If students can successfully read and understand Shakespeare, they can handle almost anything else. Why should we dumb down our high school students with children’s literature—no matter how well written? Let’s sharpen their brains with literature that will challenge them.
“I have good reason to be content, for thank God I can read and perhaps understand Shakespeare to his depths.” ~John Keats~
Scholars estimate that Shakespeare invented 1700 of our common words. He changed nouns into verbs, changed verbs into adjectives, connected words never before used together, added prefixes and suffixes, and devised completely new words. He also coined expressions that have been used so much they are now considered clichés.
“He was the man who of all modern, and perhaps ancient poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul.” ~John Dryden~
Shakespeare showed a thorough understanding of human nature with the characters he created. His heroes express the fears and desires of every thoughtful man. His bold heroines give the likes of Katniss Everdeen a run for her money. We learn more about ourselves from the personalities that people his plays.
“With this same key Shakespeare unlocked his heart’ once more!” ~Robert Browning~
Few other writers match the beauty of Shakespeare’s language or the depth of the truths he expressed. His soliloquies and monologues, even the speeches crafted for comic relief, are some of the most eloquent every written. His command of language provokes our imaginations and inspires our own written expressions.
“The souls most fed with Shakespeare’s flame still sat unconquered in a ring, remembering him like anything.” ~G. K. Chesterton~
Shakespeare’s themes still resonate today. His plays delve into the issues of love, loss, treachery, honor, tenderness, anger, despair, jealousy, contempt, fear, courage, and wonder. They raise questions of morality, politics, war, wealth, and death. By exploring what’s dearest to our hearts and most important to our souls, Shakespeare helps us better appreciate life.
“There Shakespeare, on whose forehead climb the crowns o’ the world; oh, eyes sublime with tears and laughter for all time!” ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning~