortier mentioned, it's the universality that matters most.

Casey (The Bookish Type) said...

I thought that was a really interesting point too, Melissa! It seems like much of literary history is a very linear progression - each age had its one voice that was heard above all others. It seems like it's only been the case in recent history that multiple authors have withstood the test of time - mainly in the Victorian age when English literature was really on the rise (in my Victorian-lit-loving opinion ;-)) I think part of Shakespeare's popularity came from his rich characters. Even villains like Richard III are an actor's dream! Shakespeare wrote acting into the characters themselves, making them ideal for re-creation on stage, and thus making them more likely to last - especially when theatre was no longer demonized.

I really appreciate you taking the time to leave a thoughtful comment!

You Might Also Like:

Related Posts with Thumbnails