At school we are studying Shakespeare and I wanted to know why it is necessary that we do so? Are there any more important poet's/ playwrights from that same era? Also, can anyone tell me one of Shakespeare's best sonnets for me to read? Thank You!
This is a great question. From my perspective as someone who was once a student and who is now a teacher, there are so many reasons, I'm not sure I can list them all in this response, but certainly, a good summary reason is that we study Shakespeare because he is one of the greatest English playwrights of all time.
Many of the expressions and words that we use come straight from Shakespeare, and so studying the source of these expressions and words gives us new insights into our language, as well as allowing us to understand and communicate better with other well-educated people.
Shakespeare's plots have universal themes that have things to teach us in today's world. There are themes of jealousy, envy, doomed love, the "outsider," and so many more. A Shakespeare play gives us a mirror to hold up to ourselves and a window to see out into the world of these univeral stories.
Shakepeare's langage is rich and beautiful. Once you are exposed to it, that exposure informs your own speech and writing in a positive way. You might not go around saying "thee" and "thou," but you will gain some knowledge of the beauty of words and the beauty of rhyme.
Shakespeare's plays are great entertainment. I hope that you are able to see on of his plays on stage or even in a movie version. They are just as good as the latest movie, funny, tragic, dramatic, or sad.
Because the Shakespearean era is not one I am all that well versed in, I cannot recommend another favorite playwright from the era, but someone else should be able to give you a few good suggestions.
My favorite sonnet is Sonnet 130. The reason I like this sonnet is that he praises his mistress, not because she is beautiful, because clearly, she is not, but because that is not important to him at all!
You know, to be honest, you really can't be considered "learned" in the English language and/or the subject of literature unless you have studied Shakespeare. It's really that simple. Studying literature without Shakespeare is like studying mathematics without algebra.
In addition, Shakespeare's works of literature have stood the test of time because they are so very universal, that is that the concepts are as relevant today as they were when Shakespeare wrote them. I'm sure, as you study his works, you will find a way to connect with them.
If you are having trouble, try watching the (fairly recent) movie Shakespeare in Love. Perhaps that will inspire you. Another idea would be to see a Shakespearean play set in modern times (which would prove how very universal the subjects matter is). If that doesn't work, you could always look into the more controversial aspects of Shakespeare. For example, did you know that most of his sonnets are actually written to a young man!?! Food for thought, eh?
There are many important poets and dramitists, but Shakespeare is part of our common culture. When you watch a movie or read a book with an allusion to Shakespeare, you are missing out if you have not actually read the play in the first place.