In the opening lines of Macbeth, one of Will Shakespeare's plays, we have the three witches discussing when they meet again and the title of the blog today provides the answer. Shakespeare is on my mind often of late since the main male character, the hero if you will, of my novel LOVE TATTOO due out Friday is a Shakespeare quoting vampire.
I've loved the beauty of Shakespeare's words since I was a child myself. By the time I was twelve, I could quote passages and often carried around paperback size editions of some of the Bard's plays. When we had a big family work day to clean out our huge three story Victorian home before a move, my cousin Bill and I had trash burning duty. We spent our day burning the discarded and the unwanted, all the time quoting the Three Witches.
When I read to my children, I didn't limit them to just Dr. Suess or classic fairy tales or modern children's literature. I read those too but I also added in some Shakespeare, some Poe, and other classic poetry.
Most of the lines that my character Will Brennan uses are ones I recall from memory. I usually look them up to make sure I have the quote just right but I know them almost as well as he does.
With that background, it's no wonder than I am reeling with shock and more than a little irate because my twin teenage daughters came home from school with a decree from their sophmore English teacher that their class - advanced honors English - "is NOT to attempt to read Shakespeare on their own because they won't understand it."
Say what? One of my daughters has downloaded some Shakespeare to her Kindle and has been reading it. She understands it just as well as I did. Her sister is also no stranger to old Will who hailed from Stratford-On-Avon.
I would hazard a guess that perhaps the teacher may not understand Shakespeare without the aid of some teacher's guides because otherwise I cannot understand why anyone would want to clip the wings of their students and ground them, rather than help them to soar.
When I was doing a lot of substitute teaching, I dealt with some students who did have trouble with Shakespeare. I remember one girl in particular in a class called Academic Solutions, an extra course designed to help kids who struggle. She couldn't "get" Shakespeare until I read some of it to her and told her that in his day, Shakespeare was not writing for an elite, educated crowd. He wrote plays for the masses. He was, I told her, more like a television screenwriter because he wrote for a broad audience, for everyone.
Theater was the prime source of entertainment in his England. Everyone, from the highest members of the Royal family to the lowest street urchins, went to the theater. And they saw his plays performed and they understood them.
Many of the most common expressions we use today in the English language come down to us from Shakespeare. This link to a UK site lists many of them with the references. These phrases became our everyday sayings because people heard them, liked them, used them, and handed them down.
In my own high school days, our sophomore class read both Julius Caesar and Macbeth. Our teacher, the late Mr. Gary Sims, was one of the finest educators I have known. He was twenty times the teacher that my daughter's instructor shall ever be. I'm sure that some of my classmates missed the meanings and didn't appreciate the language but I also bet they retained a little even if they don't realize it. Those of us that already loved Shakespeare soared higher.
My daughters will continue to read Shakespeare. I hope that my character Will Brennan introduces a few people to Shakespeare who did not know him well before. Most of all, I hope that English and literature teachers everywhere will never again tell their students not to attempt Shakespeare on their own, that instead they will challenge not confine.