What is the point of studying Shakespeare? How will studying Shakespeare's tragedies, in particular Macbeth, be beneficial to us? What are the highs and lows to Shakespeare? Is it a waste of time? Feel free to comment even if you don't think Shakespeare is worthwhile to study.
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Studying Shakespeare gives you an acquaintance with human nature at its best (Rosalind) and worst (King Lear). Studying Shakespeare sharpens your ability to analyze, which is critical in life for work and family. It activates new synapses in your brain that wouldn't be activated otherwise! Every new thing you are exposed to "turns on" a new part of your brain that previously lay dormant. And of course if the language were easier to understand, it wouldn't be as beneficial to your brain. If common peasants could understand and cry with or laugh with Shakespeare, why can't we?
Shakespeare has such insight into human nature. He understands the human heart, mind, and soul. Imagine how many families he helped with writing Romeo and Juliet. One way to end prejudices and biases is to expose them. Once prejudices and biases are exposed, then one can see an area that needs change. Prejudices are based on ignorance. Shakespeare's goal was to expose prejudices and educate his readers. Education ends prejudices.
Likewise, in Macbeth, ambition destroys. Learning that ambition can be dangerous is a form of education that can cause the reader to keep his or her ambition in check.
Reading Shakespeare is reading human nature, and the more we know about human nature the better we know ourselves. His language is mature and complex, so studying it is an excellent exercise in analysis. His works are integrated into every area of our culture, and knowing Shakespeare's characters and works allows us to be "in on the joke," so to speak. In particular, Macbeth is the story of a battle within--what Macbeth wants vs. what he knows to be right and how far he is willing to go to achieve it. This is everyone's battle, to some degree.
I would argue that the way in which Shakespeare manages to capture universal elements of being human in his plays make them worthy of study for all of us. The way he depicts the challenges that face true love, for example, or the experience of betrayal, grief and desolation help us to understand what it is to be human so much more clearly.
The first most important reason to study Shakespeare is that it is so important that it's deeply ingrained in our culture. You will miss a lot of cultural references if you don't know Shakespeare. The second most important reason is that the stories are exciting and the language is subperb.
Maybe we need to look at modern "translations" of Shakespeare side-by-side with the original, allowing for understanding more easily through modern word usage while appreciating the rhythm and expression of the original writing. I truly believe that in all areas of education, not just literature, there is real value in understanding where we came from - in the case of literature, how the use of language and patterns of conveying ideas has developed and evolved. Of course, this would take more time and we all have SO much time to add more material to the curriculum...
Shakespeare gives us insight into the human condition. In Macbeth, we explore the idea of human ambition and we look at what it does to people. Shakespeare is worth reading because his plays tend to make us think about things like this -- about major problems that seem to be common to people at different times and places of the world.
That said, I wish that the language were easier to understand. This is what made it seem like a waste of time when I had to read Shakespeare. I think we could get the same benefits even if the language were more modern and understandable.
Yes, I totally agree with you there. Thank you. Apart from philosophical insights to human condition, is there another reason as to why we should study Shakespearean tragedies? It would be great if I had two reasons to justify my point. Thanks.
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