Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare’

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Making it Relevant: Surviving Shakespeare

July 2, 2009

Something is rotten in the state of Indiana. A few nights ago I convinced a group of my friends to sit down and watch a PBS production of King Lear. Finally, I thought, my friends and I will be able to connect at a higher intellectual level than ever before! This evening will begin with Shakespeare and end with a rousing conversation about the nature of the English language itself. Curiously enough, every obligation in the world, every hitherto procrastinated task, suddenly pulled them away from Shakespeare (I find it hard to believe someone left an oven on in a dorm room). It was as if they were totally bored (how could they?). My remaining friends decided a cigarette break would be far more interesting and so I tumbled headlong from the dizzy peaks of Shakespeare’s intellect to the smoke-and-drink- soaked valleys of contemporary college life.

If you’re as big a Shakespeare fan as I am (I sometimes fail to differentiate between myself and Hamlet), situations like these can easily become life-threatening crises. I would like to argue, though, that if you have ever felt anything vaguely like a human being (my friends must not have) you can find something to appreciate in Shakespeare. His characters have stood the test of time because they simply radiate humanity.

Consider Romeo, Shakespeare’s quintessential lover. We may never speak in iambic soliloquies, we may never see the need to loiter below our girlfriend’s balcony (or upper-level dorm room), we may never even see the need to duel to the death (though things would certainly be more interesting if public duels were allowed), but when he proclaims that “He jests at scars who never felt a wound,” we can all appreciate the desperate longing for affirmation and affection he experiences – because we all have been there from time to time.

Even Hamlet’s existential crisis remains important. How many teenagers in the world have felt that their parents just don’t get them? Or that their significant other has betrayed them? How many adults have felt that way? How often are we unsure of ourselves because we’re not convinced the people around us are acting for our best interest? These timeless joys and struggles, without which we would not recognize ourselves as human beings, find such wonderful expression in Shakespeare that we do ourselves a disservice not to at least consider him. The language can be tough – but when brought to life by a good performance, it could change your entire way of thinking.

Shakespeare remains relevant because he makes unforgettably human the puzzles, sorrows, and joys of life. Whether we learn from tragedy, comedy, or history, Shakespeare remains a treasure chest of thought and entertainment. Within the immortal works of our Bard, there is truly something for everyone.

This weekly series (by Joshua Eskew, a senior at Marian College studying English and communication, and an intern with the Indiana Humanities Council) will help expose the relevance of studying the classics.

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Is It Is, or Is it Ain’t a Shakespeare Poem?

June 12, 2008

For the Shakespeare Sleuths out there, Ron Rosenbaum has a fascinating essay in today’s online mag, Slate on various poems that are or are not Shakespearean. This is a different debate than the hyped up and mostly discredited “Was Shakespeare Shakespeare?” debate.