(Part C of Bronze Award)
Why do people fear Shakespeare? To be honest from my point of view I think that it’s silly to be scared William Shakespeare’s writing, but I once actually feared it too.
When I was younger I used to hate it when I had to study him. I didn’t see why people forced children to look at gibberish (Shakespearean) and understand it; was there a point to it? Did they think it would help this generation? Now we have computers and the internet why did we have to be taught how to understand it when we could just search it up?
I was really too naive at the time to understand the beauty in words; how people could shape and mold letters into stories that can break our hearts. I was lazy too. I’m not the most hardworking of people and anything that took effort I was really not bothered with.
I think it was really when I started acting did I actually start to adore and comprehend the depth and meaning of his plays. I remember that my first audition, I did a piece from Shakespeare (Richard 3rd) and I really liked it. His writing literally teaches us how we feel, how we act, how we think; and when you read it you can see how much thought he put into his characters. How much detail he puts into illustrating the emotions of the individual. How hard he works to make us understand. We cannot just dismiss his works as classics. We must appreciate them for what they are. It’s not easy to write like how Shakespeare does and furthermore he didn’t even go to university!
It is sad that most of his storyline weren’t his original creation. Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth etc. were all plays that he wrote based on tales and chronicles. Romeo and Juliet was a direct adaptation from this poem called The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet, by Arthur Brooke, written in 1562. Macbeth was based of Holinshed’s Chronicles (Macbeth). However, it is Shakespeare who passed these forgotten art and story of age to us, breaking the boundary of time.
I know that his language is hard to fathom but you must be patient when it comes to learning. It is do-able but you just need that little bit of determination. There was once when we went to watch Mid-summers Dream in the Esplanade along with a friend. While we were watching it, she was scowling the whole time! During the interval she was complaining that she couldn’t understand it and that she didn’t enjoy it. So she left. However, I on the other hand, had a very pleasant time. There are a few things you HAVE to do to enjoy Shakespeare’s plays:
- Try to study the play beforehand, especially if you find the language hard. This is almost essential, unlike most, these plays are in Shakespearean so without understanding the plot and the language you have little hope of enjoying it. The least you should read the synopsis. Try reading the play out loud will help you to understand the language better.
- Make sure you actually like the play. Don’t go to watch a play that you don’t appreciate. If you’re more into death, despair and anger, see Hamlet not the Merry Wives of Windsor. If you like happy endings, despise sadness don’t bother to see Romeo and Juliet, watch Midsummer Night’s Dream instead. If you don’t like the plot when you study it then don’t go see it, it will leave a bad impression on you and you wouldn’t want to go watch another Shakespeare’s play. Begin with a story you like.
- Different productions will look and feel different. You might enjoy Macbeth when you first see it in the Globe in London but think it was rubbish when it is made into a movie. Every play is different even if it has the same story. The actors will interpret it differently and there will be different props and stage. For a beginner in Shakespeare, I suggest going to a modernized version of the play. One can relate better to a familiar staging. However, I must say that watching Shakespeare at The Globe is still one of my best experience.
- If you have no chance to go to the Globe, try to sit as close as possible to the stage. In Tudor time, play were written like Pantomime where audiences were part of the play. Sitting closer to the stage will allow you to feel what Shakespeare had intended for you to feel.
- This may be the last but not the least, if you can try, act out the play. Shakespeare wrote plays not novels. Many emotions are clearer when it is acted out. The very first Shakespeare I did was Richard III. We learn the history of the story and wrote a character summery for the main roles. Finally, we acted out our synopsis through each character. It was fun!
There is a theory that maybe Shakespeare was not the real playwright. There were many people who were suspected to have written ‘Shakespeare’s’ plays, including Lord Francis Bacon , the Earl of Essex, Christopher Marlowe, the Earl of Derby, the Earl of Rutland, the Earl of Oxford, and even Queen Elizabeth I herself. Supporters to the idea that Shakespeare didn’t write his plays claimed that first and foremost, he was not as educated as his fellow playwrights. He came from a middle class, trader family. His plays consists of many reference to the upper class. I like to think that Shakespeare did attend a Grammar School and though he did not go to a University, it does not prove that he could not write like his peer. His short job experience at a notary would have given him many opportunity to understand the law and upper class systems. Furthermore many plays were actually co-written so it wasn’t all Shakespeare’s individual creativity.
Shakespeare was well known as a playwright but he was also an actor and a successful businessman. William Shakespeare had to leave education early in his youth because his father had failed in his financial affair. He went to London and started out as an actor. This allowed him to build a fantastic relationship and understanding with the actors. When he writes, he wrote each part for a specific actor, bringing out their acting personality and ability. In time, as theatre become more permanent structure, he invested and became one of the theatre owners.
I believed that it is because he was a successful man that he became so well known. There were many famous playwrights during his time such as Christoper Marlowe. However, one can imagine Shakespeare’s success as a person has many reasons for him to become an inspiration to others. One of the main reason for his popularity even until today could all come down to the hard work of famous English actor, producer and theatre manager, David Garrick. We could say that he was the BIGGEST fan of Shakespeare. He staged the Shakespeare Jubilee in Stratford upon Avon in 1769 which cement Shakespeare as England’s national poet.
David Garrick as Richard III
My family and I went to Stratford Upon Avon in July 2014 to visit Shakespeare’ birthplace. So what is so great about William Shakespeare? Shakespeare was born in the time when England was emerging from its dark age. His success as a person is an inspiration to many. His plays still struck a core in our heart. His contribution to the English language remain important till today. I cannot end this better than quoting Shakespeare.
Learning about Shakespeare in Stratford Upon Avon, July-August 2014
“Love Me or Hate Me, both are in my favor…If you love me, I’ll always be in your heart. If you hate me, I’ll always be in your mind.”
To find out more Shakespeare’s biography please visit these websites:
To learn more about David Garrick, please visit these websites: