Home > Multimedia Essays > Rizal, the Philippines’ Shakespeare

Rizal, the Philippines’ Shakespeare

For this entry, I wanted to write something different; something that I haven’t encountered as I researched on William Shakespeare. I found it difficult at first because Shakespeare is EVERYWHERE, literally everywhere– in books, as figurines, in commercials and even as lollipops (seriously, shakespeare lollipops? That’s so creative!).

Then it hit me. During our History class, we were talking about Dr. Jose Rizal, the National Hero of the Philippines. Our teacher said that Rizal has been adapted into so many ways. There are even those Rizalista who treat Jose Rizal as a god or a prophet. This reminded me of William Shakespeare. Just as how William Shakespeare is everywhere, Jose Rizal is everywhere as well.

Both Shakespeare and Rizal have famous works. They both wrote poems that are remembered and are so influential up to this very day. Rizal however was more political in a way that all his works centered to what was happening the Philippines during the colonization of the Spaniards in the country. Both of these men have become influential worldwide. Just like William Shakespeare, I guess we can consider Jose Rizal a renaissance man.

Just like Shakespeare, Rizal is very present to us up to this day. In the Philippines, you can find Rizal in T-shirts, figurines and even in coins. Both of them even appeared in 1999 video game Medal of Honor as a secret character in multiplayer as mentioned by Bren Nolasco in his essay, Jose Rizal: The Last Renaissance Man.

Just like how we have made different versions of Shakespeare’s plays, we have also made different versions of Rizal’s famous novels such as Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. Everyone knows Rizal like how everyone knows Shakespeare.

Shakespeare and Jose Rizal are two different people that have both left a great legacy in the world. They have influenced the world in their own ways. I find it hard to consider one greater than another because they are both great in their own way.

here are some pictures of how Rizal is adapted in the Philippines today just like how Shakespeare has been adapted everywhere and in everything. (Disclaimer: none of these photos belong to me, sadly.)

Rizal being cool with Raybands on.

Rizal in shirts!

Even in key chains!









He even has a Facebook account!



Even the famous, Carlos Celdran dressed up like Rizal.




Dr. Jose Rizal and the great William Shakespeare have both conquered the world, most especially that of pop culture. They are both vital factors in media and they are still very much alive up to this day. We both know them in our own ways and so will the future generations as well.

Josefa Atayde


Categories: Multimedia Essays
  1. irviglesias
    March 20, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    While the impact of both writers on their respective cultures and societies is undeniable, I think that it’s important to point out the differences between Shakespeare and Rizal as well.

    For one, Shakespeare was born into relatively unfavorable circumstances and barely had an education; he finished our equivalent of grade school and went no further. Rizal’s family was landed and he had a thorough formal education, from basic education at the Ateneo to medicine at UST. For another, I don’t know if Shakespeare traveled anywhere farther than London or the surrounding area, while in contrast, Rizal’s travels worldwide are well documented. Shakespeare was mainly a playwright, while Rizal achieved much as an author, doctor, athlete and visual artist, among others (would this mean he’s more of a Renaissance man than Shakespeare? IDK).

    Lastly (and I think this is most important), as we’ve learned in class, Shakespeare’s one be-all and end-all, aside from (probably) artistic integrity, was MONEY. His plays were and are staged for entertainment and most probably education as well, but mainly they were staged so he could maintain his company’s upkeep as well as the lifestyle of his family. In contrast, Rizal’s political agenda in his two novels almost stares you in the face. Although he and his family did fall on hard times eventually, I don’t think he ever wanted for money as much as Shakespeare did, and while profit may have been a priority for him when he had “Noli” and “Fili” published, his top priority was giving the friars a stroke.

    Personally, I think Shakespeare and Rizal shouldn’t be compared. As far as I know our closest equivalent to a Shakespeare is Francisco Balagtas. He may not have written 37 plays that are performed worldwide in over ten languages and his face might not be on a thong but “Florante at Laura” has reached textbook status and “Orosman at Zafira” is a popular play. Also he lends his name to the “Balagtasan”.

  2. March 20, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Thanks for that πŸ™‚ yes i definitely agree with you. However, I did this because I wanted to emphasize how similar they are in terms of pop culture and media (transmedial) and also the great influence they have left behind. Rizal is used to make money by producing shirts, key chains, etc. Thank you though! Greatly appreciated! πŸ™‚

  3. March 22, 2011 at 4:25 am

    I think maybe the article should have emphasized the differences more before plunging on a comparison of Shakespeare and Rizal. As much as I would encourage the idea that they are casts of the same mold, I think we have to honestly realize that the ubiquity of Shakespeare is quite another thing from that of Rizal’s. Maybe the essay should have made more prominent the fact, and this is really what it ended up in accomplishing, that what is being conjuncted is not so much Shakespeare and Rizal as writers, poets or philosophers, or even as persons, but their transmediality and the power of their influences outside literature such as advertising and merchandise.

    The reason why this confusion occurred, I imagine, is the unfortunate phrasing of your essay’s title. Calling Rizal the “Shakespeare of the Philippines” is very problematic, in more ways than can be imagined. Calling his transmedial reach as amounting to something like Shakespeare’s, on the other hand, is a bit more accurate, and therefore, easier to believe. Nevertheless the general point of your work is clear. Cheers.

  4. chubbyteddy
    March 23, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    I think the difference between Rizal and Shakespeare is what they signify. Rizal signifies, nationality and revolution. On the other hand, Shakespeare signifies high culture that is why he is used in advertisements — to show sophistication.

    Shakespeare, nowadays belong to the middle class. I think the lower classes do not know him. But Rizal, every Filipino from whatever class knows Rizal.

    There may be similarities between the two but I don’t agree that Rizal is the Philippines’ Shakespeare simply because Rizal played a different role from Shakespeare.

  5. jbd
    March 24, 2011 at 8:00 am

    It’s great that this essay want to showcase “Shakespeare of the Philippines.” However, I agree that Rizal and Shakespeare have more differences than similarities. The others have pointed out those differences already and I just would like to add a trivia.. when I typed “Shakespeare of the Philippines” in Google, I didn’t get Jose Rizal. Instead, Francisco Balagtas came up. πŸ™‚ Though, I agree with you that when it comes to popularity and people patronizing them after their death, they’re both alike.

  6. March 24, 2011 at 11:40 am

    I think you were pushing too much of Shakespeare in Rizal, when both are two different individuals from two different spheres across the globe. Sidedish: The greatness of Rizal is actually accounted by the institutions we have here in the Philippines who places him on the pedestal. We must remember that his representations of this nation is ancient. Therefore, its not applicable anymore to the hybrid identities all Filipinos possess. Shakespeare’s not hybrid. He’s white, Anglo-Saxon, Catholic.

    Aside from these, (if I will be following Timothy Brennan) there is still a need for a new national allegory that shall represent the real Philippines, not just a mirrored image from the past.

    • March 25, 2011 at 6:15 pm

      by saying that Rizal’s “representations of the nation is ancient,” do you mean to say that his struggles are those which prove irrelevant to our present times? well, i would like to disagree on that. i do agree with you that somehow, the essay was kinda pushing rizal too much to be a “shakespeare,” but i believe that it would also be injustice to simply discount rizal that way just because he does not come close to being a “shakespeare.”

  7. jkevin13
    March 24, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    I am sorry I have to agree with most of what they have said above, especially the problematic nature of the statement that Rizal is our Shakespeare. Honestly, I do not think that Rizal is.

    On your argument that they are both popular–

    They are popular in different ways: Rizal is a national icon for heroism and democracy, thus objects that has a Rizal photo on them (especially) are marketed as such. He is more valued by the people as a hero than as a writer.

    Shakespeare, on the other hand, is marketed for his literature, for the products of his transmedial reach (i.e. movies, etc.), or just because of him. Though he is seen as a national figure for UK (or England), he represents more himself than the country he represents.

    But well, you have good points on their similarities, though πŸ™‚

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