One of the sad realities of growing up in the U.S. is that Shakespeare becomes a somewhat reviled figure in adolescence. “What’s this guy talking about?” every high schooler has asked in disgust. Kids haunted by their own acne, or worried what people think about the Metallica t-shirt they’re wearing, or wonder whether their crush thinks about them outside of 4th period English are forced to stand up and perform some seriously difficult dialogue. It’s an English class, not the theater. There are better ways to encourage kids to express themselves than making them parse through Shakespeare.
Plus, Shakespeare is difficult to understand. That’s a fact and it always has been. Even Shakespeare’s contemporaries didn’t speak like him. He writes in iambic pentameter which forces him to structure sentences in bizarre (and incredibly creative) ways. The leather-worker down the street from the Globe Theatre did not speak in iambic pentameter. And neither do we.
Many people never even got a fair shot at appreciating Shakespeare. So let’s try one more time, and this time in manageable snippets. I promise, you don’t have to read these quotes in front of the class.
1. Hell is empty and all the devils are here.
2. There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
3. My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.
4. This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
5. The course of true love never did run smooth.
6. When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.
7. Expectation is the root of all heartache.
8. Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
9. The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
10. We know what we are, but not what we may be.
Feature Image Via IMDb