Is Shakespeare Overrated?

is-shakespeare-overrated

The British actress, Dame Judy Dench, once said “a bad experience of Shakespeare is like a bad oyster – it puts you off for life.”

This, it appears, is the case for me.

Before you all start screaming “PHILISTINE” I would like to put on record Shakespeare is probably the greatest and most influential writer to have graced this planet. The fact his work, 400 years on, is still widely read and performed is testament to his greatness but, despite many hours of reading and studying his work, I can’t warm to it.

At school, lessons involving Shakespeare were torturous – the seagulls on the sports hall roof providing better entertainment. The long-suffering Mrs Davy D, a huge fan of the Bard, has dragged me twice to see performances of Twelfth Night; to no avail the Shakespearian block just won’t lift.

As a child, my early poetic influences centred around the work of Edward Lear, Roald Dahl and Spike Milligan. In teenage years, I had progressed to the more serious work of Dr John Cooper Clarke and Pam Ayres. The onset of a more mature age has taken me to Charles Bukowski, Philip Larkin and a myriad of other poets with a dark slant on life, but still no room for Old Will.

What is it then that determines the kind of poetry and prose we read, enjoy and write?

Is it our upbringing, our early influences, our cultures?

Is it our education, the people we work with, our social groups?

I would be interested in hearing people’s views as I am in a dilemma. A teacher once told me “if you can’t love Shakespeare, then you can’t love poetry.”

The stage is yours, let the throwing of rotting fruit and vegetables commence.

75 Comments

Let me join the ranks of the philistines and say that I struggle a bit as well. I like bits. I can read a scene and enjoy the language. I can even learn a sonnet off by heart (Let me to the marriage of true minds…) although that was mainly because it was on the wall where I did duty for a year and I was bored.
But a whole play? No chance, after a while I just switch off.

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    Martin, it is good to hear that it is not just me. I think secretly a lot of people feel the same as we do but it’s too uncool to admit it. Thanks for taking the time read the post and get involved in the conversation.

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Well, that took courage. But I don’t feel you should “should” on yourself about art, or in this case, Shakespeare. And you ask a soul searching question about what determines the kind of poetry and prose we like – even music, for that matter. I believe much of it is innate. Some of it might be upbringing. I’m going to ponder that one a little longer. My youngster pulled an all-nighter last night. I’m too afraid to say much more. You might ban “the owl” for foolish words.

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    Thank you Laura. This was one of the posts I hung on for a while to publish but thought it might create some debate. There are no foolish words on this site. I value all opinions and welcome your words. Thanks for taking time to read the post and start off the conversation.

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I haven’t read Shakespeare. (facepalm) Though I remember making a book report about Midsummer Night’s Dream when I was in high school. (I can’t remember the story anymore I feel so old. hAHA)

I think Shakespeare is indeed a classic, but loving him won’t determine a man’s right to write poetry. 😉

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No throwing of rotten fruit from this quarter, Davy, I’m with you!! I admire folks who dig Old Will–and I’m certain Mrs Davy D must be a wonderful woman in every way–but like you I never warmed to him, as it was WORK to try to read his stuff. A man, much older and infatuated with me, gave me the Complete Works of Shakespeare for my 18th b’day…I passed it on to someone who could actually appreciate it, years later. Dame Judy is right, and I don’t know where your teacher got her judgmental attitude–and by the way, I like Roald Dahl too 🙂 Fabulous post, Davy!

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I’ve grown to like Shakespeare’s works a little more over the years but I know I do often wonder if he is a little overrated – there have always been poets and playwrights whose writing I’ve preferred. You’re very brave for this post 😄

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    Thanks for these valued thoughts ElizaBelle. Like you say there are many other playwrights and poets who have provided equal value to the literary world. It has been a great journey to discover and read them. I appreciate you taking time out to visit the blog and get involved in the conversation.

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I used to teach literature in college; but i haven’t finished reading any of Shakespeare’s plays.. (lol) that speaks it all Davy..

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    Welcome to the team Mich. I am sure you taught your students much more exciting stuff. It seems us Philistines are all coming out of the woodwork LOL. Thank you for visiting and taking part in the conversation. It is appreciated.

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      I was an excellent teacher though..(modesty aside) …there is a semestral evaluation from students and my immediate supervisor and i got both an excellentrating.
      I found my way of teaching Shakespeare’s works without making it look like i kinda not like it ..hehe

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      I wish I had teachers like you Mich. Most of mine managed to bore any creativity or passion out of me 😦

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School killed Shakespeare. It still sends a shiver down my spine thinking about those lessons where we had to read Twelfth Night, then watch an old TV version of the play. I’ve never been able to stomach his work since, but can appreciate his genius.

Roald Dahl was the master of poetry / story telling. He was a genius and his work connected with a young me. I can read his (children’s) books now, cover-to-cover, over and over. Maybe that’s the child in me, but it strikes the right chord.

One of the best modern day poets is Eminem – sometimes referred to as a modern day Shakespeare. But don’t just take my word for it: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2001/feb/06/poetry.features

Another modern great is Akala (http://www.akala.moonfruit.com/).

My poetic interests have been influenced by a mix of everything you’ve identified – culture, early experiences, upbringing, education, social groups. But, education had its way of killing something great.

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Davy, could you please check to see if my comment landed in Spam? It’s not here… 😦 If not, I’ll retype it 🙂

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I think it is something deeper than the influences that you mentioned that determines what we like to read. Those listed play a part, sure, but I think it is something much deeper that ultimately determines our likes and dislikes in reading and a host of other things. It is down to the core of who we are as a person.

In regards to the statement made by the teacher, “if you can’t love Shakespeare, then you can’t love poetry.” I disagree. I can love my teeth, but I sure don’t love the drill! To some folks, having to read Shakespeare is as painful as going to the dentist.

We had four rounds of Shakespearean plays in high school: Romeo and Juliet (9th grade), Julius Caesar(10th grade), Macbeth(12th grade), and one more that I can’t remember at the moment (11th grade). I enjoyed reading them, but detested having to analyze them. I didn’t like anything much that the 12th grade teacher tossed my way, mainly because I didn’t like her.

Shakespeare is okay, but not one of my favorite writers. I did completely enjoy the performance our daughters gave in their college’s version of Hamlet. 🙂

I don’t think that disliking Shakespeare keeps one from liking poetry nor does it mean that you don’t love poetry. The teacher is the one with the problem, Davy, not you. Have a blessed day.

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I like Shakespeare – performed – not read. If indeed he was the author. I also don’t consider his work to be or not to be the authority on poetry. Plays and songs and prose are all forms of poetry, but a haiku is just as powerful. There are too many snobbish lists out there by so called experts who are determined that culture is narrowly defined and closed off to the mindless rabble hooting from the gallery.

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    I totally agree Brian. Shakespeare’s work does appear better when performed not read. I also think social media is allowing poetry to be taken back from the experts and academia and allowing all kinds of poetry to be published and read. Thank you for taking time out to read and comment on the post.

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    The last Shakespeare I saw performed was midsummer’s night dream. I got lost what had happened and wondered if I should have researched / broke it down / analysed before I went.

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Davy, interesting questions and interesting replies. I was never taught Shakespeare in school. I tried reading his plays and sonnets later but found them hard to follow. Still, I am in awe of his work. He certainly had a knack for telling stories and there’s no doubt he’s influenced the English language and world culture. We can only hope to achieve half as much.

I reread that and wondered if our feelings if inferiority hold us back? I’m very much a modernist, I want to write in new ways, and I want to read modernist verse. Shakespeare was no different in his time. He was the modern man writing in a new way. We might not understand him now but we can write and read with his enthusiasm.

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    Thanks for the thought provoking response David. Writing the posts and replying to the responses has made me curious about Shakespeare’s work and I have started reading some of his sonnets. Who knows maybe he holds some pleasure for later in life. Thanks for taking time out to comment.

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Ha, I just noticed I wrote ‘feelings if inferiority’ Typo, I meant ‘of’ obviously.

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Yet, you speak Shakespeare everyday if you are green with envy or have been eaten out of house and home. If you say “It’s Greek to me!” when it comes to Shakespeare just remember you already speak Bard.

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Yes I agree. Bold post man (: I admire some of his works but I think most of them are waaaay over rated.
You have an amaaaazin blog btw.
Care to drop by mine? And offer some advice maybe.

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I love Shakespeare work. I have taken quite a few courses on him as well, but I feel like his work is not being appreciated enough as it should be.

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If one doesn’t like banana, it doesn’t mean one doesn’t have taste for fruits. These strings of our hearts are peculiar to everyone. Silence for one can be music to another. Basically, it all comes down to what you really love and not what you pretend to love.

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    I agree although since writing this post I have began reading more of the Bard’s poetry and I am beginning to soften to him. Thanks for taking time out to read and comment.

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I think that Shakespeare’s writing is genius, it’s so pure and beautifully crafted, his attention to detail is masterful and when deeply analysed it is so enticing to see his thoughts, i agree that not all authors are for everyone as I can recall many people discouraging Keats’ poetry but there is no denying that Shakespeare has a beautiful method of writing and if I hadn’t been taught it at school I would have found my way to it eventually. But the evaluation that he is overrated is definitelh something for the world to consider

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    Thank you Evelyster. I think the issue around Shakespeare’s work is it was written to be spoken and performed rather than read. Since writing this post I have began to read a lot more of his poetry and my opinion of it is mellowing with age. As you say his work finds you eventually. Thank you for taking time out to read the post and comment.

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I’m planning to do a blog party on 23rd April about Shakespeare as I in some way respect but wonder if overrated. Would it be ok to reblog this as an argument for him being overrated? Hopefully blog party will get some more opinions on subject for us both.

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I have been wanting to visit Ronald Dahl’s shed / museum for ages as loved Dahl. I have never considered visting Stratford on Avon.

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[…] my life) is a song from American band Greenday. From reading the comments on Davy D’s post Davy D is Shakespeare overrated?it seems I’m not the only one with doubts about Shakespeare. Davy D’s is Shakespeare […]

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Shakespeare blog party – WonderwallApril 23, 2017 at 9:18 am

[…] not like; we wanted to leave but was in the middle of a row. I’m not the only one unconvinced Davy D is Shakespeare overrated? Is the opening line […]

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