Shakespeare: Is he still relevant?

In a long list of names that scare people, Shakespeare may be near the top.

The name Shakespeare is held in such high regard that students feel he is put on a pedestal that only the brightest students can understand.

“I firmly believe that students have been conditioned to fear Shakespeare,” special lecturer Jennifer Gower-Toms said.

The fear comes from the language. Though it is English, it is not a form many are familiar with. It takes time to understand the text, time that many students are not willing to give.

Shakespeare’s works are still admired and taught throughout the world. These works remain relevant due to their subjects, such as gender roles, race and religion. Many people today are still able to relate to these topics.

“Shakespeare does not offer us easy answers to questions,” Gower-Toms said. “Therefore, we are asked as readers to consider how 16th and 17th century attitudes have impacted our 21st century views.”

The difficult language of Shakespeare is a challenge for most students. There are movies and plays to view his works, but in class, the first way to learn Shakespeare is to read Shakespeare.

“We live in an age of a visual culture and we feel uncomfortable to listen to Shakespeare,” said Bruce Smith, professor of English and Theatre at USC Dornsife, in an event at Oakland University.

When watching Shakespeare, students can see the writing come alive. Directors will cut and alter scenes to make a play or movie more visually appealing to the modern audience.

“Hearing the language spoken and performed sheds new light on the meaning of the written word of the text,” Gower-Toms said.

Watching Shakespeare lends more understanding of the stories and can better convey the humor. Some of Shakespeare’s witty jokes can even rival those seen on modern comedy shows like Family Guy, though many students find it hard to believe that a sense of humor existed in the 16th century.

The works of Shakespeare examine aspects of society that we still find in ours today. The fact that students from middle school up to university levels continue to study Shakespeare, shows that there is not as much of a cultural gap as people may think and that history does tend to repeat itself.

3 movies that you might not know were based on Shakespeare works.

  1. “The Lion King”: “The Lion King” has many scenes that are taken straight out of “Hamlet.” For example, both King Hamlet and Mufasa are killed by their brothers.
  2. “10 Things I Hate About You”: Similar to “The Taming of the Shrew,” the younger sister Bianca in “10 Things I Hate About You” cannot date until the older sister does.
  3. “She’s The Man”: The plot of “She’s The Man” is a modern version of “Twelfth Night.” The main characters Viola, Sebastian and Olivia even have the same names in both.