Why Should I?

I promised to speak more about this after I did a video conference with Bardfilm’s students.  It’s a topic that we cover frequently, but it’s important to revisit it from time to time so that we’re all on the same page.

Why should you read Shakespeare?  (* Let’s not argue “read” versus “see”, that’s not what this is about.  I mean why should people expose themselves to Shakespeare.  Moving on..)

When you are in school someone will tell you to read Shakespeare.  If you’re unlucky enough not to get a better answer you may spot a trap — he’s famous because we all study him, but we all study him because he’s famous.  You make us read him because he’s important. Why is he important? He must be, everybody reads him.  Those aren’t answers.

You may go into theatre, in which case you will likely seek out Shakespeare on your own on the path to perfecting your craft.

Or you may go the scholarly route and choose to study the body of his works down to the last punctuation point, coming at it from history or spectral analysis or statistics or any possible angle.  And that’s fine too. Over the years I’ve met many people from programmers to physicists who have brought Shakespeare with them into their profession.

I’m not talking about any of those people.  I’m talking about that other 99% of the world who, once they leave the academic world of being told what to read and why to read it, will have to decide whether to voluntarily expose themselves to more of Mr. Shakespeare.

Why should they?  Take that literally.  Assume that you’ve just been introduced to someone at a party, and you make a Shakespeare reference.  The person says, “Oh, I’ve never read Hamlet.”

“Oh, you have to!” you say.

“Why should I?” says she.

What’s your answer?

I know what we *feel*.  I want to communicate that, logically. I want to find the vocabulary to have this discussion, because I think there are a hundred chances a day to have it if only we knew how to do it.

This year’s Shakespeare Day Celebration is sponsored in part by Shakespeare Is Universal: Shakespeare truly is for everyone, and nothing demonstrates that sentiment better than his most famous quote of all, translated here into languages from around the world. In celebration of Shakespeare’s birthday, show that you believe his works are just as relevant, powerful and important as they’ve ever been!

2 thoughts on “Why Should I?

  1. I've had this conversation before, and I tend to tailor my responses to whomever I'm talking to. But I usually end up trying to say (in the least cliched way possible): "because it's beautiful, and meaningful." I know people talk about Shakespeare being "still relevant" or "delving into the human spirit" or whatever, but there is a truth to that. And the beauty of his plays is that you can appreciate them in so many different ways, both through different media and different interpretations.

    For someone being introduced for the first time I would personally recommend listening or watching rather than reading a play, because it can be hard to understand and I know people are daunted by the language. But letting go of that fear and image of Shakespeare being something you were forced to read in high-school and probably hated (although I didn't) can open your mind to the cadence, the emotion, and the humor of the play! People forget that even the tragedies can be very funny. 🙂

    I didn't mean to write you an essay, whoops! :p I hope that all made some sense at least…

  2. Because (and I love that this quote is one of the quotes in ShakeShare) "If we wish to know the force of human genius we should read Shakespeare."

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