Getting rid of Shakespeare

As an English major, I have joined the clubs of I-have-read-too-many-Shakespeare-plays-to-count and when-can-I-stop-reading-Hamlet-even-though-it’s-my-favorite. It seems that I can’t spend a semester without Shakespeare. But one of my professors, who is also an English advisor, discussed making Shakespeare not a requirement with my senior class.

Both sides explained their opinions. Some students felt Shakespeared out and some were now reading Hamlet for the first time.

We ended up at a compromise. We still claimed that we needed Shakespeare, but we needed a variety of other writers too—especially POC. We knew we could learn more from multiple artists rather than one. But we couldn’t cut Shakespeare completely because he is mentioned in literature throughout time. We also asked for more creative literature classes like the one we were sitting in right then: Shakespeare and film.

It almost seemed as if we found an answer, but not the solution because we still had questions. What Shakespeare plays would still be taught? Who should teach the non-Shakespeare classes? How could classes become more diverse?

What are your thoughts?

8 thoughts on “Getting rid of Shakespeare

  1. Cutting Shakespeare would be a horrible idea, not only because allusions to his greatest works are so numerous but also because he has written great works that everyone should experience as either a reader or a playgoer. I think it’s doubly important for English majors to have a familiarity with the bard.

    With that said, I feel that every single time I pick up Shakespeare, I have to learn to read him all over again. Each time it has been worth the effort. His work, even though written in an obsolete English and set in times and places foreign to my experience, still rings true. So he’s timeless even if I must make time to re-immerse myself into his writing. As difficult and distant as his plays are, they must be taught because they’re too good not to be taught.

    Like all good literature, I’ve found that I’m grateful that my degree studies lead me to specific authors and works. But the more diverse the better. One probably doesn’t need to experience ALL of Shakespeare as an undergraduate . . . at least not in the classroom; professors should allow time for many other authors and ideas, enriching their students’ lives. After I graduated, I’ve been able to spend my time reading more Shakespeare, rereading classics at a reasonable pace, and reading unassigned works by the talented authors I was introduced to in the classroom.

    So keep Shakespeare, but keep in mind that the reading doesn’t stop with the diploma.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with that. I think people studying literature studies specifically are drawn to classics more than others though. Like I never read classics outside the classroom, but I ran into a lot of people in my undergraduate who loved Shakespeare and read his works outside of class.

      It also could be just a personal preference I guess. Like I’m more of a modern YA writer, so read more YA books. But if someone’s a literature concentration, reading the classics should be important.

      Either way, knowing a variety of classics is good. I liked my classes where I read from a bunch of different classical writers than classes where we focused on one or two. But I also think Shakespeare should be one of those classics known since his works is mentioned in so many things.

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  2. I don’t think he should be cut any more than I think Jane Austen should be cut (who I don’t enjoy in the slightest) because literature is so self-referential and progress can only been seen over time if we’re looking at all the pieces and the changes made over time. And to truly learn the style and even history of a certain period, it’s imperative to read the things that have thrived because of their relevance and “success” whether that success was achieved during the authors lifetime or not. That said, with Shakespeare in particular, HOW his works are taught should be improved in a vast majority of cases. His plays should be seen more than they are simply read. Reading allows a deeper dive, but doesn’t do much good if you haven’t mastered, to a degree, visualizing the play while you read it. Comedy of Errors is a HORRIBLE read because there is so much physical comedy in it, but it’s a completely different play. The key is understanding the difference between reading a play and seeing it to better understand it. Then students realize that the language is not actually so different, and the material not nearly as dense as middle school censored readings of Romeo and Juliet would have them believe.

    Love that you’re in a Shax and Film class, by the way. I have a friend who teaches one at her high school and students are always surprised that they can actually find something about the bard to enjoy – having always previously thought that he was some “high and elegant” writer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I get what you mean about reading and seeing it. In my Lit and Film class, we would also watch some parts of the performances from the Globe Theatre to see how Shakespeare was presented. We also discussed the differences between the Globe Theatre’s performances and the films.

      & Yeah, that class was probably one of my best classes for literature. It was more laid back too, so we learned more and stressed about quizzes/tests less.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s awesome! If you enjoyed those clips, I highly recommend a trip to The Globe to see one live, or the Blackfriars in Virginia if that’s closer to you. The experience is just unmatchable. 🤗

        Liked by 1 person

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