Is the Bard the Only One?

Should Shakespeare still be taught in school? This is a controversial topic, and here is my take on it.

“To teach or to not teach” Shakespeare is a controversial idea that is circulating in the field of literature and education. Which side do you choose? Shakespeare is a famous and universally known artist born in April 1564. His work is renowned throughout the world. You might ask why, after all, his work is 450 years old. He was a British man who wrote many famous literary pieces, like Romeo and Juliet. He is a British man, and even though he has died a long time ago, his work keeps him alive. He invented many words and laid the foundation for English. We still use many plays and phrases of his to this day, without knowing. Even though his work is well known, and is taught in schools as a core standard in ELA. Shakespeare’s work is no longer relevant in today’s world and public schools because of the hard-to-comprehend language and non-culturally diverse literature.

Shakespeare wrote in Elizabethan English, which was used over 450 years ago. English has evolved and altered over time and most of the words used in Shakespeare’s works are not used anymore. Making it challenging to understand and follow his work. It is remarked, “But especially for her students who don’t have English as a first language, the language often gets in the way of understanding the story and themes.” (Barring the Bard: Should Shakespeare still be taught in schools?). As said by another teacher, “English teachers agree that Shakespeare’s language isn’t intended to be desk-bound; it’s crafted for stage.” (Powell). Many people who do not speak English as their first language struggle to understand Shakespeare. So why should we teach something that half of the students do not understand? Why should we make it a requirement and a part of the curriculum? Many of the audience members were uneducated back then. As a result, they didn’t comprehend much of what was being said. However, they kept an eye on the stage to follow what was going on. As a result, we can conclude that Shakespeare’s plays are intended to be performed rather than studied. So, why should students learn Shakespeare if it is supposed to be presented on stage? How easy would it be for students to understand something that is supposed to be done? All in all, it is hard for students who do and don’t have English as their first language to grasp what Shakespeare is trying to express.

Students learn about Shakespeare in school and have Shakespeare as a core topic in ELA, instead, we should read more books that convey modern topics and concerns. It is said, “there is a WORLD of really exciting literature out there that better speaks to the needs of my very ethnically-diverse and wonderfully curious modern-day students.” (Strauss). There are other works and authors who can express the same message as Shakespeare (human behavior), we should read more books that convey modern topics and concerns. So why limit your attention to him? It is critical to expose students to a variety of subjects, cultures, and so on. Many other pieces of literature convey what Shakespeare is conveying. Why not teach students about books from diverse authors, which will also teach them about diverse topics?

Some may say that the work of William Shakespeare is applicable in today’s world, and it should continue to be taught in public schools. As said by Bruce Smith, Dean’s Professor of English and professor of theater at USC, “Shakespeare reveals a different face to different cultures and different people at different times…” Shakespeare is said to be still relevant today since he exposes us to varied standpoints on society, people, and time. However, things were different for him 450 years ago, taking into account the fact that he was a white, British man. Back in the day, a white British man was treated differently and offered distinct opportunities. As a result, his work will be unable to enlighten students about human conditions. Furthermore, anything he said is from the perspective of a white man, which is unsuitable for promoting cultural diversity and introducing new ideas to students in today’s modern society. As said by an ELA teacher, “cling to ONE (white) MAN’S view of life as he lived it so long ago, we (perhaps unwittingly) promote the notion that other cultural perspectives are less important.”(Strauss). Therefore, he is unsuitable for encouraging cultural variety and introducing new ideas to students.

Hence, Shakespeare’s work is no longer relevant in today’s world and public schools because of the hard-to-comprehend language and non-culturally diverse literature. Shakespeare’s work is several centuries old so the language used is hard to apprehend and understand. Back then, people watched the play to understand the play. Meaning it is not to be studied but expressed and played out. He was a white man 450 years ago, so life was different for him. Teaching him in schools does not promote cultural diversity, we should make students aware of diversity. It’s past time to let go of Shakespeare; he adds nothing to our culture, and we can instead teach our youngsters about people who are genuinely important and made a difference.

Works Cited

“Barring the Bard: Should Shakespeare still be taught in schools?” 2017. CBC Radio, Accessed 17 December 2021.

Powell, Mark. “Kill Bill: why we must take Shakespeare out of the classroom.” The Guardian, 2014, Accessed 17 December 2021.

Strauss, Valerie. “Teacher: Why I don’t want to assign Shakespeare anymore (even though he’s in the Common Core).” 2020. The Washington Post, Accessed 17 December 2021. 

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Akshita Rana
Akshita Rana
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