We often hear that "Shakespeare is universal," but what does that mean? Does it mean that his art is good and true for all people in all places in all times? Stated as such, it is highly unlikely that Shakespeare’s art – or anyone’s – is universal, and of course the argument for Shakespeare’s universality is demonstrably false. Our skepticism about Shakespeare's universality, however, should not preclude our recognition of Shakespeare's versatility. Even if not universal, Shakespeare is versatile. His art has been enjoyed and experienced by many different people in many ways in many different times.
Below is a sampling of the ways that Shakespeare has surfaced across the many different academic disciplines. In rhetoric and composition studies, we often talk about writing across the curriculum (WAC) as a way to show how the skills and habits of good interpretation and argumentation are relevant in disciplines other than literary studies. Shakespeare is too. The versatility of his art has made him into a major player in fields far beyond literary studies.