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Shakespeare: Outdated, Unused, and a Bad Example of Literature?

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Shakespearian writing is outdated, and shouldn’t be taught in literature classrooms at all. Shakespeare wrote his stories over 400 years ago, with a messy soup of outdated views, themes that should hold no ground in today’s society, and a format that has no reason to be taught in a literature class. So let’s get into it, shall we?

 I believe that if you asked most students in an English class if they enjoyed reading Shakespeare, or even understood what the reading was about, they’d answer you with a “no.” Shakespeare lived, wrote, and died well over 400 years ago, and his stories and writing style show this. But this isn’t 450 odd years ago, this is the modern world where women are meant to be equal to men, class divisions aren’t as horrid as they were in his time, and in most of the world, you can freely express yourself as you wish, and we should all agree that sex before marriage isn't a horrible sin. Yet those are all common tropes throughout his work, how can one relate to that? How are teenagers in a classroom or anyone, for that matter, supposed to relate to love stories [and non-love stories] that time and time again end in tragic death and suicide? Is that really the message that should be given to our youth? "if you're sad or your sweetheart dies then kill yourself"? Plus, with the outdated old English and made-up words how could students even understand what’s being read? Old English is considered obsolete for a reason, it’s not used, it’s outdated, yet we expect our students to be able to read and comprehend it just fine? What good can students, or anyone, learn from lines such as “I say I will make him eat some part of my leek, or I will peat his pate four days.” or the comical, “What, you egg?”

A I believe the biggest reason that Shakspeare shouldn’t be read in English and/or literature classrooms is that Shakspearian plays are, well, plays. Not stories or books, but plays, scripts- meant to be acted and played out on a stage or even a screen. Would you read the script to a Star Wars movie and have the same experience as watching the movie? I wouldn’t think so. Scripts are practically just dialogue and stage directions- they don’t convey characters’ inner thoughts or feelings, don’t really describe the scenery or setting [or at least not in the same way a good book would.]  Reading a plain Shaksperean script doesn't relay emotions to us, the audience the same way a novel would. The audience isn't described things, what is Juliet wearing? We don't know, we aren't told, people don't read stories to guess at strings as to what's happening. People read stories to be told a story, with all of its details.

So why spend time reading stage directions in outdated writing, with outdated views and exaggerated, unrelatable scenarios? Schools should be teaching actual literature in English classes- such as Huckleberry Finn, To Kill A Mockingbird or Lord of the Flies. These are all classic literature that are easier to understand, and even enjoyable to read, they narrate their stories in a way that the audience is understanding what’s going on, instead of sitting confused.