Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Classic Corner: Shakespeare

by JccKeith

Still Cool Shakespeare
For those who have never had the joy of really reading any of Shakespeare’s work, and by that I mean not just memorizing what you were told in English or Literature class, but actually reading for yourself, this is for you.  Of course there is always the doubt of who Shakespeare really was and all that nonsense.  No, none of his plays were original.  All were borrowed, as were most plays of the time, from old works and myths.  His stories were however, written in his own words which is what makes them so remarkable. 
Wordsmith that he was, Shakespeare has given us many, many famous lines which people still repeat today in modern media.  We’ve all heard the “To be or not to be, that is the question,” and “All the world’s a stage.” 

What many may fail to realize is that Shakespeare’s themes and characters are still used today in movies and television.  One popular theme is the old, ‘guy loves a girl but she is in love with someone else’ or ‘girl loves a guy but he is in love with someone else.’  This may sound overly simplified, but it really is that simple.  Many of his plays are about love and the comedy that ensues when people fall in love with one another. 
If you read such plays as Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like it, you’ll also find a lot of typical human pettiness.  People banishing people due to circumstances beyond their control such as another person falling in love with them are common.  You’ll see guys getting upset when their wives or girlfriends don’t do what they want.  People get upset and jealous when their love is not returned.

Besides this standard human drama, there are more serious themes in Shakespeare’s work such as familial love and devotion, questions about the meaning of life and the purpose of the individual.  You will find people forced to deal with the guilt of their actions such as Lady Macbeth in Macbeth.  Lady Macbeth lusts for power and coerces her husband to kill the king so that they may become the king and queen.  Later she suffers such guilt she eventually takes her own life.  She speaks of the blood being on her hands, another phrase you might recognize.  In the story she tries to wash it off but can still see it, feel it.

Another main theme of Shakespeare’s works is that of the family not approving of/not liking a girl’s boyfriend.  The father or the family want her to marry someone they choose and she of course, falls in love with someone else.  This theme is so common you see it over and over again in movies.  It doesn’t matter why the family doesn’t approve of the suitor just that they don’t.  Usually, the girl and the guy end up together although the method is usually what makes the story.  Sometimes the family comes to realize the value of the suitor, sometimes the lovers kill themselves, sometimes they just elope and sometimes there is a little murder involved.

I could go on and on but I’m certain you get the point.  Shakespeare is just as relevant today as he was way back when.  The people and places may be from the late 1500s and early 1600s but their trials and tribulations are just as relevant to us as they were to those people.  Love, jealousy, greed… any of these sounding familiar?  How many romantic comedies can they make about these same themes?  It would seem an infinite amount as we are still producing them today. 

Before you write Shakespeare off as all gloom and doom due to the plays like Macbeth that you were forced fed in high school – give the man a chance.  Pick up a copy of another play and overlook the outdated fluffy language and you might just have a laugh or two.

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