Wow! Shakespeare’s birthday is coming up. How do you feel about Shakespeare?
As a ninth grader, I detested Shakespeare because I didn’t understand why he couldn’t just write in “normal” English. I didn’t like that we had to read a Shakespearean play in every single grade in high school, even American Lit! Why did the Bard deserve so much praise?
As I got older, I began to appreciate the nuances of his characters and language. In reading plays like Hamlet, I enjoyed debating whether Hamlet really did have control of his mind, whether Queen Gertrude was truly ignorant of the murders and plotting around her, whether Ophelia did truly lose her mind at the end. I enjoyed the questions of fate versus free will in Macbeth and the idea that a tragic hero is destined to ruin his life through misguided noble intentions.
As I got even older and more skeptical, I realized that Shakespeare recycled older stories the same way that Disney movies do. The tragic hero? That was Sophocles’ idea. Many of Shakespeare’s tales were recycled from folktales. It’s unclear whether any of his plays were quite original at all. And I thought that was unfair.
But then I realized that there are only so many stories out there–and that’s a comforting thing. Like Jung, I believe there is an archetypal journey, a human calling that we all experience. Sure, authors may write about the same type of story, or the same plot. But I love how each character is unique in what he or she brings to the tale. We all have individual desires, motivations, backgrounds; and we apply these nuances as we encounter the same problems, the same struggles, the same dreams.
I believe C. S. Lewis said it best: we read to realize we are not alone. The longevity of Shakespeare’s works are a testament to that. We are not alone: we are bound across generations and lives, and the greatest of literature is a constant reminder of that.
In celebration of “the bard,” the Purcellville Library is holding a literary festival called Words Out West (here is the schedule).
I’m happy to take part as a participating author. I’ll be running a workshop for teens (middle school and high school students) on writing. If you’re in the area, consider stopping by. There are events for all ages and interests!
Also fantastic: as of this posting, Amazon has my novel The Scarred Letter on sale: only $5.21 for paperback; $2.99 for Kindle. I’m not sure how long the sale will last, so act now if you don’t have a copy yet!