Shakespeare has, for a long time, been known as the father of English Literature. He is easily the most famous writer to ever exist, and from his sonnets to his plays, all are worth reading in some way. Poor oul’ Shakespeare gets a lot of criticism from a modern audience, however. So here’s my five reasons why you should read Shakespeare:
- Deeply layered Characters: Something I’ve noticed about the works of his I’ve read is that they’re always deeply layered. Merely creating a villain wasn’t enough for Shakespeare, he had to create a villain with a conscience to toy with our minds in Claudius, usurper of the Danish crown. Yes, we know that he’s evil, but in the prayer scene we see his remorse, and we’re not sure what to think. A similarly layered character is Antonio in the Merchant of Venice. He is portrayed as being kind and lovely to all, particularly to Bassanio (I think they’re a little too close if you know what I mean). But at the same time, we’re aware that he spit on Shylock because he was a Jew. If that’s not morally reprehensible, then I don’t know what is!
- Fantastic Storylines: All of his plays have had wonderful storylines. Macbeth was absolutely stunning, with its elusive witchcraft. Hamlet was a gripping political drama. The Merchant of Venice was, of course, one of his comedies, and really is fantastic, despite its blatant anti-semitism. There’s something really hooking about the storylines. And compare some of his most famous storylines to modern day plots: how many similarities are there? Quite a few. It seems that his works are the basis for all modern literature.
- A Challenge! OK, this reason probably won’t encourage you to read his works, but I think it’s as valid a reason as any other. While it’s always fun to read literature that doesn’t require much concentration, it’s even more fun to read something that’s slightly difficult! His works always get the old brain going, I find. If you’re feeling bored you should pick up some of his plays.
- Incredible Sonnets: Yeah, OK. I can’t say I’m very up on my knowledge of Shakespeare’s sonnets, but I do know his most famous one: Shall I Compare Thee. It really is a beautiful poem. And if you’re the romantic/cheesy/clueless type, then they could teach you a thing or two about writing love poems for your dear one.
- The Historical Element: You can read modern day historical fiction all you want, but at the end of the day, Shakespeare’s plays will give you a better idea of what it was like to live in the time than anything else. Think about it – these plays were written for an Elizabethan audience. They can tell you so much about what the interests of the people of the time were.
So OK, towards the end, the list does get a little… difficult, but it’s still not that hard to find five reasons why you should read Shakespeare today. So go on, pick up his works from your library or bookshop, and tell me what you think of him!