It’s now near the portion of the year where both freshmen and sophomores start their Shakespeare units and read their respective plays, Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar. Every year there is always that one kid, or group of kids, who groans and complains about the language, or the cultural differences, and even poor Shakespeare himself. His works are not everyone’s cup of tea, which is fine. Whether it be the difficult language or the weird iambic pentameter, those who dislike it have their reasons. However, many people who claim to dislike Shakespeare have never actually read it before. When they look past the language barrier and realize how modern and relevant this playwright’s work is, they actually enjoy it.
Everyone knows that the sentence structure of the Renaissance period is very reminiscent of Yoda, so it can be hard to grasp when reading for the first time. Not to mention that there are words which were frequently used in the time period that give different definitions to words that are commonly used today. There are many people who LOVE Shakespeare and who have even acted in it, who don’t know/remember the proper definition for a lot of those words. Fortunately for haters and fans alike, there are multiple Elizabethan Dictionaries which will assist in finding the correct definition of weird uses of words. For those who have issues with finding the meaning of a line or two due to not understanding the use of language, there is a section of Sparknotes called No Fear Shakespeare. This offers a translation that is understandable to modern folk. There’s no shame in using No Fear Shakespeare, as in fact many actors and teachers use it as well.
Occasionally there are those who do not understand the plot. This can be one of two things. The first is language, and the second is due to societal changes. Technology is a big part of modern life, and believe it or not, many people can’t imagine a life without their smartphone. An easy way to fix this is to watch a lot of movies not set in the 20th century or the future. No time travel plots either. Just watch a few straight up period dramas. Another societal change can be the role of women. In Shakespeare’s time, women were commonly seen as property of men, and not really as people. More of a commodity. While it is not right, it is the way it was. A lot of his plots even bring up how the lack of emotional outlets and lack control over one’s own life affected the women of this time period. More emotionally delicate characters such as Ophelia who was essentially dumped out like yesterday’s trash by Hamlet began to lose her mind. Especially since he murdered her father. Women without fathers or husbands didn’t have a lot of places to go and could be treated extremely poorly. A lot of the women in Shakespeare’s plays are very modern. A couple of examples would be Cate from Taming of the Shrew and Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing.
Shakespeare’s pieces display more modern ideas, which is why they are still so relevant today. During the Renaissance there were changing ideas about secularity, art, and even love. This is why we’re all forced to read it during our high school years. It’s fine to dislike Shakespeare and it’s fine to like Shakespeare. However, there should be more of an attempt to understand these plays on the part of uninterested youth. Maybe if students looked past the difficult-to-understand language and the differences of our societies, they could learn to at least appreciate Shakespeare a little.