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Why do we study Shakespeare's plays like "Macbeth"?Why do we study Shakespeare's plays...

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freakingboi | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 5, 2008 at 11:44 PM via web

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Why do we study Shakespeare's plays like "Macbeth"?

Why do we study Shakespeare's plays like "Macbeth"?

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luannw | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted February 6, 2008 at 6:11 AM (Answer #2)

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We study Shakespeare's plays because the stories are timeless and beautifully written, for the most part.  As proof of the timelessness of the stories, note some of the movies that have been made from the plays such as Westside Story (Romeo and Juliet), Ten Things I Hate About You (Taming of the Shrew), O (Othello), Scotland, PA (Macbeth), Ran (King Lear).  Every generation since the plays were written has found meaning in the stories and the words.  Scholars today still try to uncover the mysteries in some of the plays such as the question of whether or not Hamlet was mad.  There are other reasons to study Shakespeare such as enriching one's cultural literacy and adding to one's understanding of and appreciation for literature. For me, it's the challenge to understand the words and the simple beauty of the words.

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malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted February 6, 2008 at 7:56 AM (Answer #3)

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I agree completely with the previous answer, but would also like to add one more thing.  I think Shakespeare's plays are timeless in the lessons we can learn from them.  Think about what we learn from "Macbeth" -

1. Meddling in dark magic is dangerous.
2. Absolute power corrupts absolutely (famous quote, but I can't remember who said it).
3. Loyalty is a good thing...being so power-hungry that you're willing to kill is a bad thing.
4. Yipes, here I am quoting "Hamlet" now..."To thine own self be true."  Don't let yourself be influenced by other people - don't let their name-calling push you into doing things you're not comfortable with (I'm thinking of Lady Macbeth and how she taunted her husband).

Those are just some I came up with off the top of my head - I know there are tons more, not only in "Macbeth" but also in his other plays.

The link below will take you to a series of articles about the influence Shakespeare has had on the world.  Good luck!

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 6, 2008 at 7:57 AM (Answer #4)

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We study literature, especially literature that has been deemed great (like Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, the Bible, Twain, Wharton, and other classics) because they are what life is about.  They all deal with universal themes that are true for all humanity, regardless of time period, gender, race, religion, or continent.  We all have or will during the course of our lives, love, hate, seek forgiveness and revenge, grow, envy, and die.  We are all interested in the paranormal, salvation, ambition, military success, incest, and juicy gossip--why else would movies, sitcoms, reality TV and soap operas be such a huge entertainment value?

Our TV and movies are the equivalent of past generations' books--before there was TV, radio, the internet, etc.  However, we study it to remain in touch with who we are, what we are, where we fit in in the universe, and if we would have reacted differently than the characters had the same situation happened to us.  We study literature because everything else in our world happens so quickly that we don't take the time to really think about motives and how each action effects everyone and everything else in the story.  Perhaps, by studying literature, it will give us all pause enough to think through our daily actions more carefully.

And, of course, we study literature because it's fun.  It's the cheapest and safest way to visit the Renaissance or elsewhere while still wearing our jammies.

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clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted February 6, 2008 at 9:42 AM (Answer #5)

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These are all great reason why we study Shakespearean plays like Macbeth, they certainly have stories with staying power. As an English teacher I also think that Shakespeare offers a lot in the way of the language. Shakespeare has good representations of imagery, alliteration, irony, analogy, soliloquy, monologue, aside, figurative language like metaphors, extended metaphors, similes, personification, symbolism. Shakespeare also hits the nail on the head for a teacher who is teaching about rhythm and rhyme because his plays are written in iambic pentameter. Shakespeare was a pioneer and shaped much of our language today so it's important to know where these concepts, words, and phrases came from so that we can better understand the modern applications of the language.

http://www.enotes.com/literary-terms

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mrerick | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted February 8, 2008 at 12:49 PM (Answer #6)

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Love that answer, Clane.  I've always thought we present Shakespeare for two reasons: first, because he's the single most acclaimed author ever, and, second, there are very few other authors that give us that many examples of that many literary devices in each piece of work.  I can cover an entire state standard of literature by just reading Julius Caesar.

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted February 8, 2008 at 6:26 PM (Answer #7)

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I agree completely with the previous answer, but would also like to add one more thing.  I think Shakespeare's plays are timeless in the lessons we can learn from them.  Think about what we learn from "Macbeth" -

1. Meddling in dark magic is dangerous.
2. Absolute power corrupts absolutely (famous quote, but I can't remember who said it).
3. Loyalty is a good thing...being so power-hungry that you're willing to kill is a bad thing.
4. Yipes, here I am quoting "Hamlet" now..."To thine own self be true."  Don't let yourself be influenced by other people - don't let their name-calling push you into doing things you're not comfortable with (I'm thinking of Lady Macbeth and how she taunted her husband).

Those are just some I came up with off the top of my head - I know there are tons more, not only in "Macbeth" but also in his other plays.

The link below will take you to a series of articles about the influence Shakespeare has had on the world.  Good luck!

Great answer, Jen.  I can't help but thinking how all of these apply to Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars.

The exciting thing about Shakespeare is how eloquently he captures these elements.   Everything else is imitation.  Some good, some bad.  

For an interesting analysis of this maxim, see

http://www.enotes.com/hamlet/thine-own-self-true-an-analysis

 

 

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

Posted October 12, 2012 at 5:14 PM (Answer #8)

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We study Macbeth because it is a pretty simple and easy to understand play.  You don't need a real grasp on history to appreciate it.  The characters are simply drawn, and their motivations are obvious.  Personally, I think the language is simpler too.

Double, double, toil and trouble;(10)

Fire burn and cauldron bubble. (Act 4, scene 1, enotes etext p. 57)

We also study Macbeth because kids usually like it.  They appreciate the conflicts, and they certainly enjoy the blood and gore.  My students usually think it is pretty funny too.  It is definitely engaging.  Who doesn’t like witches, floating daggers, walking forests, catchy tunes, and beheadings!  This time of year is a great time to read this play.  It’s also very fun to perform.

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