I have an issue with Shakespeare.
It all goes back to my high school education. I remember years of Shakespearean learning units where we stared at blueprints of the Globe Theatre and read Romeo and Juliet aloud in class. I remember being forced to write mediocre sonnets and write essays on soliloquies that I only half understood. Most of all, I remember my teachers would consistently telling my class one thing, "Shakespeare is the one of the greatest writers of all time."
And that's where my issue comes in, because that's where my high school education cut off. There was no actual explanation of why Shakespeare is considered so highly. We spent so much time studying the plot of the plays, that we completely glossed over any sort of deeper meaning.
Some would argue that it's not necessary for high school students to get into the whys of Shakespeare. After all, the only reason that Shakespeare is taught in grade school is to expose young people to as much classic literature as possible. Why go into detail when many people will never use it past high school?
Personally, I think going into detail would help students actually enjoy studying Shakespeare. And I'm talking from personal experience as a kid who used to detest Shakespeare. When you start analyzing what King Lear has to say about humanity, it becomes a lot more interesting than the simple interpretation of a kingdom full of crazy people and traitorous kids.
Shakespearean plays did one great thing for literature: they caught the essence of humanity in a time period where people didn't want to explore what it meant to be human. They are some of the first works of thought provoking literature.
Just look at a handful of Shakespeare's great plays: Hamlet is all about indecision and the consequences of ones actions. The Tempest questions what it is to be human and what it means to grow older. Falstaff from the Henry IV Parts One and Two is considered one of the greatest Shakespearean characters because his attitude is so mercurial. It doesn't matter whether the play is a tragedy, a comedy, or a history--so many of them are deeper than they first appear.
Teens can understand these kinds of things. Teens know what it's like to be in love and to be betrayed. Teens are just starting to discover who they are and Shakespearean plays speak to all of those raw and real emotions.
Now I went to a public high school, so maybe I didn't experience the pinnacle of modern grade school education. Maybe some schools do a better job teaching the Shakespearean plays. Maybe it's just a lost cause and we should keep looking towards college degrees to educate us on Shakespeare. Either way, I want to know what you think.
Should high schools develop better teaching methods when it comes to Shakespeare? Or am I just being super idealistic? How was your education of Shakespeare? Was it good or bad? Tell me your thoughts in the comments.