This weekend I checked out a copy of The Hollow Crown DVD from my local library. I am by no means a Shakespearean scholar, and I am pretty sure I still haven’t read all of his plays, much less his sonnets. Yet there is still something timeless about his work that has a certain appeal to me as a reader. This set of movies, performing some of the major historical plays that Shakespeare wrote, has been something that crossed my radar nearly a year ago when I saw a trailer for it. So I was very excited to check out this DVD. But then something concerning happened.
The librarian looked at it and said, “I thought this looked interesting, but don’t you think the language might be a little difficult?”
Of all the professions out there, I would not expect that sort of comment to come from two: English majors and librarians. After all, Shakespeare’s language is not very different from what we speak and write today. The real problem people have with Shakespeare, I fear, is that they don’t like to read words they don’t fully understand. It challenges them to increase their literacy and reading skill and so they spend their time diving into romance novels, New York Times bestsellers, and YA fiction. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with those or the people who read them.
But there is something wrong with avoiding classic works, such as Shakespeare, because they are a little challenging. There are many benefits to reading outside of your comfort zone, at least on occasion. So instead of lamenting the direction I fear our nation is heading in terms of literacy, I thought I should do something to combat it instead.
Today is the first day of August. I propose that we take two weeks (August 15) to select a play of Shakespeare’s to read together and then come back on September 19th to discuss it. That will give us all more than a month to read the play, which is more than sufficient time to get through even the longest of his works.
So here is step one: I’ve created a list with some of the major works of Shakespeare. Vote for one, and only one, option, by leaving a comment. If things are neck-and-neck between only two or three of them, I may do a second vote around the 12th of August to narrow it down.
So I beckon you to join me and let’s commit to read a Shakespearian play together and discuss it. Let’s step outside of our literary comfort zone for a few weeks and give the Bard a chance to let his wordsmith abilities shine.