Why do we still study Shakespeare?
Shakespeare’s works are timeless. After four hundred years, people still read, study, and perform his plays and poetry. Almost anyone can quote from several of his works. The reason that people know them is because they have been a part of our culture constantly since they were published.
It is important to study Shakespeare because it is a part of popular culture. Popular culture refers to movies, television, and songs. Have you heard Taylor Swift’s song “Love Story” on the radio, which references Romeo and Juliet? Does your city have Shakespeare in the Park in the summer? Did you know that the band in the Harry Potter series is called the Weird Sisters, after the characters in Macbeth? I’ll bet you have heard comparisons of one’s love “to a summer’s day.” Shakespeare is everywhere. If you don’t study Shakespeare, you will miss these references. You won’t enjoy them or appreciate them, and you won’t understand them.
The greatest reason to study Shakespeare is that there is a reason it is still popular. The stories’ themes are timeless. These are tales of young love, madness, family drama, aging, ambition, murder, and intrigue. Shakespeare’s poetry is clever and beautiful. His plays cover multiple genres. When you read and study the plays, you have a greater appreciation for them. There are so many works, and they have so much to offer.
The study of Shakespeare is still important for many reasons. One reason is that Shakespeare has had a vast influence on the English language and is the source of many idioms and metaphors that are still widely used today, such as "all that glitters is not gold" from The Merchant of Venice. To hear idioms such as this one in its original context is to understand something about the development and evolution of English.
The themes of Shakespeare's plays still resonate today because they speak to the human condition. For example, if we read Hamlet as a meditation on manhood or Macbeth as a look at the risks of unchecked ambition, it enables us to look at the modern world and perhaps better understand ourselves, others, and our shared humanity. Love relationships today are often as complicated as those in The Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night, and Romeo and Juliet. Some families are dysfunctional as they are in King Lear. Many people struggle with uncertainty about life, death, and the afterlife as Hamlet does.
The fact that Shakespeare's works are still performed all over the world, both translated into dozens of world languages and in English, is evidence that his work is of global interest, and therefore an art form worthy of study in schools.