Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why Do You Hate Shakespeare? What Do You Hate About Shakespeare?

When I blogged about "Why Is Shakespeare So Hard" based on references in my search logs, it became one of my most commented topics.  I'm curious if that trick will work twice.  The Romeo and Juliet thread made me think of a similar question, as seen above.

What do you hate about Shakespeare?

Now, as a bunch of Shakespeare geeks who are voluntarily spending our time talking about it, I don't expect that the regular readers hate him all that much.  What I'm hoping is that people googling the topic will stop by and enlighten us about why *they* hate him, and then maybe we can do something about it, or at least understand it a little better.

Of course, if you're a Shakespeare pro and you've got some hatred to vent, go for it. 

31 comments:

Linda said...

As I claimed in a previous comment, I am teaching a summer Shakespeare class to home schooling teens. I arrived at this blog by doing a Google search of some sort relating to Shakespeare.

Obviously I do not hate Shakespeare because I volunteered to teach this class. Hate is so strong. In the case of Shakespeare, I suspect most people say they hate it when they are either intimidated or clueless. Or perhaps bored by it.

I'm betting the boredom for some can be traced back to the intimidated or clueless high school teacher that exposed them to Romeo and Juliet. "Here ya go class: teenage lovers, feuding families, death ... read it, what does it mean, what's the point?"

Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming ALL teachers. Just the ones that, themselves, happen to be too intimidated, clueless or bored to bother to find more which they can love and appreciate about what they teach.

I am no Shakespearean expert. I do not hold a teacher's credential. I have a college degree but it does not relate to literature or theater. I am not using any state approved curriculum. Am I qualified to teach Shakespeare to impressionable young minds? Some might not think so. But my approach was to LEARN along with my students. To show them through attitude and willingness that this is worthy of our time, energy and study. Instead of spitting back to them what I think I know, why not present Shakespeare in a manner and method that we can discover together?

It has been an amazing journey of discovery. Many of the kids in this class were told by their parents that they had to take it. My own kids included. LOL Of course there were the initial groans and complaints. "Yuck, Shakespeare, blah!" But when pressed as to why they had that reaction they were, shall I say it ... clueless!

So I suspect that given the right clues most anyone can handle Shakespeare ... and ENJOY it, or at least develop some sort of respect, which is far from hate.

Alan K.Farrar said...

I hate the fact I can't leave the work alone.

I walk to work and something pops into my head. I watch the Olympic opening ceremony and think of the opening of his first History play; I sit watching freshwater shrimp getting hunted down by pike in the river and think of how Shakespeare would have used it - and did he use it (must do a quick search ...); I get a touch of insomnia and get interactive - with s Shakespeare related site.

bemrty!

Anonymous said...

Shakespeare is outdated. ick ick ick. and why would you want to read a PLAY!? i don't get it.

Willshill said...

Anonymous wrote: "Shakespeare is outdated. ick ick ick. and why would you want to read a PLAY!? i don't get it".

You've pretty much got it right--the common practice of READING Shakespeare FIRST IS OUTDATED. Shakespeare's work--technically speaking--wasn't meant to be "read", it was written to be performed--out loud.
I wonder how old you are and what your experience has been with Shakespeare's plays. I'm willing to bet it's been "read this part of the play for homework, listen to someone drone on, analyzing the poetry and the story "message", write a report/take a test, etc."

Just for a kick, try reading some of it out loud sometime. You don't have to be an "Actor". It doesn't matter if you struggle at first. The more you do it, the better you get; the more you understand what all the hubbub's about. All of those words can be a lot of fun--what's the hurt in trying? Learn ONE speech--Out Loud Only--learn what you're saying. See what can happen.

A while back, when it came to this stuff,-- I was you.

Duane said...

You know what, Will? You're right.

Last night I went out and spent 2 hours listening to people read Shakespeare out loud. Some young, some old. Some read straight from book, some overacted. Some whispered, some shook the back wall.

It was all awesome, because they were all reading Shakespeare's words. Well, except for the one guy who chose to read the No Fear edition, he bothered me a bit, but at least he read both versions. :)

Willshill said...

Man, what a lucky dog. I wish there was something like that close by--maybe I'll start one.
Funny you mention the "No Fear" versions. It always seemed to me that "Fear" is what they're all about:)

Willshill said...

Duane, you made me think--once again.
You're a unique species when it comes to Shakespeare. There aren't many, at least comparatively speaking, who will be grabbed by the work as it stands on the page. Yet I would suppose that it's how it got to you at first? It took the approach I speak of--total involvement--to hook me. The idea of the work as "Great Lit" and incredible Philosophy came afterwards, when I was ready to hear it. Now I can sit and read it, analyze it, whatever, and get even more out of it.

But I'm convinced that the approach taken for so long in teaching it has been wrong. Although Shakespeare has surely earned his place on "The Pedestal", I think he'd really rather be down stage center getting his message across to the Groundlings, not frightening them to death with his effigy.

scottie_corley said...

I am tired of Shakespeare and the people who like him. If you appreciate him, great, stop making me think like you. One reason people despise Shakespeare's work because it is being shoved down our throats. His work is something someone wants to learn about, its not a necessity.

Also, a majority of Shakespeare-lovers are pompous, walking and talking condenscendingly. You might call that confidence or "learning", I call it being an a--hole.

And when did society make Shakespeare's work more prominent than anyone else? I think he just has a cult following, like Family Guy or Buffy, but unlike Family Guy, Shakespeare is overrated.

Yes, Shakespeare's language is hard to learn, and you need proper teachers with A LOT of patience. And that patience is needed when no one cares about complex use of words.

Duane said...

Thanks for the input, Scott. As you can imagine, I disagree with everything you said. But I did ask the question, so all answers are fair game.

I'll just point out one thing -- you know that thing Stewie (of Family Guy, for those that don't watch) says, "What the deuce?"

Yeah, that's Shakespeare.

http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=19970701

Thanks for stopping by.

JM said...

Hi Scottie,

I see from your bio that you're a Theatre Major. I'm curious as to what you think are the essential components; you know, what's in the "bag of tools" a theatre major needs in order to do whatever they might do professionally and successfully in and around the Theatre arena ?

Anonymous said...

I found this randomly through a google search myself actually. This is a High school English teacher speaking: May I suggest that while studying Shakespeare, if you can't take the kids to the theater, that you bring the theater to them through video. When I teach Hamlet, I play key scenes multiple times from different productions so that students can get a feel for how those scenes have been interpreted over the years.

Also, Folger Shakespeare Institute has a great series called "Shakespeare Set Free" that takes an interactive performance based approach to teaching Shakespeare's plays. They have different editions for all the ones usually done in school, R&J, Midsummer Night's Dream, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Macbeth, etc.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I dislike the majority of Shakespeare's works, but not all of them. My first serious introduction to Shakespeare was in ninth grade with Romeo and Juliet. I hated, and still hate, that play. the characters (with the exception of Mercutio who is actually pretty complex and interesting) seemed entirely 1-dimensional. The love between Romeo and Juliet was ridiculous. Basically, to me, the play is just an incredibly epic one-night stand. As for the other dimensions of the play, they just didn't do anything for me.

Then my class moved on to unit on Shakespearian sonnets. I hated them. The language itself was beautiful, but something about the imagery and themes made me want to barf.

That summer, though, I saw King Lear and was just awed. That play is a damn masterpiece.

Tiffany said...

The only Shakespeare I've read and seen preformed are Romeo and Juliet and some sonnets. So far, I really don't like Shakespeare. I understand it, I just don't like it. In Romeo and Juliet, they just met each other. That's not love; it's lust. The sonnets just make me want to roll my eyes. Most of his sonnets and Romeo and Juliet are so outdated and just don't appeal to me. I'll have to see some of his other plays but until I do, I hate Shakespeare.

Duane said...

Hi Tiffany,

May I offer two suggestions?

First, you're still looking at R&J with the traditional, but flawed, interpretation as a "tragic love story". It's not. You're not supposed to say "They killed themselves, wow, how romantic!" Instead, try looking at R&J as a story for parents about what happens when they're not paying enough attention. There's this "ancient grudge" between the two families, a grudge that Capulet even admits probably needs to be put to rest, and yet neither family makes the first move to stop it. So when Romeo and Juliet do join the two families, is it a cause for celebration? Nope. They end up dead.
It's a tragedy, not a romance.

As for the sonnets, don't get wrapped up in the "He was writing them to another guy!" nonsense. Shakespeare most likely never expected them to be published. Think of them as an academic exercise - Shakespeare practicing his craft. The sonnet is a very tight form, specifying not just the number of syllables per line but the message to be delivered in those syllables. Shakespeare absolutely crushed it, demonstrating over and over again what he could make it do. It's not really about "Look at his message to this other person, how sappy!" but more "Damn, check out how much imagery and depth he manages to pack into just a few syllables!"

Hope that helps a bit.

Anonymous said...

I've read two Shakespeare plays. Romeo & Juliet and The Merchant of Venice. I hated both of them, R&J because I just thought they were being huge idiots and really had a hard time feeling sorry for them when they got themselves into this mess through their own stupidity.

MoV pissed me off for a few reasons, but the biggest was the way that Shakespeare apparently decided that instead of having his protagonists actually do something to make it clear that they're good guys, we just have everyones saying how good they are.

And I genuinely wouldn't have realized that Antonio or Jessica were supposed to be respected because Antonio just sits there the whole time, not doing anything. Jessica was even worse, as soon as she gets out of Shylocks house (with his money), she just buys ridiculous crap. At least Antonio lent money to his friends. But these guys are apparently so great that everyone won't shut up about them.

Oh, and the trial made no sense. It's Antonio's blood, it's his responsibility to keep it out of Shylock's pound of flesh. If I had to pay a traffic ticket and wrapped up the bills in a diamond ring, that wouldn't be theft, it would be me being a jackass. And for a city who's livelihood is based on the rule of law, it was surprisingly easy for a transvestite to hijack the entire legal system.

Maybe his other plays don't suck, but these ones certainly did.

JM said...

Shakespeare isn't Reality TV. Imagination and symbolism play larger roles than his characters. You need 3D vision--without the glasses. :)

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I have not google account, but hopefully this message will get posted. Ah! Sir William Shakespeare one of the most recognized authors of all times, many have praised his work and many want to know the genious behind that work. I am no genious, I just love to write and as writer I would hate seeing my work as a study object for students.

I don't mind people like shakespeare, they choose to like him, however I am against forcing us to read him, then completing guides about him and them doing tests. I wanted to join a class called writer's craft and then I found out that I had to finish all the english courses first, in english 10 thanks to Shakespeare I had to give up on to join writers crafts, now I am going to take computer classes and learn something useful in life.

I gave up writers crafts because I wanted to write, but they only make us read shakespeare once and again as if it was some kind of bible. God knows I hate shakespeare and his work in fact, I must dare to say WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE IS INDEED SATAN'S HEIR. Besides we are not even sure he really wrote those crappy plays.

I am self proclaimed Shakespeare's enemy and I am proud of it. I hope his name and his work to be cursed. There are tons of great authors, people who wrote their work not even expecting to be studied. Most of them just wanted to make a living and boy did they. Again, I OPENLY DECLARE THAT WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE IS SATAN'S HEIR. I am pretty sure he stole those crappy plays from somebody else and then thought, "I am going to put my name on these plays and in the future I am going to piss off so much people that they would want to kick my butt, but they won't be able to because at that time I will be dead".

Alexi said...

I thought there was moderation on this post?

All I can say about the latest Anonymous post is: obvious troll is obvious.

Duane said...

You're right, Alexi, these older posts are moderated and I did approve that one. I try to only deny the stuff that is outright spam, or in some other way intolerably offensive. This post does ask people to explain why they hate Shakespeare, after all, so you have to expect a wide variety of answers :).

Besides, I like how you put it.

Anonymous said...

@ Alexi
So, this is how it is with shakespeare's haters? You call me a troll because I am being as honest as I can? I thank Duane for posting me, indeed I really appreciate it ans as for Alexi, I said it once and I say it again, WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE IS THE SON OF SATAN AND I AM PRETTY SURE HE STOLE THOSE CRAPPY PLAYS.
Because of him now I am heading towards a bussiness career instead of becoming a writer. I am not genious I said and in fact I don't mean to offend anyone in here, the post asked for my opinion and I just was as honest as I could. Now I ask you, where is the trolling in expresing all your feeling, ideas and opinions in the most honest way you can find? Call me an ignorant if you want and I am sorry for my lack of language (if this was the reason you found to call me troll) I just hope the name of SHAKESPEARE to be cursed forever. He costed me my dream ans that is a sin that shall not be forgiven! I don't have a google account as I said, that is why I post as anonymous, but if you happen to think I don't want to reveal who I am, here have my email kaya140@live.ca

Anonymous said...

He is boring. Wordy. Mediocre. Irrelavent.
He doesn't write in English; it's some other language with a lot of unnecessary words thrown in to make it sound pretty.
In a truely great story, you can take away the words and still have substance.
Shakespeare is style without substance. A cliche. A waste of time.
He is the reason the teenagers of America hate English.

Anonymous said...

Shakespeare makes absolutely no sense and people need to realize that the generations are moving on, we dont want to read a play from 1500, we want to read a play from 2000. it would make more sense to us and our future!

JM said...

"He is boring. Wordy. Mediocre. Irrelavent."

--Maybe to you. Not to the 3-5 graders I'm currently teaching.They think being "wordy" is just great. Maybe they'll have more respect for the language they speak and the power of words than you do when they get to be your age.

"He doesn't write in English; it's some other language with a lot of unnecessary words thrown in to make it sound pretty."

--It's called poetry. You don't have to like it. Many people, however, do. Words are Power. My 3rd graders get that. Possibly you've been greatly misled.

"In a truely great story, you can take away the words and still have substance."

--Yeah, those Transformer movies are high literary art. I have great respect for all the Schwarzeneger movies too. Let's forget all the other letters we use and just glorify three: CGI.

"Shakespeare is style without substance. A cliche. A waste of time."

--With that comment you've proven how much you don't have a clue about what you're criticizing. The beauty of it is that it's style AND substance--AND psychology AND a study in human nature AND philosophy AND history AND poetry AND theatre AND heightened communication, among some of the things he is, in a symbiotic functioning to a degree the likes of which the world has yet to see since. Wonder why he's THE most performed playwright of our time or any other?

"He is the reason the teenagers of America hate English."

--Quite possibly part of the reason, but surely not the only one. Read the discussion on this site called "When, And How Much?" for clues as to why you're wrong.
The main reason is that we no longer have any respect for the gift of language, as you have quite patently shown by your comments. The importance of that can be found in the fact that you've been so easily misled to discount that importance. Be careful of those who KNOW how to use the language and realize exactly what it means to have a facility to do so. They're not always your buddies.

Anonymous said...

I personally do think hate is the right word to describe my feelings towards Shakespeare and no, I am not an incompetent, uneducated person, neither a pissed off kid. I have actually read Shakespeare all throughout my Literature classes and have come to the following conclusion: Shakespeare's works SHOULD NOT be popular. popular (in today's terms) means "normal" and his works are the exact opposite of that.

When teenagers read romeo and juliet in high school, they say they hate it, but trust me, it had a huge effect on me too, but since you have to stay cool, you can't express it publicly. But, eventually, I have found out some things about my classmates, with who I have read the work and especially the girls did things like dating the worst guy possible to date! It wasn't jealousy that drove me, it was curiosity, so one of the girls, who was my friend, I have decided to ask why she is dating such a bad person. she gave me the following answer: "I don't know". from that point, I knew, that all the things about loving him anyways and you never know what you get, those were all her trying to rationalize the situation. After a couple months, these couples started t break up. Not simply breaking up, but rather causing huge dramatic scenes and some even caused fights.

And that's the impact of Shakespeare's dramas. It takes extraordinary situations and describes them as normal. And if you didn't guess it already, that REALLY bad.

I am not saying that Shakespeare's works are bad. They are actually quite entertaining, but the rationalization of the extraordinary outweighs the entertainment gained from it. It turns people into dramatic, quick tempered, ill-minded and worst of all, unpredictable people, who will be exactly like the people from the spanish soap operas (no offense:) )

Lastly, as some people have mentioned this before me, reading Shakespeare is terrible! It's usually a bunch of dramatic dialogues, which have all sorts of fancy literature terms in them and there is a story told in 300 pages. 300 pages of weird dialogue and a story line, which is harder to follow, than the hand of a magician.

I apologize if my post was too long and hope someone will understand my point :) Rich

Anonymous said...

Much of my resentment, towards dear old Billy Boy, comes from having his work forced upon me! Of all the useless things a person learns in high school, Shakespeare is right up there, unfortunately. I have, unsurprisingly, never needed to use the Iambic Pentameter, during my subsequent years!

It sounds like much of the negativity above is based on similar experience. If, as an adolescent...when you need some direction the most...when you are naturally confused about life in general...you are force-fed words that would appear to be (to the average teenage mind) gibberish, then it's only natural that feelings of hostility remain, for many people.

Being an Englishman, I also often feel that the admittance of such an opinion is tantamount to heracy. I do understand why people are fans...but I would be quite content to know that Shakespeare is there, if I wish to read it. But it should be my decision!

Anonymous said...

Not sure how old this thread is, but thought I would weigh in on just a passing consideration.....People come up hating Shaespeare for a very simple reason....you are not taught the truth about a great deal of his work-due to our lovely puritanical roots still rather omnipresent in the schools..... Romeo and Juliet is an active rumination/investigation of fate, of conflict and attraction, including lust, veiled in the seductiveness of attraction and sex. Sex oozes from every scene....both in blatant imagery, repeated references to orgasms, and even a scene of jokes about underwear bewtween the nurse and the boys.....Now, to be fair and honest, a great deal of Shakespeare goes well beyond sex... and should not be ignored as the layers and layers of both the beautiful and the ugly in his work are mind boggling.....but he was a brilliant mechanic and artist of his time. Yep. Stole most of his plots. Yep, may have even used too many words....but when done well, his work crackles with the fire of lightning and the silence of a sunrise....that this is possible with modern readers and more importantly, audiences after several centuries? Amazing.....

Anonymous said...

I really, really hate him.
I was very shocked when read [Henry 6 part 1]. She wasn't a witch, a whore, an immoral girl, and a femme fatale! T.T How could the hack insulted her? stupid!

His fan must shame about it. but they won't do it.
Maybe They can curse their parents, but can't curse him. lol

The bastard and the son of the bitch who insulted Joan of Arc groundlessly, was also a racist, a chauvinist, a sexist, a plagiarist, a drug addict and an imperialist!

It seems to me that the people In English-speaking countries worships Shakespeare than Jesus.
The British Empire idolized and overrated him. and US, too. they dominating the world, and need an idol in literature.

Thomas Carlisle said that:
Consider now, if they asked us, Will you give-up your Indian Empire or your Shakespeare, you English . . . Officials would answer doubtless in official language; but we, for our part too, should not we be forced to answer: Indian Empire, or no Indian Empire, we cannot do without Shakespeare! Indian Empire will go, at any rate, some day; but this Shakespeare does not go, he lasts forever with us; we cannot give-up our Shakespeare!

It is the worst reckless remark in human history!
India has a glorious several millennial history and a splendid civilization. How can make a comparison between the value of India and a stupid authorling? If Indian heard the remark, they will sniff or get angry! the dog barking is beautiful rather than the remark!
UK can do without Shakespeare! UK can give-up Shakespeare!
Thomas Carlisle was an idiot!

In conclusion, He was a great swindler in the history of mankind!
So, We must not admire Shakespeare anymore! we must criticize objectively him, too. do not just praise by the herd mentality any more!

JM said...

To the latest "Anonymous" critic:

About your problem with expressing your hate and anger in something resembling English sentences...

I recommend some Shakespeare. :-)

Anonymous said...

I only like Shakespeare when Patrick Stewart is acting, and then only his specific scenes; or if the story is modernized, and translated into English. I guess my hate for Shakespeare stems from High School when we were forced to interpret every line of iambic parameter. Our teacher wouldn't even finish a paragraph - she'd stop at every single line - it was really annoying. Even people from the late 1500's would argue that Shakespeare was a wordy blowhard.
I would have preferred to study the works of Mark Twain, and stories like Moby Dick, etc. At least with those, you didn't have to try and figure out what the author was trying to say.

Anonymous said...

I hate Shakespeare and I'm not alone. Tolstoy and Voltaire and Shaw hated him, also. I have tried to read Shakespeare several times in my life, wondering what people saw in him. I recently tried again. I find his supposed understanding of human nature to be superficial and full of platitudes that are only half-truths. I find the plays boring and/or silly.

A sh said...

I think this comment above expresses why I hate the bard:

"About your problem with expressing your hate and anger in something resembling English sentences...

I recommend some Shakespeare. :-)"

It's bigots like that who really get on my tit. I read the referenced post and it was ESL for certain and very passionately put. I this thread I have found so many reasons and so much 'reason'. It's really very uplifting.

I posted this elsewhere, and it's really just a brief summary off the top of my head:

It would take quite a while to explain why I dislike 'The Bard', but in general terms I find his work appeals to people who like to feel clever - the middle classes mainly. That's one reason. It's also not one to take lightly and it's covered in books about influencing people and having Charisma.
I also dislike his work because I find it highly contrived and unimaginative. His devices are just for ornament, and reveal a fairly feeble mind - again this hints at their appeal to the superficial types who like to look down on others without actually having any ideas of their own.
Another reason, partial reason - is that I grew up with the King James Bible. I was skimming through Will's work at about the age of 10 - Macbeth, and various other ones from there. I didn't find anything unique or interesting or difficult in the language. I find his use of it quite pedestrian.
Another reason is that 'people relate to his work'. In other words he's playing to the Stalls, or The Gallery to be precise. Again, it's a shame people haven't grown in intelligence since his time. 'Human Nature' is still an excuse for lack of personal insight.
Shakespeare seems to be of great use as a class thing - kids and bogans walk straight into it and it's proof that they need factory schooling. His work forms part of an antiquated justification for values which should have gone out with the advent of the 20th Century, but alas.