The works of William Shakespeare and his contribution to literature and English, in general, have been incorporated into the school curriculum for many years. In the first year, students must learn many things, and Shakespeare’s inclusion in the curriculum provides a great opportunity for this to happen. The works of this great maestro have been the subject of debate based on their relevance in the modern-day application. Some of the reasons against Shakespeare’s incorporation into the school curriculum are that its content is not culturally diverse and outdated. However, its inclusion benefits are rich, dense language, universal appeal, and brain work. Shakespeare should be taught since it teaches young readers about modern world dilemmas.
When students successfully read and understand Shakespeare’s literature, they can handle any other literary content; they improve their brainwork. The significance of learning from Shakespeare lies in the rich content the maestro documented, and through understanding, students enrich a reader’s life in many ways. Claire Brunke, an art class teacher, argues, “My students’ [positive] response to this work solidifies my decision” to keep teaching the literary work in the classroom (MacGregor). Moreover, John Dryden shows Shakespeare “was the man who of all modern, and perhaps ancient poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul” and incorporating his works helps students connect words’ meaning to expressions (Cole). Compared to other literature, Shakespeare’s works are classic and need to be understood by learners.
Shakespeare’s literature has a universal appeal and can be related to today. Shakespeare’s play delves into various issues, among them honor, betrayal, love, wonder, and courage, which help readers understand challenges associated with morality, death, war, and wealth. Elizabeth Barret Browning says, “There Shakespeare, on whose forehand climb the crowns o’ the world; oh, eyes sublime With tears and laughter for all time!’ meaning Shakespeare’s works help readers explore what’s dearest to their hearts (Cole). Moreover, based on his complex characters, Shakespeare showed a thorough understanding of human nature. Robert Browning says, “With this same key, Shakespeare unlocked his heart’ once more!” (Cole). Browning’s understanding shows how Shakespeare’s content helps readers learn more about themselves.
Compared to other writers, few match Shakespeare’s beauty of the English language. Shakespeare’s rich, dense language, through monologues and soliloquies, was crafted for comic relief. G. K. Chesterton, as illustrated by Cole, shows, “The souls most fed with Shakespeare’s flame still sat unconquered in a ring, remembering him like anything” meaning Shakespeare’s command for language provokes our imagination (n.p). Moreover, based on his understanding of the English language, John Keats, as shown by Cole, says, “I have good reason to be content, for thank God I can read and perhaps understand Shakespeare to his depths” (n.p). Shakespeare’s use of language makes it easy to understand every thoughtful man’s desire and fear.
The opposers of Shakespeare’s literary inclusion in the school curriculum argue based on the lack of a modern association between the plays and reality. As cited by Mukhuba and Klu, Brandon Robshaw shows, “Misunderstanding and missed communications now come in entirely different flavors” since most students who must read Shakespeare do not understand (9019). Liz Matthews, Hartford’s (CT) Public High School teacher, says, “I replaced Romeo and Juliet with The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros last year and Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds” (MacGregor). When associating content with meaning, Liz says, “Simply put, the authors and characters of the two new[er] books look and sound like my students, and they can make the realistic connection. Representation matters” (MacGregor). Shakespeare’s applicability, especially in a racially diverse classroom, becomes associated with misrepresentations since time has replaced its contextual meaning.
Shakespeare’s works are considered inapplicable in a culturally diverse society. While Shakespeare might be a great writer, classrooms everywhere are becoming culturally diverse, and his works are no longer culturally fit for the modern classroom. Furthermore, opponents argue there is a need to challenge the meaning of the universal context associated with the plays. Jeffery Austin, as cited by MacGregor, says, “We need to challenge the whiteness of [that] statement: The idea that the dominant values are or should be ‘universal’ is harmful (n.p). Despite being considered universal, teaching traditional themes also requires looking into other modern voices to speak different themes broadly.
The defense laid on the significance of Shakespeare’s works in a modern school setting has been associated with rich, dense language, universal appeal, and brain work. However, counterarguments have been linked to outdated and not culturally diverse works. Despite the counterarguments associated with Shakespeare’s works, the plays still greatly contribute to the modern learner. Based on how students can apply the English language, it remains true that Shakespeare should be taught since it teaches young readers about present-world dilemmas.
Cole, Ryan L. “English Majors sans Shakespeare.” National Review (n.d.): n. pag. Web.
MacGregor, Amanda. “To Teach Or Not To Teach: Is Shakespeare Still Relevant To Today”. School Library Journal, 2021, Web.
Mukhuba, T.T, and E.K Klu. “English Language Teaching in Schools: Do Teachers Offer What the Students Really Need?” Gender and Behaviour. 15.2 (2017): 9017-9020.