A letter response to the trite question, “Why?”

My old cohort-member, recent COE gradaute and fellow English teacher posted this to her Facebook feed. She was trying to answer her students questions, “Why should we learn Shakespeare?”

“Teaching Shakespeare is a huge difficulty for me because, in all honesty, unless you are going to become a Shakespearean Scholar, you can live your entire life without caring, reading, or having to recognize a lick of Shakespeare’s work. I can’t justify to you that it is important to your well being to read his plays or sonnets because it isn’t. You can live your entire life and live it well and not read Shakespeare. I honestly believe that. But I would argue that is a sad life.

Let me explain: put your hand against your heart. Feel that? That’s iambic pentameter. ta TUM, ta TUM, ta TUM, ta TUM, ta TUM. “If music be the food of love; play on.” Poetry begins with the very beating of our hearts. That’s not even supposed to be a romantic thought, it’s a human thought. We cannot live without communication and communicating can be BEAUTIFUL. Shakespeare used the rhythm that we all have flowing through us every second of every day to convey thoughts in the most gorgeous way possible. That is just ONE reasons Shakespeare is coolest. And while you CAN live without reading Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet, the themes within his plays CANNOT be lived without. You can live a good life without Shakespeare but why would you ever want to? His works incorporate everything that makes life wonderful. He makes you question love and revenge and authority and charm. He plays with words just for the heck of it. He is good at making you see the words, feel his thoughts. I love Shakespeare because I believe that the very purpose of living is to communicate with others and to do it well and Shakespeare is simply the best at it. He makes me laugh, and cry, and rejoice in language! Isn’t that why we’re here!?! Not only in this English class but on this planet! Language and life are so vitally connected that the most romantic verses ever written by the most famous writer of all time were written to the rhythm of a heart beat.” – BG





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