Shakespeare has remained arguably the world’s most well known writer, ever since he was producing comedies that are still funny today and tragedies that are still heart wrenching. But could there be a modern day equivalent we might imagine staying similarly as popular even centuries after their existence?
It is interesting to consider contributory factors to Shakespeare’s longevity. One would be the sheer volume of works that he produced. Another would be that not all writers from his era achieved fame while they were still alive, whereas he did. Because he achieved great status and popularity, a vast amount of his work was printed, and all of it in large quantities – far more in comparison to his contemporaries. As such his work was also much more accessible to the masses. A lot of his material was protected and survived because he was already a famous figure. Again, this was definitely not the case for many of his fellow writers, many of whose work has been largely lost or forgotten.
There are of course far more published and well-known writers on the shelves today, all in much more competition for public attention. To be considered a modern-day equivalent probably requires more than merely producing fantastic texts. Perhaps a modern equivalent to Shakespeare is not necessarily even a writer in the strictest sense. And perhaps they are someone who has made a significant societal impact through their work or actions, that will continue to be talked about.
An obvious choice would be Akala, who refers to himself as ‘the black Shakespeare’. Akala is a powerful figure in the 21st Century with important political and moral messages, which he presents on television and in talks to various audiences whilst his initial fame grew from his time as a rapper. He is now an incredibly well-respected figure and certainly a positive role model. He is a beautiful writer as well as someone who can contribute to the development of society. What makes Akala stand out is his fierce intelligence and the eloquent manner in which he is able to present his views.
Now for a more controversial choice; Kanye West. I am not drawing a comparison between the work of West and Akala, I think the latter has far more credibility and is better at presenting his views. However, I am comparing the impact that both have on our society. West’s fame is certainly undeniable and he has produced a vast amount of works in both music and clothing. He has millions of fans around the world and a huge online presence. He addresses issues such as racism and crime in his music. He has an important message and has found a voice to deliver this. One of the great things about West is that he gets people talking. Encouraging debate to address inequality can only be good thing.
So Akala and Kanye West are two people that I think could be equated to Shakespeare. Do you agree with either of my suggestions? Can you think of someone better suited? Comment below and let me know your thoughts.
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Rebecca is an English Literature and Philosophy graduate from the University of Leeds. She has always loved reading and writing, and these continue to be an important part of both her professional and personal life. Rebecca has a particular interest in Contemporary African Literature and is passionate about helping others to diversify the books that they read.