Ok, simple question. When did you "get" it? Hopefully you know what I'm talking about. Most of us were forced to read Shakespeare in school. Very few probably saw it as a life changing moment. We were too busy trying to flip back and forth to the glossary because we were going to be quizzed on every single word. Not to mention the rote memorization.
I'm talking about the moment where Shakespeare clicked for you, and suddenly it went from being this strange Elizabethan code that you kinda sorta thought you got to, "Wow, there are *people* under these words, I understand what they're saying to each other and...it's beautiful." Know what I mean? I thought of this question while reading Rosenbaum's Shakespeare Wars. Very early (I think I'm on page 8) he talks about teaching the sonnets and getting to Sonnet 45, trying to explain the line "These present-absent with swift motion slide" and actually feeling like he personally knew what it was like to be in two existences at once, himself and outside himself, sliding back and forth between the two. I'm doing a lousy job of explaining it the way he did, go read his book.
I can tell you mine, though it's not quite on a par with Rosenbaum's. I was in college, doing a paper on Hamlet (specifically, the role of insanity as a defense mechanism). I'd hit the line "Thrift Horatio, thrift! The thricebaked meats did coldly furnish forth the wedding tables." I was talking to a friend and I said, "Wait...was that a joke? Did I understand that right? Did Hamlet just tell Horatio that his mom got remarried in a hurry so that they could use the leftovers from the funeral?" And suddenly there it was. Hamlet went from being this masterpiece that I would never be privy to, to...a kid that lost his dad. There's a person in there.
Make sense? Somebody else's turn.