What are some negative aspects of students learning about William Shakespeare?

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The only issue I can see is readiness.  It seems that many of today's students don't have the reading/emotional skills to relate to Shakespeare's different use of language and plots that lack exploding cars and lots of gunplay.  I fear that exposing them to Shakespeare before they're ready can lead to an aversion for works that they might enjoy later.

 

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Students often have trouble getting through the language in Shakespeare, and the plots can be complicated. However, I think the most difficult thing about Shakespeare for kids is that they will never fully understand all of the nuances, because they come from a culture long ago.
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The negatives proposed are failures of instruction, not the failures of students attempting to learn.  Kids will embrace a Midsummer Night's Dream because it resonates with their magical thinking -- but they have to see it! These works were meant to be seen, not read.  The shift in the language of course makes the text obscure for almost all high schoolers, but a good production with masterful actors will keep you thinking of the play for days.  Read synopses, see the plays, then read the First Folio with a good Shakespearian lexicon to appreciate all the wordplay and artistry of language. Crawl before running.

 

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I can't think of a negative aspect of learning Shakespeare, although the answers above do a good job of explaining why students sometimes dislike being expected to learn Shakespeare. Using good films to begin to teach the plays may help to break the ice.  I've also found that in teaching anything, reading closely, out loud, as a group, and discussing anything unclear helps students overcome barriers or language and/or history.

I've used the Branagh/Fishburne film of Othello as a way to get students interested in that play, and it works every time.

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I hate to think there are any negative aspects to learning Shakespeare, but I had to pick one, I would say it's when students don't really learn or read Shakespeare, but are left on their own to decipher the text.  This usually leads to disgruntled students who only develop a hatred for the words and do not learn anything.  Dropping students in the middle of a play on their own, is the same as giving them a play in a whole new language.  Without any instruction, would you say the students are actually learning the new langugae or picking out every third word that looks familiar.

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As an English teacher with 25 years of experience, I have certainly heard my fair share of complaints from students who hate the idea of trying to read Shakespeare. I'm sure nearly every English teacher has heard this complaint at least once. Yet it is hard for me to arrive at many negative aspects concerning the importance of students being at least rudimentally introduced to the greatest writer of the English language. I believe every student, from the lowest to the highest levels of achievement, should read at least one Shakespearean play--preferably every year from middle through high school.

The biggest complaints I hear are that "the language doesn't make any sense" and "I don't understand it." Fifteenth and sixteenth century language is demanding, but that should not be a reason to avoid Shakespearean plays. The first-ever reading of a Shakespeare play will no doubt befuddle most young readers, but a good teacher will guide their students through the rough spots and be ready for an explanation of actions, intentions and language. Greater understanding is usually found with reading the material aloud; audio recordings of the plays assist comprehension; and the outstanding film versions available serve as the perfect supplement. I don't necessarily advocate large doses of Shakespeare for lower level English students, but honors students should understand that studying important works of literature is part of their undertaking, and there is still no writer more important than Shakespeare.

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