Article published by : hannahhill on Monday, October 01, 2012 - Viewed 1114 times

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Category : Movies

Is Shakespeare Still Relevant?



William Shakespeare is an English legend. The world's most celebrated playwright, his plays have endured for over 400 years. They remain a staple of G.C.S.E English lessons and are continuously performed in theaters across the UK and the globe. But do they deserve to be?

With every passing year, Shakespeare's plays become increasingly disconnected from the modern world. Macbeth might be one of the greatest plays of all time but what does forcing it upon people achieve? It's hard to imagine the country's youth being energised by the idea of studying the bard, especially when his plays have so little bearing on their everyday lives. For the average kid, Eastenders has more to say about the modern world than Shakespeare does.

It can also seem like Shakespeare is being forced upon theatre going audiences as well. His plays are in a constant state of performance. By the end of September, Shakespeare's Globe theatre, built to replicate the famed original, will have hosted performances of six of his plays (Henry V, The Taming Of The Shrew, Richard V, Twelfth Night, Hamlet and As You like It) in just four months. Look at any major playhouse in the U.K and it's unlikely their yearly program won't include at least a couple of performances of the bard. To be fair, there is a lot of variety within Shakespeare's 39 plays but do we really need to seem them adapted so regularly? Why are celebrated contemporaries such as Thomas Kid, Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson comparatively overlooked both in the classroom and the playhouse? Are we giving Shakespeare too much credit?

The answer is of course, if predictably, a resounding 'no'. The works of Shakespeare still have much to teach and are still endlessly capable of entertaining. Certainly some students will find trawling through Hamlet a slog, especially those with no interest in pursuing English. But Shakespeare's plays contain so much history, so many turns of phrase that originated there, so many famous quotes, that studying them is as much a history lesson as an English one and an essential one at that. Even those who find his language impenetrable can still enjoy Shakespeare. Films like 10 Things I Hate About You, Shakespeare In Love and Romeo + Juliet all found a huge audience among teens because they took the stories, the characters and the passion of Shakespeare and visualised them in a way they could relate to. Romeo + Juliet didn't even try to modernise the language.

On the stage meanwhile, Shakespeare still flourishes. Part of the appeal of works as canonized as the bard's is the way in which new versions can adapt the same source material in inventive, wholly different ways. The familiarity of the texts allows for a great deal of creative license to be taken. By contrast even traditional adaptations can thrill, with plays like Hamlet and Othello frequently attracting scenery-chewing performances from big name actors.

At the end of the day, all that really matters is that Shakespeare's plays, even after all this time, are really very good. And what better reason to keep coming back to them than that?
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