Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Midsummer Day's Blog Post: Is Shakespeare Still Relevant?

Today is the 398th anniversary of the fire that destroyed the original Globe Theatre. I've been thinking a lot about Shakespeare lately because the less short of the short people read a book a month or so ago in which a modern child and a child of Shakespeare's time magically changed places so that the child of long ago could receive medical care to save her life. The book was shot thruogh with references and allusions to A Midsummer Night's Dream. As a result she became interested in the play and Shakespeare's writings more generally and so has had my collected works volumes in her room, trying to read through some of the comedies.

No doubt, at her age, she is getting little in terms of plot and less in terms of literary devices. But it seemed an interest that was worth facilitating. It is shocking how many standard utterances to this day trace back to Shakespeare's writings. Shakespeare and calculus are the twin pillars of "high learning" in high school, the subjects that mark those who have received advanced, serious pre-collegiate educations.

But is Shakespeare still the key to culture that his (or her or their...) works have always been held to be? Is high school the proper place for their introduction? It seems that Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird are subtly being worked into the niche that had been reserved for Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar. Is this a problem? Should Lady Macbeth tell Scout Finch to get out, out of her damned curricular spot? Is Shakespeare still relevant to the education of contemporary children?