Shakespearean Plays vs Contemporary Theater: A Comparison

Shakespearean Plays vs Contemporary Theater: A Comparison

When we think of theater, we often think of William Shakespeare. He is a renowned playwright whose works have stood the test of time. However, with the rise of contemporary theater, we have to ask ourselves how Shakespearean plays stack up against modern-day productions. In this article, we will explore the similarities and differences between Shakespearean plays and contemporary theater.


One of the most notable differences between Shakespearean plays and contemporary theater is the language. Shakespearean plays are written in Middle English, which can be difficult for modern audiences to understand. While the themes and stories of the plays are still relevant, the language itself can be a barrier to entry for some people.

On the other hand, contemporary theater often uses modern language and slang that people can easily relate to. This makes the plays more accessible to a wider audience. However, this can also result in plays that are more superficial and lack the depth and complexity that we see in Shakespearean plays.


Despite the language barrier, Shakespearean plays still resonate with audiences today because of their universal themes. His plays explore the human condition and the complexities of love, death, family, power, and politics. These themes are still relevant today and continue to be explored in contemporary theater.

However, contemporary theater often takes a more experimental approach to themes, exploring topics such as mental illness, gender identity, and technology. They often tackle social and political issues head-on, whereas Shakespearean plays often suggest the issues without explicitly stating them.


Shakespearean plays are known for their iconic characters, such as Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Lady Macbeth. These characters are complex and multi-dimensional, with flaws and virtues that make them relatable to audiences.

Contemporary theater also has iconic characters, but they are often more flawed and less idealistic than Shakespearean characters. They are often representative of the flaws and issues present in modern society. For example, the character of Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" represents the corrupt and empty American dream.


Finally, the production of Shakespearean plays and contemporary theater plays differs greatly. Shakespearean plays were often produced in the round, with minimal sets and costumes. The focus was on the language and the actors, rather than the production itself.

In contrast, contemporary theater often has elaborate sets, costumes, and special effects. This is partly due to the influence of film and television, which have raised audience expectations for visual spectacle.


In conclusion, while Shakespearean plays and contemporary theater have their differences, they both have their place in the world of theater. Shakespearean plays have stood the test of time and continue to speak to audiences today, while contemporary theater pushes the boundaries of what theater can be and explores issues that are relevant to our modern society. Both have their merits and their limitations, but both are vital to the world of theater.