Why Should We Teach Shakespeare
The outstanding contribution of William Shakespeare into English and world literature becomes questionable from time to time. Some of modern literary critics as well as teachers of English literature post their thoughts about outdated poetry of the Bard that should not be of great importance today. However, such posts provoke a lot of discussions regarding credibility and value of Shakespeare’s works. The value of Shakespeare’s contribution is not only in the huge literary legacy, but in the creation of entire epoch with important social and personal concepts, which can not lose their significance over time.
Shakespeare who worked and died more than four centuries ago became one of the most outstanding poets of world literature. His works became valuable in literary studies not only for diversity of themes but for the usage of iambic pentameter form in Shakespeare’s sonnets built as a 14-line discussion of an important theme. Sonnet turned to the piece of love used by lovers for centuries. Sonnet itself became the symbol of poetry of love.
Yet, the importance of theme diversity within Shakespeare’s plays can not be omitted. Love, jealousy, honor, betrayal, envy, morality, fear, pride, lust, grief, discrimination, and passion are among the themes of Shakespeare’s works (Strauss par.8). Such themes are immortal and actual even nowadays. Regardless the statement of literary critics about that Shakespeare borrowed the plots from religious texts or ancient mythology, the ideas depicted in his works will guide humans over centuries (Gray par.2). Diverse bright personalities from the works of Bard became symbols of feelings and emotions. Jealous Othello, romantic Romeo, or ruthless Richard III as well as many other Shakespeare’s creations often become characters of modern literature. Moreover, they are characters of everyday life because many threads can be found in ordinary people around.
Depicting realistic characters, his entire works became the basis for diverse modern pieces. Many of them found their reflection in cinema presenting updated Shakespeare’s characters or entire life stories. Musicals West Side Story and 10 Things I Hate About You and <Mean Girls became new interpretations of old stories in popular culture (Gray par.2). Jane Smiley’s novel A Thousand Acres became modern adaptation of Shakespeare in literature with the plot of King Lear plot turned inside out to spectacular effect (Gray par.8). Game of Thrones TV show has been influenced by Shakespearean characters and developed into entire culture phenomena with traces of Lady Macbeth in Cersei, Falstaff in Robert Baratheon, Iago in Littlefinger and some others (Gray par.7).
Shakespeare became the one who created entire culture followed by generations. The basis of Shakespearean cultural phenomena is the question about right or wrong. “To be or not to be” is not only about the possibility of choice but about two sides of one concept, its understanding from opposite viewpoints. In such way, Shakespeare does not tell what to think but teaches how to think (McInnis par.16). To teach thinking is one of the vital tasks of every teacher. Shakespeare’s works become the tool not teach what to do, but suggests possible consequences of the actions. They challenge students to think and find out solutions. His characters and the situations depicted in the works are complex; complex enough to warrant continued investigation today and in the future.
Shakespeare is a great personality of the past, but he also a significant poet of all the times whose sonnets became symbols of love understandable for generations. However, the values of his legacy is not only in the diversity of themes and characters, which are actual throughout centuries, but also in creating entire culture of thinkers who understand moral concepts from two sided dimension. That is why Shakespeare is the one among those worth studying.