Feb 202012
Authors: Bayley Enright and Emily Kribs

Bayley Enright:

I’m guessing the majority of you don’t jump up and down with excitement when you hear “Shakespeare.” Maybe you do, but if so, I guarantee that most people probably think you’re strange. Sorry.

Most people hear “Shakespeare” and groan. This attitude most likely comes from a bad Shakespeare experience, probably in high school, and probably with that dear play, “Romeo and Juliet.” In which case, I can’t say I blame you. Why society has decided that Shakespeare is best experienced through that play, I don’t know.

Getting to know Shakespeare through “Romeo and Juliet” is like getting to know “Star Wars” through the “Phantom Menace.” It’s not necessarily horrible (though when it comes to Jar Jar Binks, that point is certainly debatable), but it’s nobody’s favorite.

When it comes to Shakespeare, I don’t think he’s properly appreciated. Call me an English dork if you will —and you may be entirely correct in doing so — 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 “She’s the Man?” You know, that 2006 film in which we’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 Shakespeare’s play, the “Twelfth Night”? True story, bro.

And the “West Side Story?” It’s “Romeo and Juliet,” except in New York. With gangs. Or what about “10 Things I Hate About You,” which has immortalized Heath Ledger singing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” from the high school bleachers? Classic. And also based on a Shakespeare play, the “Taming of the Shrew.” I don’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 I’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 –– outside of your high school English classroom.

Just leave that whole experience behind. And yes, I did just refer to Shakespeare as “sexy.” Deal with it.

Emily Kribs:

I think that, in order to sound intellectual, I’m supposed to assert that I like Shakespeare. And I do, when performed or modernized. Heck, “The Tale of Edgar Sawtelle” was one of the best books I’ve ever read, and in my honest opinion, anyone who claims not to like “The Lion King” is lying. (Apparently I have a thing for “Hamlet.” 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 couldn’t do it. I always ended up reading a summary online, or even going into class blind. I seem to recall having spelled “Grumio” in the most atrocious fashion imaginable and asserting that redemption was a major theme of “Twelfth Night.”

Like I said, I don’t dislike his stuff on principle. (Or the stuff attributed to him; I’m sure any reader who’s made it this far is aware that his dominion over all plays to his name is suspect.) I do think it’s cool that he’s still relevant about 400 years later. But…

Call me a plebeian, or some other such highbrow term of condescension, but I just don’t devote my leisure time to dead text. On the rare occasion that I have time to read, I’d like to read something that doesn’t force me to decipher 16th-century lingo and culture, sometimes incorrectly.

“O 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 hours” (Hamlet III, 2, 2005). Is that a bad thing? Probably. But in ninth grade English, I wasn’t quite sure. At least, I thought it would be nice for him to appreciate that his mom wasn’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, there’s nothing wrong with modernizing a story that’s supposed to be relevant to a modern audience anyway.

There’s nothing wrong with people who like to read Shakespeare for fun, of course. Just like there’s nothing wrong with people who enjoy watching paint dry or being stuck in traffic.

They’re weird, sure. But they’re not hurting anyone.

 Posted by at 2:03 pm

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