William Shakespeare died almost 400 years ago. However, students in high school or university still have to study Shakespeare’s sonnets. I was one such student in 12th grade who spent hours reading through all the “thou”, ‘thy, and “doths.” I found Shakespeare analysis difficult and unrelated to my own life at the time. I was wrong, but I didn’t know it. Et tu?
Despite the fact that Shakespeare’s text was adapted and borrowed from history, mythology and the Bible (link is external), people still love Shakespeare’s writing. Why? It could be because his timeless stories are still being told today through modern interpretations and new interpretations, such as West Side Story or Mean Girls. Even though I didn’t understand the insights of William Shakespeare in his early 17th-century years, my teenage self couldn’t have known what to make of them.
Not at all. Maggie Trapp (link is external) explains Shakespeare’s literary longevity in today’s context.
We love the work that he has adapted.
Shakespearean references and influences continue to appear in entertainment today.
Trapp states, “Shakespeare’s plays have an openness about them.” “They are stimulating and open to thought. His vast works allow for reinvention. Shakespearean plots like Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, Macbeth and King Lear (among others) are based on ancient stories, histories and myths he reworked into new material. Shakespeare was a great adapter. His work is largely based in borrowing and interpretation. It’s fitting that Shakespeare’s plays were reworked and reworked over and over again.
These are not only movie plots that have been rewritten by Shakespeare. Game of Thrones(link to external) is one of many television series that have been influenced heavily by Shakespearean culture. Part of the reason for that could be seeing Shakespearean-inspired drama performed on screen–the modern equivalent of the stage from The Bard’s own time. We are able to view his work in a live performance, though it is pre-recorded and shown on TV, which allows us to appreciate it differently.
George R.R. Trapp explained that Martin mentioned in a Rolling Stone link is external that Shakespeare borrowed almost every plot from others. Martin does not mince words when he says that his popular story, both in the books as well as on television, is a reworking of other stories. This includes Shakespeare. Game of Thrones fans will see evidence of Lady Macbeth in Cersei and Falstaff from Robert Baratheon. Iago is Littlefinger, just to name a few. Game of Thrones is full of complex characters. They look like the rich, multifaceted characters in Shakespeare. The characters are so real that we recognize them instantly, regardless of their context. These well-known characters can become tired and repetitive over time. However, Martin and Shakespeare have kept them fresh and real, rich and memorable.
NB: Visit this site for KS2 Shakespeare workshops.
Current books also present a modern version of Shakespeare’s world in current books.
Trapp says, “The Hogarth Shakespeare” (link to external) project is an amazing new series in which Anne Tyler’s, Jeanette Winterson’s, Anne Tyler and Gillian Flynn reinterpreted Shakespeare plays in light contemporary sensibilities.”
“In Atwood’s interpretation of The Tempest for example, an aged and (wrongfully), disgraced Shakespeare production ends up staging Shakespeare’s work in a prison as part an elaborate revenge plot to defeat his former theater colleagues. Jane Smiley’s novel A Thousand Acres also features a stunning adaptation of Shakespeare. Smiley shows how he takes King Lear’s plot and uses it to incredible effect.
Shakespeare’s work is relevant, regardless of when it is read.
Trapp says, “Shakespeare’s contemporary Ben Jonson stated that Shakespeare’s work was ‘not an age but to all time’. Which has proved to have been prescient.” “The plays are more than just current, they are relevant and more important than the time in which they were written.” They can tell us about the politics, psychology, and intricacies that are relevant to our times, as well as the fluidity and difficulty of desire, the dangers of blind ambition, and the pleasures of true relationship. These plays have been communicating complex truths for hundreds of generations to all types of audiences and readers.
Trapp explained, “We see our postmodern predicament in Richard III’s power plays. Our culture’s grappling to gender binary can be seen in Twelfth Night’s probing about gender roles and expected outcomes.” “Shakespeare didn’t probably imagine that his works could be so integral in our culture 400 years later after his passing.”
Shakespeare helps us understand our experiences.
His themes and characters live in each of our hearts.
Trapp says, “Shakespeare’s plays and poems still mean something to us because they still resonate, their characters still leave a mark, and his language still moves. “His characters are one we can identify. We sympathize with Hamlet’s desperation; Othello’s envy is recognized; Lear’s decline feels real. These characters can be described as both types and revelations. Shakespeare’s characters, while familiar, surprise us from our complacency.
We can all relate with the emotions evoked by his stories.
Trapp states that Shakespeare’s language and characters are beautiful, and his themes are complex. He also says that love, honor, jealousy or fear, pride, lust or grief are all issues that matter today.
Shakespeare gives us the ability to interpret our experiences. And our experiences–concerning everything from gender, family and political intrigue to fame, race and class–are nimbly and memorably explored in these plays. Shakespeare’s characters as well as his plots are for all times and both current. His plays enable us to see ourselves from a different perspective.
Audiences can now connect onstage and through his words on the pages.
Shakespeare’s themes can appeal to many audiences because they are universal and timeless. Andrew Dickson is the author of Worlds Elsewhere. Adventures Around Shakespeare’s Globe. He explores how different Shakespeare plays can be enjoyed by different audiences. (link is external).
Trapp says, “In Shakespeare’s day, audiences were far more tuned to words and aurality.” “They saw the plays live, they didn’t read them very often. However, today’s audience experiences these plays more often in their own minds through the act of reading. We attribute much of Shakespeare’s words to their generative power, but Shakespeare’s audience (who were predisposed for his language and allusions in an a manner that we aren’t) was more involved in the actual moment of entertainment being played before them.
The Bard’s work can be hard to comprehend because of this disconnect between “in my mind’s eye”, and live performance. His fascinating work can be brought to life if it is taught in a way that is applicable to today’s events.
Trapp explained that Shakespeare wanted his audience to be present in the moment. He was open to a physical connection with his work. He wrote his plays to be performed in front of live audiences. His plays are also a great source of information for students, but we should also watch the plays being performed.
“In class” (link is external), the play’s plots, characters, themes are discussed. Students are encouraged to see the performances when possible.
You may not have the opportunity to watch live Shakespeare performances if you’re taking a course. Trapp says, “By incorporating videos from local Berkeley Shakespeare actor, dramaturges academics, and other specialists who dig deeply into specific staging problems, plot points and language choices in plays, students learn how respond to these recordings through miniature-essays of your own, commenting how the ideas can be put into practice in new viewings.
This is just one way Trapp’s Shakespeare course (link external) makes the subject relevant to each of its students.
Trapp states, “Students may also be able to draw from their experiences as high school students watching the plays. We examine the meaning of their past viewings in light of the current learning or how students can use these recordings to help them see politics and political machinations from our time. This is done when Trapp explains that Richard plays are read and students compare the plots of those plays to Trump or House of Cards.
Through Shakespeare’s plays, it is possible to learn about ourselves as well as connect with others through the comedy and drama of every day life. Think reading Shakespeare is not relevant or valuable today?
Shakespeare is something we cite even though it’s not obvious to us.
Do you remember ever saying, “with bated breathing,” that something is “the be-all and end-all” of that you wanted to “break ice”? Did you ever say, “Knock, knock!” Are you asking “Who’s that?”? If so, Shakespeare has been quoted.
Trapp stated that Shakespeare should be studied by students today if nothing else. “If anyone has ever said a green-eyed Monster, a?in a pickle.? a?tongue tied,?? a?wild goose Chase,’ and a?cruel to Be Kind,’ Trapp says.
“His unique and clever turns of phrase are so well-integrated into English that they appear to have transcended the boundaries of coinage. We are so familiar with Shakespeare that Shakespeare is almost a second-nature fact. He was a master craftsman of the English language and his metaphors have made us all richer writers and readers.