The World Sans Shakespeare

In the discussion in an older article from a few months ago, one comment brings up a point that got me thinking. I’d like to pose it to you all in a more prominent spot.

What if Shakespeare’s works never existed or didn’t survive? Who would we be reading/acting/studying?

We have John Heminges and Henry Condell to thank for Shakespeare’s prominence in literature in drama around the world today. All because of the Folio they published. But what if none of that had happened? Which of Shakespeare’s contemporaries would hold the spotlight today?

Who would students be complaining about studying instead? Johnson? Marlowe? Fletcher? Beaumont? Would we have Middleton festival theatres around the world? Or none of these? Maybe we’d have a list of the top three Elizabethan poets. Might society today instead look past Elizabethan and Jacobean drama and study Dryden instead? Or maybe later still all the way to George Bernard Shaw. Who knows?

It could make for an interesting episode of The Twilight Zone.