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The Value of Shakespear Today

In: English and Literature

Submitted By mgspieler1966
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The Value of Shakespeare Today What makes Shakespeare stand out from other playwrights of his era is his deep understanding of human nature and the human condition, the timelessness of his works, and hi exquisite mastery of the English language. The Renaissance (during which he wrote) was a particularly transformative time in English history, initiating a sense of English nationalism and pride in English as a language of art. Some critics continue to challenge his authenticity and relevance making the future of Shakespeare within the curriculum of both secondary school and higher education at stake. Shakespearean Literature still speaks to modernity and is therefore important in the schools. Humanism, mastery of the English language, English nationalism, and pride in English Language as an art is brought forth in works such as, As You Like It, King Henry V, and The Tragical History of Hamlet Prince of Denmark. Students need to learn these works in order to have a broadened understanding of the English Language, culture, and history. William Shakespeare has provided the world with guidelines to the English Language, an understanding of human nature, and the ability to deal with a wide variety of emotional situations through his performative literature. Students will continue to benefit from his works of art for centuries to come. Therefore, a 446-year-old playwright is our children’s best resource and greatest teacher. During the Renaissance, the English Language was undergoing a transformation. Many new words were being added. Shakespeare coined many of these new words and phrases, as if he were creating a new roadmap to the English Language. In order to fully understand the English language today, one must understand the history behind it. William Shakespeare is one of those early writers who made the English Language an art form. If one says “For ever and a day”, “In my mind’s eye” or “As cold as any stone” one is quoting William Shakespeare. For centuries, individuals have mumbled these words, not knowing their origin. To understand the art of language and culture, Shakespearean Literature must be continued in the schools’ curriculum. Without the knowledge of Shakespeare’s words, the world would miss the opportunity to view the secrets of the human condition. Readers learn the timelessness of his works through his themes-- such as love, romance, familial bonds, deception, revenge, anger, and war. These are all situations in life that happen today, as well as during the Renaissance. There are lessons to be learned from all the plays he has written that apply to our world today. Although some critics choose to challenge his authenticity due to the fact that there are no hand- written scripts or surviving documents other than title pages, this is not a reason to pull Shakespeare from schools. Many other well-known authors from his century did not leave supporting documentation either, but such lack of hard data does not deny their existence. It is possible that many of William Shakespeare’s plays were written for pure enjoyment and later published. Critics also label the Bard of Avon as illiterate and claim he did not have enough education to write the works, though other playwrights of the era had less education than he. Does it matter centuries later whether the works are literally authentic? Can we not enjoy and learn from them just the same? Yes we can because such discrepancies do not change the mastery he created. To illustrate Shakespeare’s mastery as storyteller and playwright, let us examine specific excerpts from his works. As You Like It contains one of William Shakespeare’s most famous monologues of all time: All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages. At first the infant, Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms. And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel And shining morning face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to school. And then the lover, Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier, Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard, Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel, Seeking the bubble reputation Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice, In fair round belly with good capon lined, With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, Full of wise saws and modern instances; And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon, With spectacles on nose and pouch on side, His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice, Turning again toward childish treble, pipes And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
The significance of this monologue is important in today’s modernity because it teaches a life lesson. It elaborates upon a central metaphor, in which one’s life is played out as acts and scenes. Through this, Shakespeare unfolds the truth that we are not permanent fixtures in the world. The most poignant line in this excerpt, “and all men and women merely players” [act, scene, line please] tells us that our lives are but minute in the grand scheme of the world. The seven ages of man shows how an individual progresses through the many scenes and acts in life. Life is like a theatre production enacted on a stage. Our audience is the people around us. They watch us live (act) out our lives from birth to death on the stage of our existence. In between we experience love (just like the characters in “As You Like It”), with all its ups and downs. We enter upon the stage of life at birth, live through many life experiences, and exit the stage through death--Total senility. Another illustration to lessons learned is the famous speech in Hamlet: To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep; No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep; (Hamlet the Prince of Denmark III.1.56-90)
Many of Shakespeare’s soliloquies give a message and track something important. In this passage we see Hamlet right in the middle of making a decision—a big one. He is contemplating suicide. Hamlet is letting the reader into his complicated mind as he tries to sort out what to do about his troubles. By way of reasoning, Hamlet comes to accept his sins. He lives on with guilt and faces things head on. Again, a life lesson through William Shakespeare and spoken through characterization. By deduction and reasoning, solutions can be found. Often, history gets lost in names and dates, but history is really the individual stories of people—people very much like us today. Shakespeare’s use of drama lets us in on that secret and makes history both magnificent and personal—here is Henry represented by a living, breathing, speaking human being…not some mythic super-human figure. The following famous excerpt from The Life of King Henry the Fifth allows readers to remember history and its importance: This day is called the feast of Crispian: He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named, And rouse him at the name of Crispian. He that shall live this day, and see old age, Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours, And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:' Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars. And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.' Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot, But he'll remember with advantages What feats he did that day: then shall our names. Familiar in his mouth as household words Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter, Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester, Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd. This story shall the good man teach his son; And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remember'd; We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition: And gentlemen in England now a-bed Shall think themselves accursed they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day. (IV.3.41-68)

--------------------------------------------
[ 1 ]. As You Like It (IV.1.135)
[ 2 ]. The Tragical History of Hamlet Prince of Denmark (I.2.185)
[ 3 ]. The Life of King Henry the Fifth (II.3.25)

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