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William Shakespeare once said, “Let every man be a master of his time.” From Romeo and Juliet to Othello to Hamlet, the renowned playwright’s works have been recurring elements of Wilson’s English curriculum. Shakespeare’s plays teach timeless themes like love, ambition, and war, but if every man has the capacity to be a master of his own time, why should we still use texts dating back to the 1600s?
Shakespeare is considered to be one of the greatest writers in human history; His plays are used to teach complex ideas and depict characters in a comedic or tragic fashion. However, the more distance between the Elizabethan era and modern times, the harder Shakespeare is to understand and the less effective it is as an instructional device. All of his works are written in the earliest form of modern English, so only after explaining the difference between “thou” and ”thee” or “thine” and “thy” and explaining why he adds “ist” to the end of every sentence can you begin to digest the actual stories and their present-day complications.
The classics are set hundreds of years ago and follow storylines that don’t make sense in modern time. This naturally raises questions about the societal norms from that time period that can distract modern readers. It would make far more sense to study from a text where barriers in culture and language are less prevalent so students can understand and analyze the text more effectively.
I think that Shakespeare’s writings are also analyzed more than other books because of the abundance of literary devices that can be analyzed in them. But literary devices are used so overtly in Shakespeare’s works that it becomes harder to identify and examine literary devices in other books where they are used more subtly.
Shakespeare’s classics are beautiful, but the message of his works sometimes get lost in translation because of the time passed between now and the 1500s. His works shouldn’t be the staple part of high school and college English curriculums.
English is an evolving language, and we have a responsibility to understand the past but focus more on developing its future.