Iâ€™m guessing the majority of you donâ€™t jump up and down with excitement when you hear â€œShakespeare.â€ Maybe you do, but if so, I guarantee that most people probably think youâ€™re strange. Sorry.
Most people hear â€œShakespeareâ€ and groan. This attitude most likely comes from a bad Shakespeare experience, probably in high school, and probably with that dear play, â€œRomeo and Juliet.â€ In which case, I canâ€™t say I blame you. Why society has decided that Shakespeare is best experienced through that play, I donâ€™t know.
Getting to know Shakespeare through â€œRomeo and Julietâ€ is like getting to know â€œStar Warsâ€ through the â€œPhantom Menace.â€ Itâ€™s not necessarily horrible (though when it comes to Jar Jar Binks, that point is certainly debatable), but itâ€™s nobodyâ€™s favorite.
When it comes to Shakespeare, I donâ€™t think heâ€™s properly appreciated. Call me an English dork if you will â€”and you may be entirely correct in doing so â€” but Shakespeare should not be pushed aside as some old stuffy literature for old stuffy men with their pipes and bathrobes.
In fact, have you seen the movie â€œSheâ€™s the Man?â€ You know, that 2006 film in which weâ€™re supposed to believe that Amanda Bynes in a wig and baggy jeans would pass as a teenage guy? Yeah, that one. Did you know it was based on Shakespeareâ€™s play, the â€œTwelfth Nightâ€? True story, bro.
And the â€œWest Side Story?â€ Itâ€™s â€œRomeo and Juliet,â€ except in New York. With gangs. Or what about â€œ10 Things I Hate About You,â€ which has immortalized Heath Ledger singing â€œCanâ€™t Take My Eyes Off of Youâ€ from the high school bleachers? Classic. And also based on a Shakespeare play, the â€œTaming of the Shrew.â€ I donâ€™t know about you, but I consider it pretty impressive that some guy in the 16th century wrote a story that is still relevant and enjoyable for a 21st-century teenage audience. Several stories, actually.
You may never love Shakespeare; I know that. And Iâ€™m not asking for that. After all, I only have 400 words to make my point. But hear me out. You want to read something entertaining? Something funny? Violent? Sexy? Heart-wrenching? As counter-intuitive as it may seem, try out some Shakespeare â€“â€“ outside of your high school English classroom.
Just leave that whole experience behind. And yes, I did just refer to Shakespeare as â€œsexy.â€ Deal with it.
I think that, in order to sound intellectual, Iâ€™m supposed to assert that I like Shakespeare. And I do, when performed or modernized. Heck, â€œThe Tale of Edgar Sawtelleâ€ was one of the best books Iâ€™ve ever read, and in my honest opinion, anyone who claims not to like â€œThe Lion Kingâ€ is lying. (Apparently I have a thing for â€œHamlet.â€ Go figure.)
But something about reading him in his print format always drove me nuts. As interesting as the story sounded, and as much as I tried to will myself to just get to the end of the act, I couldnâ€™t do it. I always ended up reading a summary online, or even going into class blind. I seem to recall having spelled â€œGrumioâ€ in the most atrocious fashion imaginable and asserting that redemption was a major theme of â€œTwelfth Night.â€
Like I said, I donâ€™t dislike his stuff on principle. (Or the stuff attributed to him; Iâ€™m sure any reader whoâ€™s made it this far is aware that his dominion over all plays to his name is suspect.) I do think itâ€™s cool that heâ€™s still relevant about 400 years later. Butâ€¦
Call me a plebeian, or some other such highbrow term of condescension, but I just donâ€™t devote my leisure time to dead text. On the rare occasion that I have time to read, Iâ€™d like to read something that doesnâ€™t force me to decipher 16th-century lingo and culture, sometimes incorrectly.
â€œO God, your only jig-maker! What should a man do but be merry?/For look you how cheerfully my mother looks, and my father died within’s two hoursâ€ (Hamlet III, 2, 2005). Is that a bad thing? Probably. But in ninth grade English, I wasnâ€™t quite sure. At least, I thought it would be nice for him to appreciate that his mom wasnâ€™t going to mope around for years.
But yeah. As long as I have time to read, it may as well be something a little more accessible, and a little more enjoyable. If you ask me, thereâ€™s nothing wrong with modernizing a story thatâ€™s supposed to be relevant to a modern audience anyway.
Thereâ€™s nothing wrong with people who like to read Shakespeare for fun, of course. Just like thereâ€™s nothing wrong with people who enjoy watching paint dry or being stuck in traffic.
Theyâ€™re weird, sure. But theyâ€™re not hurting anyone.