Answering a comparatively simple question, may sometimes help clarify a more difficult one. So by considering why Shakespeare, who wrote four hundred years ago, is more frequently performed than any other dramatist and staged in theatres all around the world, it may be possible to ask how present-day scholarship and criticism, a huge new industry, might best be employed.
Shakespeare's almost universal currency today makes theatre seem a backward-looking art: it has produced no other voice in our own time that is so widely acceptable. The most respected theatre directors turn repeatedly to Shakespeare's scripts as if nothing modern has so fired their imaginations. Giorgio Strehler, Ariane Mnouchkine, Peter Brook, Peter Stein, Suzuki Tadashi, Robert Lepage: all of these, each from a different country, have mined Shakespeare repeatedly for productions that are startling in effect, contentiously modern, and, often, sensuously beautiful as well.
Why should theatre be so fixated on Shakespeare, and variously so, all around the world? The easiest answer is to say that Shakespeare was a very wise man and a genius, but other geniuses of the theatre have not so transcended boundaries of language, race, social customs, politics, religious belief; and few writers of any kind have proved so immune to the changes brought about by time.