I am desperately, passionately, madly in love! His name is Will, and I adore his every word. He’s dead, though. Is that a problem? I don’t feel like it is. I’ve been in love with this boy since I was in grade school and I’m not going to let a little thing like death stop me. Some of my friends don’t like him. You can all have your opinions—just don’t trash him to my face. I will defend William Shakespeare until the day I die.
People tell me how irrelevant Shakespeare is, how horrible it is that people are made to read his work at school. I strongly disagree. Are murder, passion, revenge, jealousy, and beauty irrelevant? Do the rhythms of a soliloquy dissipate just because they were captured on paper long ago? What about all the words and phrases Shakespeare coined—should they be excised out of the language? Could they be? No, no, no and no!
I don’t think Shakespeare should be ignored just because his thoughts were captured in an older tongue. His words sing! His humor remains! I’m glad I met with his works at school—it might have taken me years to find them on my own. I wish I’d met Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Langston Hughes there, too. It’s also good to know the buzz on influential people, even if you don’t like their stuff. Do you really want to be the only poor yutz who doesn’t know where the phrase “Alas, Poor Yorrick” comes from?
And don’t we all need more friends to turn to when we have that rotten boss? Will has good advice on everything. Want to learn how NOT to be a fool for love? Check out Twelfth Night. Thinking about borrowing money? See the Merchant of Venice. How exactly does one address the queen of the fairies? Indulge in a Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.
He’s always got something insightful to say on social issues, too. Want a thoughtful work on race relations? Othello. Sexual harassment? Measure for Measure. Suicide? Hamlet. I treasure his wisdom, and his zany side, too. I leave you now with something funny that Will said. He said: “Exit, pursued by a bear.” (And if you want to know what that’s all about, read the Winter’s Tale.) Enough said.
Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
31. Experience some Shakespeare and make up your own mind about him. I would highly recommend the film Twelfth Night: Or What you Will (1996, Trevor Nunn), or any of the adaptations by director Kenneth Branagh.