What would Shakespeare make of Harry Potter?

Shakespeare is the most celebrated English writer of all time. He’s invented words and expressions that have helped shape the language as we know it today. What would he make of modern English, though? When it comes to modern writers in English, few can match the fame of JK Rowling. Although most famous for writing children’s books, if Shakespeare were alive today, he would certainly notice her popularity. So, if Shakespeare were alive today, what would he make of her most famous books, the Harry Potter series.

Would he be reading and writing books?

Shakespeare was a playwright, not an author of novels. His plays were popular and appealed to a wide range of people. If he were alive today, would he be reading books? Maybe not. Maybe he would be seeking a larger audience through media where he could reach a large audience quickly and where they could enjoy his work in a spoken form, as intended. Maybe he would be a YouTube star. The most poetic vlogger on the internet!

Accessible but with deeper meaning

I think Shakespeare would be impressed with how simple the Harry Potter books are to read but that they had enough depth to them to engage adults as well as children. Shakespeare’s plays we’re watched by a wide range of people, all of whom understood them on a different level. There are simple jokes to keep some people entertained and some more complex messages that would require an understanding of history or high culture to get.

Not so poetic

Modern English isn’t as poetic as Shakespeare’s. In most modern storytelling, the focus is on plot and direct language without the structured rhythms common in many parts of Shakespeare’s work. He’d not find much of it in the Harry Potter books and might prefer to listen to some rap to get his dose of poetry.

I’ll put a spell on you

Although not actually in English, the spells are some of the most famous words in Harry Potter. Fans might shout ‘Arresto Momentum’ instead of ‘stop’. As the man who wrote one of the most famous spells in the English language, though, Shakespeare could take some pride to know that his spell ‘Double, double toil and trouble’ is still the go-to phrase for anyone pretending to be a witch in English.

A reflection of real life

Shakespeare’s plays were often set in fantastic circumstances or historic circumstances but despite their distance from reality, people can relate to them. Likewise, none of us has been to a school for wizards but most of us can see at least one character we relate to in the Harry Potter books.

A bit of something new

There are over 1700 words invented or coined by Shakespeare that are still in common use today. I think he’d be quietly impressed with words like ‘Muggles’ and ‘Quidditch’ that JK Rowling invented.

What do you think, though? What would Shakespeare think of the Harry Potter books? Would he be reading or would he be busy uploading his latest skits to YouTube instead? Share your answers in the comments below.

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