(Photo courtesy of History Extra) “Shakespeare is often considered to be one of the greatest writers of all time.”
I will begin this by saying: if you like Shakespeare, good for you, I am not trying to change your opinion. I am just stating mine.
Throughout my years of public education, William Shakespeare has always been held at such a high esteem and no one has ever explained to me why. My teachers have always spoken so highly of his wordplay while watching their students falter and fail to understand the language. I understand he wrote in modern English, but it is not fully modern English. We would read his plays and the plot often got lost to “what does that mean?”
Someone in high school explained to me, as we read “Romeo and Juliet” for the third year in a row, that the stories he tells are why he is so important and revered. If so then why are we forced to chug through the plays when we are unable to understand the language while modern adaptations exist of his work? If it’s his stories that matter, why does the language as well?
Moving on from my dislike of how his plays are taught, we will get into my parasocial relationship with him. He is my mortal enemy. I think in a past life, I had to have been wronged by him or something to feel this way about a man long dead. Maybe he cut me from a cast or stole a play from me. I find his whole existence to be annoying.
It is known and widely acknowledged that Shakespeare stole works from other people. There is even an entire musical about it called “Something Rotten.” It has been so ingrained into me not to plagiarize or steal my works, so why is a man who did so honored as highly as he is? While his scholars claim he was inspired by his accusers or borrowed from them, I am sure a modern plagiarism checker would light up red going through his plays compared to works by other authors.
Fully modern adaptations of his work exist. Extending beyond the movies inspired by his plays like “Lion King” and “10 Things I Hate About You,” there are also alternate versions of his plays fully modernized for the modern audience. And yet, there is still an obsession with placing ourselves in the shoes of a Victorian peasant standing at the stage to enjoy and understand his plays. We grew as a society to change numerous things about the theater experience, such as making them closed air and making the costumes much less cumbersome, and yet we are still subjected to the same play contents.
His plays also do not hold the life lessons people claim they do, at least not to me. Every time “Romeo and Juliet” is brought up, they are mocked as kids in love and overreacting, and they are! No one needs to learn to not die over a week-old relationship, critical thinking taught us that. He gained his popularity because of his time and probably could not get stage time in this day and age, if he were writing now.
His popularity is a token of the time he was alive and writing. I think it is time we move away from him and honor other playwrights because he is the only one most people can name. It is time for the spotlight to shine on someone new and let the curtain close.