What English Lit students really think of Shakespeare

William Shakespeare. He’s a staple of any English Literature course and considered the greatest English writer by many. But what do English Lit undergrads really think of the bard? I chatted with my fellow course mates to find out whether Shakespeare’s work is such stuff as dreams are made on, or makes them question whether to be or not to be…here’s what English Lit students really think of Shakespeare:

Alex* thinks that Shakespeare “could be the greatest writer in English Literature”. How about the relevance of his plays? “He still reflects a part of England’s history and makes an impact in literature”. Despite this, Alex finds the language a struggle: “The language is a challenge if you’re not familiar with it. I chose a Shakespeare module for his stories and language, but I can’t decipher it for all my life!” Good luck to you, Alex.

Amelia also thinks that Shakespeare’s work continues to be relevant: “I think there is at least one Shakespeare play that everyone can relate to and understand.” Hang on, star-crossed lovers committing suicide? Throwing your father, the king, onto the streets to howl in a storm? “The themes of love, betrayal, comedy, deception I think are all still present in today’s society and are what makes Shakespeare’s plays continually relevant.” Ah, I see.

On this note, Sam says: “How can Shakespeare’s themes ever become outdated? The Tempest, my personal favourite, explores human nature so deeply and challenges the concept of civilisation. These questions will always be important. Contemporary fiction often deals with the same stuff that Shakespeare did – who can say which is ‘better’? My reaction to seeing Shakespeare’s name on the reading list depends on the text. If it’s The Tempest, then bring it on!”

Tom said: “Overused and overrated.” Harsh words.”I mean, yeah, he created many memorable characters and dealt with powerful emotions, but there are so many other great writers who aren’t considered on our course. Key themes like love, betrayal, violence are always relevant, but contemporary literature has way more relevance to our lives.” Fair point.

So, according to my course mates, Shakespeare is relevant and irrelevant, understandable and indecipherable, and we should all read The Tempest. What are your opinions on the bard?

*Names have been changed.

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