What Is the Deal with Shakespeare?

William Shakespeare

We all know who this guy is.

“Classic–a book which people praise and don’t read.”  –Mark Twain

Usually when we see in a book something we think we’re intimate with, we just read the first line and then move on to the new, more interesting stuff.  How many times have we said, “To be or not to be,” or some garbling thereof and then go on with our lives?  But how many of us can actually quote farther than that?  I can only get to “whether ’tis nobler…”  before I have to skip down to “But in that sleep of death what dreams may come!”

What is it that makes Shakespeare so awesome?  Why do we still quote him and study him after four hundred years?   And yet, after all we rave about him, why do we not have the patience to sit and read Shakespeare for fun anymore?  Why do we merely study him?  Why do we not attempt to imitate the master and write as he does?  And why can’t I remember more than “and Brutus is an honorable man” but I can quote, line for line, While You Were Sleeping?

I don’t have the answer to these questions.  I think the above has already proved that I’m guilty of not reading more Shakespeare than I have to.    This isn’t Shakespeare, but last week I was trying to read Medea, and I couldn’t get past the first chorus.  It was pretty embarrassing.  I read it for World Lit two or three years ago, but now that I’m not forced to answer questions in class regarding theme and imagery, I’m lost.  I wish we could all just appreciate good literature for what it is without having to sit in a classroom and attempt to impress our teachers and peers.

So what’s the best way to stop moping about lost literature?  Do something to remedy it.  Friday we’re going to look at some REAL literature.  Stuff that stands through the ages.  Gird yourself with everything you ever learned in Lit Crit and get ready to show your stuff.  What with all this snow and all these days off of work, you are probably looking for something to do, anyway, right?

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