To Read or Not to Read
Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.
Email This Story
William Shakespeare’s Macbeth premiered in 1606. 411 years later, it is still being performed, recently for Flushing High School Juniors and Seniors.
The Michigan Shakespeare Festival Touring Company’s Derek Ridge played Banquo in their March 30 production in the auditorium. Ridge is drawn to Shakespearean drama because he finds the stories timeless and says “it’s important to understand the importance of language.” Ridge didn’t always feel so passionately about Shakespeare though, but says “Once something in my brain clicked and I realized how much fun Shakespeare was, it made me understand Shakespeare differently.”
That “something” hasn’t clicked in FHS Freshman Collin Stover’s brain yet. His English 9 class recently studied Romeo and Juliet and Stover says “I just thought (Romeo and Juliet) was kinda old, because of the Old English… it was hard to read and hard to understand sometimes.” While the language took away from Stover’s reading experience, it enriched the story for his classmate Alexis Rose.“I think (the Old-English) gave us a perspective on how they talked in the olden days,” she explained “The Old-English is a part of history… it gives us a sense of how they acted and interacted with other people hundreds of years ago.”
FHS Drama teacher Stacey Daniels appreciates Rose’s enthusiasm for Shakespeare, but says it is not a common one among high school students. “When (my students) hear ‘Shakespeare,’ they just shut down and don’t even want to try to understand it… They just see gobbledygook,” Daniels observes, “But when you immerse yourself in it, or watch it, it’s like ‘Wait, I understand this.’’
Daniels believes students need to make the effort to immerse themselves in Shakespeare’s plays “Because they’re important… We need to teach Shakespeare because it’s relevant to everything happening today. Everything that is happening in our world today is relevant to what happened back in the 1600s. All the themes prevalent then connect to now.” Ridge agrees, marveling “It’s amazing how similar Shakespeare still is (to present-day life). It’s still relevant, even today. And he wrote with emotion and knew how people work. Those things are still important.”
Rose says she has found familiar themes in her reading of Romeo and Juliet and says“the forbidden love” of Freshman and Seniors dating is reminiscent of the 13-year-old Juliet marrying the older Romeo. Even Stover admits there are relatable themes in Shakespeare’s plays, but they were hard to draw from the old-fashioned language. He says he only really picked up on them after his class watched the 1996 film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, set in 1990s Verona Beach, California, saying “it was easier to relate to.”
Daniels agrees there is benefit to watching productions of Shakespeare, rather than simply reading the text, and believes Shakespeare intended for his plays to be seen, not read. “It helps to watch it, to hear the inflection and see the nonverbal communication,” she said after the Michigan Shakespeare Festival Touring Company’s performance, but hopes students continue “To read it… and use your imaginations,” as well.