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Why shouldn't Shakespeare be taught in schools?I would only like reasons for why it...

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kim-c | Student, College Freshman | eNoter

Posted March 17, 2010 at 1:12 AM via web

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Why shouldn't Shakespeare be taught in schools?

I would only like reasons for why it shouldn't be taught but I don't mind arguments for why is should be taught.

Thanks.

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epollock | Valedictorian

Posted March 17, 2010 at 2:48 AM (Answer #2)

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There are many reasons why it shouldn't be taught. The most common reason is that it is in a language that few people understand ands the result of that is that few students can barely understand it. That is why most of the play is not usually taught but only selected passages.  Generally the easiest ones are taught, and there are so many study guides to help with the translation of the language into Modern English. The other reason is that it is so ubiquitous in the Western World that a teacher doesn't have to cover it, knowing that the student will eventually be exposed to it. Also, the plots of the plays are so unrealistic, the message is lost and most students don't get the message. Lastly, studying Shakespeare in a language that is not spoken is merely a waste of time.

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 17, 2010 at 3:42 AM (Answer #3)

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I would seriously rethink your position or retract your thesis.

If Shakespeare should not be taught in high schools, then many English curricula would have gaping holes and all students would be grossly underprepared for college.  Understanding Shakespeare is a mandatory right of passage for any academic.  He's the only author who was taught exclusively as part of my undergraduate degree.

Shakespeare the foundation of the department, of the language, of drama, of poetry.  He is not only taught in English classes, but also drama, film, public speaking, art, philosophy, and history.  In fact, his plays are mandatory reading at all levels in our school, even American Literature (Hamlet).  In fact, one Russian play director said Hamlet could sustain all the world's theaters for time immemorial if all other plays were lost.

It's like saying that Newton should not be taught in physics, when he founded nearly all the groundwork of the discipline.   Maybe Darwin shouldn't be taught in biology?   Or maybe Spanish shouldn't be taught in Spanish classes?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 17, 2010 at 5:04 AM (Answer #4)

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I agree with all of the arguments put forward by the first answer.  I think the second answer shows why Shakespeare is still taught -- because English teachers think he should be.

Since I am not an English teacher, I agree that Shakespeare should not be taught, at least not in the original language.

In addition to all the things the first answer says, I think that it is not necessary to study Shakespeare in order to get the same messages about the "human condition."    I think there are plenty of works other than Romeo and Juliet, for example, that can tell us about love and hatred and star crossed lovers.

I do think that students should know something of the basic plots of various well-known plays, but only for reasons of cultural literacy.

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missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 17, 2010 at 6:35 AM (Answer #5)

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The question whether to teach or not to teach Shakespeare in school has to do with the outcomes you wish students to achieve in schools.

We teach Shakespeare for several reasons. One reason is that each industry will introduce a specific set of vocabulary, and it will often feel like a foreign language at the beginning of employment. This Old English study helps students by offering discomfort with language and then the support to work through it and build meaning. Another reason for Shakespeare is that you can just get the surface level meaning of a text and comprehend it, but he truly offers a level for the dirty minds in a classroom, the complex minds in a classroom, the fighters and the lovers. Thus, using Shakespeare helps teachers be able to differentiate their instruction. Finally, reading Shakespeare requires interpretation, analysis, evaluation, inference, and a variety of complex higher level thinking skills. This cannot be done to the same degree with an ordinary text from American literature.

I would agree with you that Shakespeare is difficult to teach, but good teachers make it palpable and an experience that builds, not destroys skills. 

So, if you don't want to see students encounter great challenge in the literature classroom, if you don't want to expose them to defining literature of the Elizabethan Era or the precursor to the Renaissance Era, if you don't care to show them where the original drama came from, then please, take Shakespeare out of schools.

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

Posted March 17, 2010 at 11:15 AM (Answer #6)

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The language is not always easily picked up, but that is NOT a reason to avoid teaching it.  That is a lazy, pitiful, and pathetic view.  If it were easy, any old fool could do it...challenge yourself to get the hang of the beauty of this language and then read all 37 plays!  The richness and wonder Shakespeare pours into every play is absolutely amazing. 

Remember that plays are all meant to be SEEN not read.  Watch the film in addition to reading it, think about the motives of the characters and how they are each feeling.  Think about how you would feel in similar situations and what you know that is like each scene, character, situation.  All of this will make your experience richer, not to mention that you will better understand the references made to Shakespeare in daily life--commericals, Bart Simpson, other cartoons, and even Star Trek.  Each allusion to Shakespeare will deepen your understanding of the situation in which the reference is made. 

 

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

Posted March 17, 2010 at 11:25 AM (Answer #7)

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Being a big Shakespeare fan, I have to disagree with the idea that the language is too difficult to understand. That's like saying it's useless to visit a foreign country because you won't understand ANYTHING you see, hear or experience. I sometimes don't understand teen slang that I overhear or experience first-hand, but it's no reason to close your mind to it. A helpful hint to better understanding Shakespeare that I used in college: I used a recording (on old LPs) to follow along with the play. Great actors like John Gielgud or Richard Burton or Laurence Olivier interpreting the characters made it a snap.

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stella-lily-rothe | Student , Undergraduate | Honors

Posted April 16, 2010 at 2:46 AM (Answer #8)

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I am 100% for the teaching of Shakespeare in schools.  Shakespeare is a genius, and his contribution to both literature and theatre has given him an almost demi-god status.

Shakespeare wrote in Early Modern English: not Old English or Middle English.  It is only difficult to understand if you close your mind to it and don't read footnotes.  To teach Shakespeare in Modern English, stripping it of its original beauty, would be to rob students of Shakespeare's brilliance.  With many of his plays, the beauty lies not so much in the plots as in the language.

There is a purity of form and style that Shakespeare alone could write.  English teachers should teach his unabridged work in class.  The language truly is not that difficult.  Watching films and plays, reading aloud, and recreating scenes all help students see past the page and peer into the heart of the language. 

Shakespeare is Early Modern English, and his work quite literally is evolution in process.  Read Chaucer, then Shakespeare, then Burns, then Keats, then Poe, then Plath, then Angelou: you will see a slow and steady evolution of our beautiful language emerge.  Truth be told, I much prefer Shakespeare's tongue over today's "see u b4 class lol ttyl <3" simplified little messages. 

With a little bit of effort and a lot of love, understanding Shakespeare becomes simple and truly beautiful.  It starts with school, though: teachers, please don't ignore this wonderful man!  :)

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stella-lily-rothe | Student , Undergraduate | Honors

Posted April 16, 2010 at 2:49 AM (Answer #9)

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There are many reasons why it shouldn't be taught. The most common reason is that it is in a language that few people understand ands the result of that is that few students can barely understand it. That is why most of the play is not usually taught but only selected passages.  Generally the easiest ones are taught, and there are so many study guides to help with the translation of the language into Modern English. The other reason is that it is so ubiquitous in the Western World that a teacher doesn't have to cover it, knowing that the student will eventually be exposed to it. Also, the plots of the plays are so unrealistic, the message is lost and most students don't get the message. Lastly, studying Shakespeare in a language that is not spoken is merely a waste of time.

I say this in all due respect, but I wholly disagree that Shakespeare is a waste of time simply because his language is different than ours.  Should we take foreign language out of school, too?  History, also?  The history of our language is vital to understanding why we speak the way we do today.  Shakespeare not only presents poetry in its finest form, but he also exposes us to a different era of history that impacted our modern age tremendously.

~ Stella

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linalarocca | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted April 17, 2010 at 9:26 PM (Answer #10)

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I just raised a similar question for a unit of study. More specifically, I voiced the opinion that society is so consumed with editing inappropriate content in the media, yet they do not consider some of the content in classic literature as inappropriate. Macbeth is a lot more violent and corrupt than some of the content on prime time television. In addition, Romeo and Juliet encourages teenagers to consider suicide as an answer to turmoil and conflict. Many religions look at suicide as a sin because the person is ending the life that God gave to them. Many religions proclaim that life is a gift from a higher source and that this gift should be cherished.

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stella-lily-rothe | Student , Undergraduate | Honors

Posted April 19, 2010 at 6:14 PM (Answer #11)

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In reply to #10: I've always loved Shakespeare, and my mom let me read plays I wanted without prior censorship. Years later, I can very honestly say that nothing in Shakespeare's works ever spurred me to immoral behavior. The primetime news saddens and bothers me to the point where I no longer watch it. I recognize that Shakespeare is, for the most part, retelling history and writing for the stage; furthermore, the element of violence is not exclusive to him. Many modern authors who are studied in highschool write heavily about violence, sexual topics, and suicide. I don't see any of these books being taken out of students' hands. Shakespeare is a creative voice of history, human emotion, and every possibility of the human heart. His voice is ageless, and it explores the human psyche in vast and substantially powerful ways. I can't imagine mankind being the same, creatively, without him. As a college student, I have seen the difference between students who have and have not been sufficienty exposed to Shakespeare in highschool. Those who have not struggle with the materual and often it lowers their GPA. Those who have enjoy their work and have an easier time getting good grades. Exposing students to Shakespeare in highschool will prepare them for college, and enjoying Shakespeare in college will prepare them for a lifetime of study and appreciation for the Bard.
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newpruguktn | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 23, 2010 at 1:58 PM (Answer #12)

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It' really a great story for high school kids. These can enhance them for preparing the next stage in life which is college life. I hope there should be another kind of story which is similarly the same with Shakespeare. Thanks.

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vegeance | Student , Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 9, 2010 at 12:09 PM (Answer #13)

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Well first let's consider why people would read Shakespeare in the first place :

  1. Interest in Historical English works and its language
  2. Cultural literacy and comprehension of the nature of english at the time
  3. To attain a skillset capable of decipering Old English and its vast insurmountable amounts of expressive words
  4. Improvement in understanding the character's motifs, the character's interactions, ambitions, conflicts and resolutions of literature

Now consider the reasons why not to read Shakespheare :

  1.  Disinterest in historical english, with no immediate practical usage in everyday life
  2. Outdated works and cultural differences have a huge gap leaving most students disinterested, apathethic and aloof
  3. Modern works in media-presentable forms can often convey messages, symbolism, motifs, themes much more effectively and in-depth/breadthe with visualizations, audio and sensory stimulus (literature is not limited to classical works in x century)
  4. Deciphering Old English might not evoke an interest but rather dissuade students from reading it (simiarily, like deciphering cryptographic messages)
  5. The amount of resources, money and time instilled to invest in these works may not have a long-lasting effect with the current generation (though some may still appreciate) thus rendering it meaningless

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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