Why is Shakespeare Important?
Shakespeare is one of those reads you first encountered young, and you likely hated the experience. Syntactically, Shakespeare is a nightmare (to thine own self, be true). The plays themselves are short, but incredibly dense. They are filled with language that has fallen out of use or changed dramatically over time, and the historically-contextualized plots may require a second book to explain. Shakespeare is the bane of underprepared high school students everywhere, yet everyone has at least glanced at his works.
What’s with Shakespeare’s staying power? How can we quote Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet collectively, and so well (without even knowing)? His relevance today is due in part to Western academia, and its drive to repeatedly include Shakespeare’s work in school curricula. You may know nothing about his life, but you can quote his works, stories, and recognize his image faster than some important figures in American history.
Is Shakespeare important today? Many would argue absolutely. The themes he wrote about in his time still hold true today. And many valuable lessons can be learned from his characters and how they have interacted with the constructed world around them: that jealousy and greed bring ruin, that love is fickle, that good people don’t always walk away victorious. For every situation in modern life, there is likely to be an applicable Shakespeare quote. This isn’t to say you should be living your life according to Shakespeare, but he is considered one of the greatest playwrights, poets, storytellers, and writers of all time. It’s no wonder we still read his works.
How to Consume His Works
We urge you, as many high school teachers would do, to experience Shakespeare first-hand. This does not mean visiting his grave, though that’s a popular activity while touring England, it means seeing his plays in a theater. Reading a script is pretty boring for anyone; it’s why most teachers opt to have students perform his works aloud. The more emotion brought to Shakespeare’s works, the more likely you are to glean something from them.
Reading Shakespeare is not only an exercise in the appreciation of literature, but also of psychology, history, and art. His works are so transcendent that their global appeal has satiated fans for four centuries. Why is Shakespeare important? Because there has been no bigger impact on the world of literature and language than what Shakespeare has brought to us.
We sincerely hope you enjoyed this post on Shakespeare. Check out our FactSumo learning deck on Shakespeare vocabulary here!