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Shake up shakespeare

Updated on September 22, 2012

Shakespeare may have been in love, but it seems not everyone is in love with Shakespeare.

Admittedly I am not one of these people, I thoroughly enjoy learning about Shakespeare and reading or watching performances of his material. So much so in fact one of my most cherished possessions is a book containing his entire works, it was given to me as a present many years ago and remains one of my favourite objects today.

I feel I am pretty much on my own with this however, especially amongst other people of my age. It is seen as rather sad, a bit geeky and an odd thing to be interested in. However from my point of view, I didn't understand how you can't be at least mildly affected by it's impact on society and the English language. Struck with the content of the stories or the actions of the characters featured in his work.

The recent films Shakespeare in love, starring Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow and Romeo and Juliet starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, were both fairly successful and in my opinion enjoyable. But they didn't seem to envoke any real interest in Shakespeare or any lasting impression of his work.

Why do students run from Shakespeare?

Because Shakespeare's work is written in old English, you can read it a million times and still have no idea what has been said. The English language has changed and evolved so much since William was around that it's practically a foreign language. This makes it extremely difficult to learn and there fore not very appealing.

The youth and society of today love the new, the easy, the convenient and the fast. Shakespearean material is none of these things, it's long, it's old and it's challenging and for most people just a bit too much like hard work.

It's deemed pointless, irrelevant and assumed that nothing can be learnt from it.

There is also the belief that the works of Shakespeare is out dated and has no place in today's modern world. Nothing new can be taken from it and they get the impression it's all be done before. They feel It does not affect them or impact on their life and does not require any thought or attention.

Can Shakespeare be made interesting?

Absolutely! If you can teach Shakespeare in a way that teenagers find enjoyable and you can capture their attention on the subject as early on as possible, they will not only find Shakespearean work interesting but all so exciting.

Make it relevant, find parallels from the material, apply it and compare it to their lifestyle appeal to their train of thought.

Discuss the controversy of the work, engage them in the murders, the plots, the witchcraft and even some aspects of the references to sex.

Be unashamedly passionate about the subject yourself, when they see your enthusiasm they will be more likely to respond to it in a positive way.

Help them to grasp the old English language, break down parts of the text and make them familiar with some of the recurring words or phrases. This will enable them to feel more comfortable with the material.

Most importantly though is to ask them their opinions, let them feel that what they have to say is important and valid. Allow them to ask questions and put forward ideas.


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    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 6 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi :)

      I am not sure why some people love Shakespeare's work, while others hate it, but I do think that it could be something to do with the language ~ I love languages and I enjoy Shakespeare!

      I think that it is also because it is considered too old-fashioned.

      Perhaps some of them will grow into him :)

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 7 years ago from I'm outta here

      I adore shakespeare and have the same complete works of Shakespeare proudly setting about my desk, it's about as I move it often to read. I fell in love with Shakespeare when I first read it at school... been hooked since. I like you even more now! :)

    • wrenfrost56 profile image

      wrenfrost56 8 years ago from U.K.

      Thank-you for your comment kingbyname, actually it's funny you should mention teaching, I am currently looking into training to be one. I have not heard of that game before, what a great idea, I can imagine how kids would really respond to that. I agree with you, even though the words are different the intentions the same.

    • kingbyname profile image

      kingbyname 8 years ago from south devon, uk

      wrenfrost56 - I think with your enthusiasm you would make a good teacher. I agree with you about the importance of connecting. One thing I've heard kids really love is a game inspired by Romeo and Juliet. The class is split into teams to represent the quarrelling characters and each are given their Shakespearean swear words with which to do battle. Kids love it and also get to appreciate the sheer power of the language and the ways in which language can be used as a weapon, to goad, persuade, defend against etc. An exercise like that proves that although a lot of the words were different in Shakespeare's day, many of the intentions behind the words were the same as they might be today.

    • wrenfrost56 profile image

      wrenfrost56 8 years ago from U.K.

      Thank-you for your comment Keira7, I am glad you liked my hub. :)

    • keira7 profile image

      keira7 8 years ago

      Hi Wrenfrost56, I really like your hub. Thanks. God Bless.:)

    • wrenfrost56 profile image

      wrenfrost56 8 years ago from U.K.

      It's always good to here from a fellow fan of the bard! Thank-you for your comment Jenny-Ann I'm glad you found my hub interesting. I agree with you, he really is the master of emotions and presents them in words beautifully.

    • profile image

      Jenny-Anne 8 years ago

      a Shakespeare fan here. King Lear is one of my favourites -

      Shakespeare's the master of pinning down emotions and motivations and putting them into words. That's what makes the plays last. The rest is just background. Interesting hub!

    • wrenfrost56 profile image

      wrenfrost56 8 years ago from U.K.

      LOL! No we are all friends here.

    • Danielle Farrow profile image

      Danielle Farrow 8 years ago from Scotland, UK

      Oh, you are so right about that familiarity - perhaps we should start some interestingly named group: "Getting Familiar with Shakespeare". Think anyone would complain about being "over-familiar"? ;)

    • wrenfrost56 profile image

      wrenfrost56 8 years ago from U.K.

      Thank-you for your comment Danielle, it's funny how that 5% can make all the difference, between understanding and disinterest. I find the more familiar people are with his work the more they appreciate it. Thank-you also for the Shakespeare on toast recomendation.

    • Danielle Farrow profile image

      Danielle Farrow 8 years ago from Scotland, UK

      You make some very good points on how Shakespeare can be viewed by those who have not been able to connect to his work yet, and give sound advice on helping that connection to happen - thank you!

      I find it interesting, also, to consider how much people are influenced by the view you state about how unfamiliar and archaic the language is. Yes, Shakespeare uses words and phrasings in a way different to what is familiar to us today. However, it has been shown by compilers of a Shakespeare dictionary that words which would be truly alien to reasonably educated people today actually only make up 5% of Shakespeare's language - that means 95% of his vocabulary should be familiar to us!

      You may want to check out Shakespeare on Toast, by Ben Crystal, if you are interested in this - an accessible and well-written book on Shakespeare's work.

      Thanks again for your useful suggestions!

    • wrenfrost56 profile image

      wrenfrost56 8 years ago from U.K.

      That's very cool, I think Shakespeare is an aquired taste. Thank-you for your comment.

    • Tom Cornett profile image

      Tom Cornett 8 years ago from Ohio

      Cool took me a while to appreciate Shakespeare. My freshman English teacher accused me of not reading "Romeo and Juliet." I told her I read it and it was too boring to remember the details....I got an F grade. That night ...I re-wrote the story in a modern 70s setting. She read it to the class the next day and gave me a B+ grade. I would have gotten an A but she had to mark out curse words. :)