Why we shouldn't study Shakespeare...help!My shakespeare class is holding a debate, and my group has been assigned the stance that Shakespeare is an old tradition that shouldn't be studied...

Why we shouldn't study Shakespeare...help!

My shakespeare class is holding a debate, and my group has been assigned the stance that Shakespeare is an old tradition that shouldn't be studied anymore. We need good reasons as to why Shakespeare could be considered outdated or even detrimental. So far, we have discussed his racism, sexism, and possible plagiarism. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Expert Answers
belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At last! A Shakespeare question I can contribute to! :D

I am not a fan. I find his works to be obvious, overwritten, and boring. I understand that he originated most of the story structures, plots, and archetypes that we use and love today, but I feel that recent authors have covered the same ground in much better ways. I think you can come to understand Story through many other writers far easier and with more enjoyment than with Shakespeare. Consider the works of Isaac Asimov, who wrote or edited more than FIVE HUNDRED books in his lifetime, covering almost every possible topic and aspect of human life. His landmark Foundation series echoed the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, and is considered a seminal work both in Science Fiction and in literature as a whole. Asimov never allowed Style to obscure Substance; the clarity of his work is second-to-none.

There are many, many other authors whose works I would read long before I'd worry about Shakespeare. Besides, everything that could ever be said about his work has been said, often, for hundreds of years. At this point, continued discussion does nothing but aggravate high school students.

tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You could look at it from a parent's point of view, too.  You could say that if the average parent really knew what was in Shakespeare's plays they might not want their under-aged children reading it. Teacher's can't show movies that are PG-13 much less rated R and some of the themes in the plays border on rated R material.  In a Christian-dominated society like the United States, maybe parents should have to sign waivers before a teacher approaches a Shakespearean play.  I know for a fact that in this recession, I need to do everything I can to keep my job.  If that means that I don't teach certain aspects of a work of literature because parents might write my boss about it, it's for dang sure I'm not teaching it. I don't know if that helps, but it is a different perspective that might help in your debate.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't agree with bullgator's point about language.  I think that it is valid to say that Shakespeare's language is too difficult.  It's unreasonable to ask students to wade through archaic language for no good reason.  In a way, the language simply gets in the way of the ideas that are supposed to be the major reason for studying Shakespeare.

I think that you could also say that studying Shakespeare perpetuates the idea that literature is good simply because it is old.  You could argue that there are any number of more modern authors who explore the human condition just as effectively and in more accessible ways.

wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator
While I can't agree that Shakespeare shouldn't be taught, I can see some of the points presented above as good places to start in this topic. You might also try making a list of reasons why we should study Shakespeare, then use this list to develop counter-arguments. A good debater must anticipate what his/her oponent will say and be ready to counter any arguments offered. It will be important to have some idea what you think the other team will say. If you can attack their arguments before they make them, it will only make your case stronger.
lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While I would never be convinced to not teach ANY Shakespeare, I guess you could argue that 300 years ago there was less literature in the world, and certainly few to none compared to the quality and complexity of Shakespeare, but in the now 400 years since his writing, there are many other excellent authors who are worthy of educational study. It isn't even a matter of saying that more modern authors are better, just that they are worthy of a portion of the available time in one's education.

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I honestly wouldn't discuss things like racism or sexism, as they are a bit ahistorical. I would ask how relevant he is to students' experiences. At a time when teachers frankly have to try to keep students engaged, focusing on Shakespeare to the exclusion of more modern works (some of which aren't all that easy to understand, either) could be counterproductive. This is not my opinion, but it's where I'd go if I had to argue against teaching Shakespeare.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It sounds like a great idea for a debate, but I can't think of too many good reasons to stop studying the greatest writer who ever lived. I suppose you could argue that the language is too difficult for today's students to understand, but I suppose that would also be counterproductive to your argument. Good luck--your group has the tougher side to prove.

wordprof eNotes educator| Certified Educator
In reply to #4: Some contradictory rhetoric here -- either it's obvious or it's been analyzed for hundreds of years. These remarks seem particularly disingenuous coming from an "expert" editor. And "aggravate high school students" is a cheap shot devoid of serious thought. The student asked for debate help. You did not contribute. Wordprof
wordprof eNotes educator| Certified Educator
My POV would be that he adumbrates other worthy contemporary playwrights -- for example, Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, John Marston, to say nothing of the slightly later Jacobian playwrights. Maybe you could build an argument on how many good plays deserve the "Romeo and Juliet" spot in the curriculum.
wordprof eNotes educator| Certified Educator
In reply to #15: What effect do you think your address name has on people? Your "present now" is not well served here.
princessita-2-day | Student

i also heard that he borrowed certain words and idioms and phrases from other people who does that

princessita-2-day | Student

i just dont like Shakespeare's Language there is toooooooo much SEX in it, where did this guy come from. i hate when we are told to translate into mordern english. man i hate this guy

is00 | Student

Shakespeare should not be read because all other writers of the world appear merit-less literrateurs while compared with this 448 years old Bard of England.

tacticalbusiness | Student


nazi123 | Student

We shouldn't study Shakespeare because we don't need to learn about past and about him. We live in Present Now


keshavmwd14 | Student

I have a solution for this.

Do not read any poems of shakespeare and read all the poems of emily dickinson. Them you will know the simplest language that shakespeare had tried to use.

He is just telling you the reality which he had experienced in his life that also making the poem entertaining.

So i do not think that there are any points against William Shakespeare

kjarman | Student
Why we shouldn't study Shakespeare...help!

My shakespeare class is holding a debate, and my group has been assigned the stance that Shakespeare is an old tradition that shouldn't be studied anymore. We need good reasons as to why Shakespeare could be considered outdated or even detrimental. So far, we have discussed his racism, sexism, and possible plagiarism. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

You should not have to study Shakespear because no one talks that way anymore. Our job as educators is to prepare our students to face the world of today in order to succeed in a very competitive job market. There are other writers who talk in modern english who could teach you the writing skills you need to know without being bogged down with all the thee's and thou's. A good way to win the debate would be to find a modern writer who teaches you the same skills.

mocking123 | Student


hard to understand (language)

bad example for people (voilence)


bhawanipur | Student

My point of view is that the plot and themes in Shakespeare' writing is still contemporary. Such actions are yet found in the society. For example King Lear in which he asked his younger daughter- how much she loved him and would she do so after her marriage? These questions are still there.

However, to put forward argument why we should not read him, then of course we do injustice with the present writers. On the other hand, Matthew Arnord has compared him like this-

Thou art free.
We ask and ask: Thou smilest and art still,
Out-topping knowledge. For the loftiest hill,
That to the stars uncrowns his majesty,
Planting his steadfast footsteps in the sea,
Making the Heaven of Heavens his dwelling-place,
Spares but the cloudy border of his base
To the foil'd searching of mortality:
And thou, who didst the stars and sunbeams know,
Self-school'd, self-scann'd, self-honour'd, self-secure,
Didst walk on earth unguess'd at. Better so! All pains the immortal spirit must endure,
All weakness that impairs, all griefs that bow,
Find their sole voice in that victorious brow.

Shakeapeare, as I have read somewhere, had written for his livelihoos. His plays lack three unities. There are more co-incidence, supernatural being, revengeful motive which may distract new generations.