Why Study Shakespeare?
by Rachel Mendell
Why do you consider Shakespeare to be helpful in High School? I know how important he is, but why? How does Shakespeare help teens for the present and future? M
First, there’s a new tape out that my kids just LOVE. The sexual innuendoes
are lost on my munchkins but the slapstick is great. The Reduced Shakespeare Company Does the Complete Works of Shakespeare. Some of your readers may not appreciate it, so perhaps it should be viewed by the parent/educator first. That’s what I always do. They start with a biography and then Romeo and Juliet. Then they go through the comedies, histories (using a foot ball – too cool), then Macbeth with tons or RRRRRRRRRRRRRR. Then a short mention of the sonnets. Then after intermission they do Hamlet. Then Hamlet in 30 seconds. Then Hamlet in 10 seconds. Then Hamlet backwards. Of course, I’m rolling on the floor….. You should take a peek anyway….
Second, if you can read and understand Shakespeare, you can read and
understand almost anything (although you may have problems in quantum physics).
Shakespeare can be used as a pivot point for mythology (Midsummer’s Night Dream), marriage, Greek Tragedy (Titus Andronicus), Italian Comedy, Elizabethan culture and history, Catholicism, and English history. Then, of course, there’s the poetry rhymed and unrhymed (iambic pentameter). If you can write a Shakespearean sonnet (there are other forms like Italian), you can write any kind of poem. Scottish history (Macbeth), the world of fantasy (fairies, monsters, ghosts, sprites, witches, as in The Tempest, Midsummer’s Night Dream, Hamlet). Want an exhaustive list? Give me a week or two…
Third, there is one book out and one book ready to come out this year on Shakespeare and the Bible. He refers to SO many characters in the Bible, morals, and principles, not to mention the use of Types of Christ.
Fourth, the language is challenging. The sentences are tight and concise.
A study of drama MUST include Shakespeare, since he was THE BEST playwright in the world. Did you know he is translated in to hundreds of languages? He is an international star. (Can you imagine Shakespeare in Kabuki theatre? in Japanese?)
Fifth, Shakespeare is a master of plot. If you do anything at all with Shakespeare, study the stories. He ties up all his loose ends. Of character. If I saw Falstaff on the street, I would KNOW him. Hamlet too.
Lastly, Shakespeare is LOGICAL. He presents a knot and then unties it. ALL kids should have logic in high school or at home during those years. Logic keeps us from throwing our money away, marrying a jerk, following after fools, and making intelligent life choices.
Someone that would ask, “Why do you study Shakespeare?” hasn’t really taken the time to know him. Once you give yourself the patience to get into the language YOU ARE HOOKED and other literature pales.
There are other masters that are worth studying. I have heard there is one who wrote in Hindi, not translated. Hopefully some day. Every nation has it’s master. Shakespeare is the most accessible to English speaking folk.
People who have studied Shakespeare:
- Have a broader view of the world in general.
- Have little trouble in other literature classes.
- Do well in logic and philosophy.
- Appreciate other art forms as well: music, drama, art, costume, writing.
- Have an easier time grasping the concepts of character, plot, irony, universal truth, advanced vocabulary, etc.
- Usually go on to college studies; can better judge what is a good book.
- Understand concepts in clear speaking.
- Have a broader view of important historical events.
- Have a greater understanding of human nature (greed, faithfulness, love, power, gentleness, poor choices, honesty, integrity, popularity, danger, patriotism, selfishness, self-sacrifice, etc.)
Have you heard this one?
‘If all the world’s a stage, WE NEED MORE REHEARSALS!