31 January 2018
World-famous playwright and author, William Shakespeare, has written some of the most referenced and well-known pieces of literature ever created. His acute attention to detail, impressive use of literary devices, and ability to expand upon issues concerning mankind are the reasons we have continued to explore his work for centuries. Although he was born over four hundred years ago, William Shakespeare has impacted our society through education in English literature, pop culture, and everyday language, making his work relevant to contemporary times because many of the themes his text analyzes are still applicable within our world today.
William Shakespeare was baptized into the Church of England on April 26th, 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, meaning he was most likely born between the 22nd and 25th, according to the Stratford-upon-Avon parish (Potter 1). Because his accurate date of birth is not recorded, we now celebrate his birthday on April 23rd, which, coincidentally, is also the day he died in 1616 at the age of 52. According to the British Library, between 1590 and 1613, Shakespeare wrote at least 37 plays, 4 poems, and a collection of sonnets. His plays are categorized by literary scholars as tragedies, comedies, or histories, whereas his poetry address concepts of love, beauty, time, and procreation, each containing underlying messages regarding the nature of man.
The common themes found within Shakespeare’s text often analyze topics his audience is easily able to connect with, making it a popular choice in school literature curriculums. Many teachers, parents, or students have begun to protest teaching the author’s work, however, as some believe his text is not necessary for a well-rounded education. Attempts to remove his plays from programs have been occurring all over the world. One almost successful pursuit being in South Africa where “in 2001, a committee of teachers appointed by the education department in Gauteng province…recommended that the works of Shakespeare be banned from classrooms because they “lack cultural diversity” (Jones 2001.) Though Shakespeare’s text is often highly dependent on personal interpretation, many of his plays and sonnets’ themes are what make his writing easily relatable for all ethnicities, genders, races, religions, etc., thus making them extremely diverse. For example, the tragedy of Othello’s main protagonist is specifically written for a male of African descent and analyzes themes of racial discrimination, and The Merchant of Venice focuses on religious prejudice. His female characters, such as Lady Macbeth, from Macbeth, and Viola, from Twelfth Night or What You Will, also often display powerful and independent personalities which broke gender stereotypes of the time. These illustrations of diverse characters and intricate plots allow students to evaluate real-world situations and struggles that conti...