Shakespeare was the first writer to create characters who talk to themselves; his characters were the first to have complicated inner lives characterised by self-questioning, division, confusion, contradiction. Today, we think of this as just what people are. But in Shakespeare’s day, Bloom says, this was a radical new understanding of humanity; people simply did not experience life like that before Shakespeare.
More specifically, Shakespeare was the first writer to show characters changing as a result of talking to themselves. “Literary character before Shakespeare is relatively unchanging; women and men are represented as aging and dying, but not as changing because their relationship to themselves, rather than to the gods or God, has changed. In Shakespeare, characters develop rather than unfold, and they develop because they reconceive themselves. Sometimes this comes about because they overhear themselves talking, whether to themselves or to others. Self-overhearing is their royal road to individuation…”