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Is Shakespeare good enough on his own as a writer or is it necessary for his work to be...

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benbandel | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 30, 2012 at 8:48 AM via web

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Is Shakespeare good enough on his own as a writer or is it necessary for his work to be staged?

Is Shakespeare good enough on his own as a writer or is it necessary for his work to be staged?

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 19, 2011 at 12:12 PM (Answer #2)

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This is a question that is largely based on people's opinion. However, I would say that the majority of people, if not all, would say that William Shakespeare is an excellent writer and that his works deserve to be read and studied apart from the stage. Of course, to see the works of Shakespeare acted out is a treat, but his writings alone are excellent. There are several ways that we can come to this conclusion.

First, truth be told, many schools and universities read Shakespeare without ever enacting his plays. This alone should be proof that his writings alone are excellent and worthy as an object of study and admiration.

Second, Shakespeare also wrote many works that were not supposed to be put on stage, like his sonnets. When it comes to these, what we have to rest on is his writings alone.

Finally, he has passed the test of time. He has been beloved of all generations. This fact alone might be the greatest testament to his his genius as a writer.

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pbjessop | College Teacher | Honors

Posted March 29, 2012 at 6:19 AM (Answer #3)

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Shakespeare wrote plays. In his wildest dreams he would have never imagined kids sitting in neat rows wearing jeans and $500 NIKE's readinghis plays. A play is meant to be performed - to be seen, to be acted out before your very eyes. To be made breathe - 'live'. Shakespeare was so adamant about his plays being performed that in many of his speeches he chose specific words in order to control the facial expressions of his players (actors) Shakespeare certainly knew about acting, about producing plays and about how much he could get away with regarding the censors (of which there were kazillions) Of course not every school has the $$$ to launch a production of a Shakepeare play HOWEVER you can listen to excellent recordings of all his plays (BBC is probably the best) It is very helpful to read the play along with the recording. Every public library has recordings of every Shakespeare play. It will help you very much with the language and it will fill your head with the sound of his words the way he might have hoped they would be played. It is the next best thing to seeing the play. Most plays are now on DVD too. If you are serious about doing well in your study of Shakespeare try to get a DVD version of a live performance of Shakespeare instead of a commercial movie in which the director/ producer/screenwriters, may have fiddled with the lines and altered plot and changed things in order to shorten the work or sell it. (These little changes may mislead you and cause you to give a completely whacko answer in an essay or on an exam. Don't do this to yourself.) Of course, naturally, watching a recording of a live performance (from Stratford Ontario or Stratford England or from Stratford New York) is helpful but it is not going to be as good as a concentrated read of the play accompanied by a good audio recording. When you find the language tough going, remember that you can understand weird lyrics to songs so you can make out what Shakespeare is writing. Remember too, that Shakespeare usually wrote in poetry – even though it doesn't rhyme all the time (most poetry does NOT rhyme) Also: If you find the language difficult, so what. You think you wouldn't sound weird to Shakespeare???? Suck it up-understanding something that is new and different to you is a measure of your maturity;it is an indicator of leadership and an innovative nature. Don't get something Shakespeare? Remember you are reading poetry.Shakespeare is not always saying things directly. He was definitely not an 'in your face kind of guy'.Here is an example "The weight of this sad time we must obey, /Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say." (ok these lines rhyme!) What does Shakespeare mean here? "the weight of this sad time we must obey"- this is a very poetic way of saying , "life is messy, this is a really sad time,suck it up and get through it." Then he gives us a strategy: "speak what we feel, not what we ought to say," What's he mean? "Don't hide your feelings, stop worrying about what others think of you, stop worrying what you think you should say or feel or do. Say what you are feeling and accept it because it will help you get through this tough time. " Which sounds lovelier "suck it up" or "hey, go with it man" or "The weight of this sad time we must obey"? Ask questions, take notes ask more questions. Asking smart questions is a great way to attract the right kind of attention. How did Shakespeare figure all this out? Genius.

 

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 30, 2012 at 9:09 AM (Answer #4)

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Personally, I think that all plays should be staged to be really appreciated.  However, Shakespeare's writing is beautiful, funny, haunting and strong.  Nonetheless, I never send my English students home with a homework assignment to read Shakespeare.  We read in class, acting it out along the way.  Then we perform the play at the end.  I also show film versions.  I just don't think you can truly appreciate the majesty of Shakespeare alone in your own head.  It's interactive.  It needs to be experienced either as an actor or as an audience member.

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 30, 2012 at 9:23 AM (Answer #5)

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As a previous post mentioned, plays are written to be PERFORMED. Generally regarded as the greatest playwright ever, Shakespeare's plays can stand alone better than anyone else's, and his writing is so beautiful that it can be read for enjoyment without the benefit of a live performance. Shakespeare's plays are also a pleasure to HEAR, and when I took Shakespeare classes in college, I generally listened to audio recordings (on the old fashioned LP) as I read the work. A play is always best enjoyed when performed live on stage, but no plays read better than Shakespeare's.

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pacorz | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted March 30, 2012 at 9:56 AM (Answer #6)

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Shakespeare gains so much when performed; if you can't attend a performance, then his works should be read aloud at a minimum. Even his sonnets are more beautiful when read aloud. This is probably even more true now than when they were first written, as the language has changed enough to hinder reading comprehension for weaker readers.

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted March 30, 2012 at 10:47 AM (Answer #7)

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While I am a big proponent of watching the plays, they can't be truly studied and appreciated in their intricacy that way. Watching the play is watching the story-line unfold and listening with a passing admiration of the language. To read and study the play is to really dig in and notice the fine details of motif, diction, imagery etc. 

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 30, 2012 at 1:23 PM (Answer #8)

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I think they can stand on their own as read, but certainly they gain from being performed. Shakespeare's works evoke a visceral as well as an intellectual response, which is one of the reasons they made a comeback during the Romantic period. You miss that when you're reading them. Lady Macbeth washing her hands, Lear clutching his dead daughter, and Hamlet confronting his mother with her sins are just not as powerful on the page as they are performed. 

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 31, 2012 at 1:41 AM (Answer #9)

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In my own experience, I find reading certain Shakespeare plays to be just as enjoyable - if not moreso - than seeing them staged. When the writing is really good, reading can be enough. With Shakespeare, I feel that play companies often don't seem to understand the plays they are putting on and so the presentation is more than a little strange.

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kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted March 31, 2012 at 7:16 AM (Answer #10)

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I enjoy seeing Shakespeare performed well, but have seen many poor adaptations which I would willingly replace with my own private reading. I agree that the plays were meant to be staged, not read, but the language and structure is fascinating to read and study as well as see and hear.

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lara-2009 | High School Teacher | eNoter

Posted April 1, 2012 at 3:55 AM (Answer #11)

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Shakespeare was and still considered of the best one who wrote plays ever. Being an actor performing on stage also shaped his imagination.Shakespeare's trademark of his plays is, whether they are tragedy or comedy, they always teach a lesson, take " The Tempest' as an example, a comedy that teaches you a lesson and gives you joy at the same time. Whereas Shakespear's poems are highly constructed, you can't find one poem that doesn't contain four to five figurative language and sound device, check " Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind" and " Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day". The language used by him is highly constructed, and not pretty much easy to understand, either. Though it always touches you so deep. Sonnets are his trademark in writing poems, it is uneasy to construct sonnets, though he could manage to write unforgettable ones.

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muddy-mettled | Valedictorian

Posted April 11, 2012 at 6:24 PM (Answer #12)

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In agreement, I think with #11, scholar and critic Joseph Wood Krutch suggested that Shakespeare had both the stage and the reader in mind when writing.  The suggestion can be found in a theatre review in the journal THE NATION, reprinted in a huge multi-volume anthology titled SHAKESPEAREAN CRITICISM, which can be found at some libraries.

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