Last year on Shakespeare’s birthday I wrote at length about why I love Shakespeare, and I gave you several good reasons why he’s still worth reading. Not much has changed about my opinion over the last 365 days, so I’ll just direct you to that post if you’re questioning the Bard’s relevance. Today’s post is more of a reflection on Shakespeare’s longevity and influence in my life.
I’m currently teaching Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar to my ninth grade students, and even though I’ve read both of those plays before, I’ve been reminded again of just how much staying power they have. Take Romeo and Juliet, for example. When we think of love stories–tragic or not–we always come back to Romeo and Juliet. We all know lines from the play by heart–“Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”–and we hear about “star-crossed lovers” all the time. It’s amazing that Shakespeare’s play has so captured our cultural imagination that we are still quoting and reading and remembering his story 401 years after his death.
I read R&J for the first time when I was in the ninth grade. Even though I was a huge book nerd back then, that was really my first experience reading and understanding Shakespeare. I had another breakthrough in the twelfth grade when I read Othello and found myself laughing out loud at the jokes without needing a teacher to explain the language to me. From there, my admiration for Shakespeare’s works has only grown. I’m consistently amazed by his ability to capture such a broad range of human emotions and experiences, from teenagers falling in love to old kings going mad. Not to mention the language is gorgeous.
So before I start to ramble on and on, no one can really say it better than Christopher Gaze in this video about how much Shakespeare changed the English language. In the interest of full disclosure, when he starts talking about Shakespeare’s most famous sonnet as a eulogy and not a love poem, I might have gotten a little misty-eyed.
But it’s not all about beautiful language and deep emotions! In fact, we’ve been having lots of fun celebrating Will in my classroom this week (At least, I’m having fun…my students probably think I need an intervention of some sort). Here’s a little look into the fun!
If owning a cardboard cutout of Shakespeare is wrong, I don’t want to be right.