I used to LOVE Shakespeare. The stories, the characters, the LANGUAGE… I was a true and bona fide Shakespeare junkie.
Until I went to university.
I pursued an English & History Double Major because WHY NOT study Shakespeare and all the history surrounding it like it was my JOB?
I can remember stepping into my first university Shakespeare course. Shakespearean Tragedies. Oh wow, this would be good. How lucky was I that I’d get to study Shakespeare under a Shakespearean scholar? This would be BLISS!
We were just about to do our reading of King Lear in the classroom. How exciting. I sat in my wooden desk eagerly as I looked up at the Shakespearean scholar to WOW me with her reading skills that she had surely honed over her work.
As soon as she opened her mouth. I lost my love for Shakespeare.
I suffered through that class. It was terrible. The monotony of the teacher’s readings of the texts. The absence of inflections, expression, gestures, or any embellishment of the words made me think I was being read the phone book. And I was supposed to like the texts enough to write thousands word essays on them?
There was no attempt to bring the text to life, or to even give it the slightest justice in its classroom-based performance. My soul broke a bit.
Was this what it was like to STUDY Shakespeare? To have a scholar treat the sacred texts like nothing special? My heart hurt.
I knew I needed to find my love for Shakespeare again. It wouldn’t be found in the university lecture hall within the voice of the monotonous teacher who didn’t rise to the obligations of her job.
I took a 1 week trip to England over Reading Week. London with a little dip into Stratford-Upon-Avon. I went on a Shakespeare tour. I remember telling the tour guide that I had fallen out of love with Shakespeare and I was desperate to get my love back.
We went to The Globe (reconstruction) in London, and I got to see how his plays were performed. We drove to Stratford-Upon-Avon, and I saw where he was born, where he slept, and how he lived his life. I saw his grave, and the grave of his beloved. I heard some readings of his texts, but ENGLISH people, which brought some of the texts to life again for me. I learned fun facts about Shakespeare’s life that I wouldn’t have learned in school. It was refreshing!
Did I love Shakespeare anymore after that trip? No. But I did learn a big lesson about literature that it shouldn’t have taken me a trip over the pond to learn.
Literature, and reading, is a very PERSONAL experience. The relationship between words on a page and your experience with them is your own, which no one, even monotonous English teachers, can influence. It was wrong for me to let my English teacher take away my love for Shakespeare, because I gave her the power to take my imagination.
From time to time, I find myself using lines of Shakespeare in my communications. He has a really good way of giving you nice lines to make a good point. I even used a term from the Merchant of Venice in a communication to my bank (those who know the play can only imagine which term was used!)
To thine own self be true.