Thursday, August 19, 2010

Shakespeare Is Wasted on the Young

That's not really what I think, but it made a catchy title. Well, maybe I did mean it a little, because I've been reading Hamlet recently and I'm finding that it is so much more enjoyable now than it was when I was reading it for my Shakespeare class in college.  I seem to remember back then that I had to consult the footnotes every other line or so just to understand what was being said. That makes it a little difficult to follow the flow of the action - especially when one might be a little distracted by his/her own Hamlet, ha ha.

Now it's much easier to grasp the meaning, even if I'm reading the Elizabethean phrases. (I do still occasionally have to consult the footnotes.) I'm also able to maintain a sense of the flow from night to night, and I'm finding I really enjoy it, even those philosophical flights of poetry that annoyed me back in the day. That Hamlet - what a witty scoundrel! I love his word plays. And I can sympathize with his feelings of frustration with himself when he can't seem to bring himself to do what he needs to do (although what he wants to do is a LOT darker than anything I ever want to do!).

I'm not advocating that high school English teachers should abandon their efforts to teach Shakespeare to teens. I do hope that those efforts are positive enough that the kids will be willing to do as I've done and revisit the Bard when they're older. I really hope teens' experiences won't turn them off Shakespeare forever.

One more thing I've appreciated now is the difference between reading one of Shakespeare's plays and seeing it performed. There's so much meaning that is conveyed in the acting rather than just the words. This may motivate me to seek out a film version of the play; any suggestions as to which would be best? I've seen the Mel Gibson version long ago, but Mel has a little taint on him right now, and there might be better versions, anyway.   

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