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There is a reason that William Shakespeare is still taught. His writing was phenomenal for his time, and it has stood the test of time. However, teachers tend to forget that he was a poet as well, and many phrases students are familiar with originated with Shakespeare, as did some words they might know. Does this mean that his works have to be taught in their entirety? Probably not. Certainly some are worth forging through to the very end, but others could be taught focusing only on certain portions.
No one author teaches us more of life than Shakespeare. As post #3 states, Shakespeare is essential to the understanding of other texts, even in something as basic as the title as over a thousand titles come from lines in Shakespeare.
In addition, there is a beauty to the Elizabethan language that should be preserved. For, it not only pleases the senses, but it teaches us much about our Modern English as its ancestor. It is interesting that in parts of the Southeast where many a person's ancestors came from Britain in the 1600s, certain expressions and words are yet used. (What are now grammatical errors --Have you saw?--were correct in Shakespeare's time. Perhaps this explains some of the "Southern English.")Indeed, Shakespeare is relevant and intrinsic any English speaking culture.
True musicians always study classical music, do they not? True artists study the old masters, do they not? Why should literari not also study the old master?
I taught night class a local community college, and many of the students that comprised these classes came from other cultures and backgrounds. What is interestingg is the way they all responded to Shakespeare's works. When we did Othello, they loved the ideas, characters, and language of the play. They found they could relate to the situations, and they would remember lines and quotes.
I think this is true for high school students today. Not exposing students to Shakespeare prevents them from being exposed to a significant part of our culture, beautiful language, and situations and characters that illuminate universal conflicts. Shakespeare's language is difficult but it is worth the effort to understand it.
That said, there are many ways to teach Shakespeare. Portions of plays can be studied. Film versions can be used. I found that lower level students enjoy Mel Gibson's Hamlet and Kenneth Branaugh's Much Ado about Nothing.
I certainly understand what post #4 when he says the language of Shakespeare is difficult to read and understand. I agree. My argument is that we've gotten lazy and aren't used to having to pay close attention to what we read in order to determine meaning and appreciate the language--and that goes for some teachers as well as students. Translations and modernizations are fine if all that matters is the story; to me, though, it's about the language and the discipline as much as the plot or characters. Reading Shakespeare is like reading the King James version of the Bible, as both were written at roughly the same time. It requires something from me, but it's clearly the most beautiful and poetic version. Other versions are helpful and even necessary, at times, but there is something mature and lyrical about the KJV. I don't advocate reading every one of Shakespeare's works; however, at the right time, reading Shakespeare is an exercise in discipline and concentration as much as lyricism and entertainment. I say keep reading it.
Shakespeare is also crucial to understanding the body of Literature, especially works written in English that came after him. To me, a lot of the reason to teach anything in school is to show students what has come before, so they can understand the foundation upon which the society we now live in was was built. That may seem to be only a question of history class. But it covers every subject imaginable, Literature not the least of these.
Shakespeare obviously had an effect on written works after his day, but also, we should teach Shakespeare because of the effect he had upon our language. He invented over 1500 words that we use commonly everyday. And for that reason alone, students should read and understand his work (and that doesn't include the phrases that we consider cliches that come from Shakespeare's plays -- phrases like: laughing stock, sorry sight, as dead as a doornail, in a pickle and too much of a good thing).
For me, however, it is the breathtaking beauty of his poetry and the complex and intriguing development of his characters that make him a must teach in school.
In my mind, my response would be why not? I guess I am not convinced of the case that would call for not teaching Shakespeare. His dramas are filled with life lessons from which students can learn more about themselves and the world in which they live. Works such as "King Lear" or "Othello" help to bring to light so much of what it means to experience emotions regarding other people and themselves. At the same time, Shakespearean sonnets are excellent examples of how language can be used to re-describe individual emotions and experiences. I think that the technical merit of teaching Shakespeare to students would be worthwhile. We stress to students how it is important for them to "write." Yet, we fail to show or highlight examples of how one does in fact write. Worse things could happen in our schools if students modeled their own writing style off of Shakespeare's.
I think it's important to teach Shakespeare. First of all, the students always enjoy it. I think they feel important, because they are now in the know. The other important reason is that they are very teachable- there's a lot of meat to them, and they are alluded to often in our culture.
I think that this is a great question that has been asked quite a bit by people in our society today. As the education system changes, it is interesting to see that many people wish to forgo learning Shakespeare altogether. I don't believe that this should be the case. I personally believe that Shakespeare should continue to be taught for years to come.
As I remember my time in school learning about Shakespeare, I remember how it took a bit of effort to be able to interpret and understand all that the text said, but also remember how after I understand it, I felt not only proud of myself for figuring it out and understanding, but was also able to connect with the stories on a deeper level.
I believe that Shakespeare's work is still relevant in today's society, on top of the fact that it is a good stretch for the brain to interpret the old English.
Hope this helps!
Reacting to the following reaction in post #2:
... my response would be why not?
I, believe the biggest argument against teaching Shakespeare in school is the language. Though the language used i works of Shakespeare is English, it is very different from the English we know and speak today. Therefore, Shakespeare becomes suitable only for students who are interested classic literature and roots of English language. It is not suitable fr those interested in learning only as a language useful to them in their daily lives.
Of course, some suitable translations of works of Shakespeare in more contemporary English could be used for all students to give them the benefit of exposure to Shakespeare, without burdening them with the task of learning an outdated version of English.
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