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How does Shakespeare help students?

William Shakespeare died over 400 years ago. Students in high school and universities still need to learn Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. In 12th grade, I was one those students who was lost in all the “thou”, “thy”, and “doths.” At the time, I found Shakespeare’s analysis complicated and not relevant to my life. I didn’t know how wrong I was. Et tu
People are still fascinated by Shakespeare’s writing, despite the fact that Shakespeare’s work was borrowed and adapted(link is external). Why? Why? Perhaps because his timeless storylines are still relevant today, through new interpretations and reinventions of them in popular culture like West Side Story and the teen movies 10 Things I Hate About You or Mean Girls. While I might not have understood the early 17th century insights of William Shakespeare as a teenager, it doesn’t necessarily mean that what he wrote isn’t relevant to our current times.

Actually, the reverse is true. Maggie Trapp, Shakespeare(link external) instructor, discusses the Bard’s literary longevity as well as the cultural significance of studying Shakespeare’s writing in today’s context.
The adaptations of his work are what make current work so much more interesting.

Shakespearean influences and references are still evident in entertainment today, from The Lion King’s plot being loosely inspired by Hamlet to the fictional band The Weird Sisters appearing in Harry Potter (link is external).

Trapp states that Shakespeare’s plays possess an openness. They inspire thought and are open to reinvention. Shakespearean plots such as Romeo and Juliet (among others), Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear are all based on stories, histories, and myths that he reworked to create his own. Shakespeare was a skilled adaptor, and much of his work is based upon borrowing and interpretation. It is only right that Shakespeare’s plays have been reworked innumerable times.

There are many stories that alter Shakespeare’s plots. Game of Thrones and other TV shows have been heavily influenced and shaped by Shakespearean culture. Part of the reason for that could be seeing Shakespearean-inspired drama performed on screen–the modern equivalent of the stage from The Bard’s own time. The ability to watch his work live, although pre-recorded on TV, helps us appreciate it from a new perspective.

George R.R. Trapp says Martin said in a Rolling Stone (link is external) interview that Shakespeare borrowed almost all his plots from other people. Martin doesn’t mince words about the fact that Martin’s hugely successful story (both books and TV series), is based on other stories–Shakespeare included. Game of Thrones fans are able to see traces of Lady Macbeth and Falstaff in Robert Baratheon. Iago in Littlefinger is just a few examples. Game of Thrones characters are rich, multifaceted, and vivid. They have the same rich, multifaceted characters that Shakespeare created. And these characters are so real that over time, they have almost become types. We know a Portia, a Henry V, a Banquo, a King Lear, or Richard III as soon as we see them. These characters can become repetitive and dull over time. But in Shakespeare’s or Martin’s hands they are real and fresh, rich, and memorable.

Modern books also recreate the world of Shakespeare in modern times.

Trapp says that the Hogarth Shakespeare project (link is External) is a beautiful new series of books, in which Anne Tyler, Jeanette Winson, Anne Tyler, and Gillian Flynn have reinterpreted one of Shakespeare’s plays in light modern sensibilities.”

“In Atwood’s adaptation of The Tempest (for example), an elderly and (wrongfully), disgraced Shakespeare producer ends up staging Shakespeare’s play in prison as part a sophisticated revenge plot against his former theater colleagues. Jane Smiley’s novel A Thousand Acres, is another incredible adaptation of Shakespeare. Smiley’s novel A Thousand Acres is a brilliant adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear plot.
Shakespeare’s work has relevance no matter how it is read.

Trapp states that Shakespeare’s contemporary Ben Jonson claimed Shakespeare’s works were ‘not for an age but forever’. This has been proved to be accurate. Trapp says that the plays have a unique quality that is more current than their time. They have much to offer us on the politics and psychology of the present moment. Over hundreds of years, these plays have managed to convey complex truths for all kinds of readers and audiences.

Trapp explains, “We can discern our postmodern predicament from Richard III’s power play; our culture’s struggle with gender binary can been discerned by Twelfth Night’s probing of gender expectations and roles.” “Shakespeare did not expect that his works would be so important to our culture 400-years after his death.”

Shakespeare Workshops for primary

Shakespeare gives meaning to our experiences.

We all carry his themes and characters.

Trapp states, “Shakespeare’s poems and plays still have meaning to us because his plots still resonate and his characters still leave their mark. His language still moves, startles, and moves.” We identify with his characters. We feel Hamlet’s sadness; Othello is jealous; Lear is in decline. These characters are at once types and revelations. Shakespeare’s characters may be familiar, but they still surprise us. They are infinitely fascinating.

We can all relate too to the emotions evoked through his stories.

Trapp says that Shakespeare’s language is stunning, his characters complex, as well as the themes–love and honor, betrayal. envy, jealousy. fear, pride. lust. grief–are all important issues today.”

Shakespeare helps us understand our lives. And our experiences–concerning everything from gender, family and political intrigue to fame, race and class–are nimbly and memorably explored in these plays. Shakespeare’s characters, plots and stories are timeless. His plays make it possible to see ourselves differently.
Today, audiences can connect onstage with the words of the author.

Shakespeare’s themes are universal and timeless so different interpretations can be made. Andrew Dickson (author of Worlds Elsewhere. Journeys around Shakespeare’s Globe) explores the ability of the same Shakespeare play to please different audiences. Link is external: “One afternoon Shakespeare would witness his work being performed before the royal courts; the next day it would be performed in front of the groundlings from Blackfriars.”

Trapp states, “In Shakespeare’s time, audiences were more attuned words and aurality.” They saw the plays in person, and they wouldn’t have ever read the plays. These plays are more commonly experienced in our own heads today, rather than being read aloud. We attribute much to Shakespeare’s generative power on the page. Shakespeare’s audience was more invested in the live entertainment being presented in front them.

This disconnect between live performance as well as “in our head’s eye” performance can make it difficult to study The Bard’s work. It is possible to teach his work in a way which is relatable to the current events of today, and make it more accessible.

Trapp states that Shakespeare wanted the audience to respond in the moment. He welcomed any physical connection to his works. “He wrote for live audiences and his plays were meant to be performed. While the plays can be used as a basis for discussion in a classroom setting and should be viewed in performance, it is important to also experience his work through the eyes of those who have seen them.

“In class(link to external), we weave into discussions of the plays’ plots, characters, and themes with attention towards the plays as performance and encourage students to view live performances of these works whenever they are possible.”

If you’re taking a course, watching live Shakespeare plays is not an option. Trapp says that students can learn from the videos of local Berkeley Shakespeare actors, dramaturges and academics how to respond to the recordings. This allows them to comment on the ideas and put them to use in new viewings.

This is just one example of how Trapp’s Shakespeare course (link is extern) makes the subject matter relatable to each student.

Trapp adds, “Students can also draw on their own experiences as high-school students who saw the plays. We look at what the previous viewings meant and how it relates to what they’re currently learning. Or how they can view the issues raised in these recordings from the perspective of politics and political machinations. For example, we read the Richard plays, and students compare their plots with Trump’s or House of Cards.

Through Shakespeare’s plays we can learn more about ourselves and connect to others through the humor and drama that is everyday life. You still think that reading Shakespeare and understanding it is not important or relevant in today’s world?
Shakespeare is often quoted even though we aren’t aware of it.

Are you a person who has ever declared, “With bated breath,” that some thing is the “beall and the final” or that you want to “break the glass”? Are you a knocker? Have you ever asked, “Who’s there?” You may have cited Shakespeare.

Trapp says that Shakespeare is a must-read for students to be able to understand the importance of Shakespeare’s wordsmithing. “If you’ve ever spoken a green-eyed beast, a?in a pickle.’?tongue-tied.’?wild goose hunt.’ or hoodwinked.’?it’s Greek.’?the clothes make the man.’??forever and one day.’ or any other common sayings, then you’ve cited Shakespeare.

“His twists of phrase were unique and innovative, and today they’re so integrated into the English vocabulary that they seem beyond coinage. We are so deeply ingrained in Shakespeare that we don’t even know it. He was a skilled writer of English, and his metaphors have made every one of us richer readers and writers.