By Livi Nichols
There are lots of people who consider Shakespeare a revolutionary connoisseur. His works are still widely taught and celebrated, but according to some, his works are not as relatable and phenomenal as we make them out to be. “I think I’m realizing: Shakespeare sucks,” Ira Glass, an American radio personality, tweeted last July. Recently, English students of University High School’s Great Books classes read the famous play Hamlet. While half the students moan and groan throughout the halls, Shakespeare’s famous tragedy Hamlet also seems to put a smile on the faces of others.
One common complaint about any Shakespearean work is the recurring struggle with Elizabethan English language. “Writing in sonnets is overrated,” says sophomore Emily Gardner.
Thanks to methods like Sparknotes’ No Fear Shakespeare, which includes written modern day English on the coinciding page, this process has been ameliorated. Readers can compare pages and figure out some of the hidden jokes and meanings easily, and it makes for an efficient system. You have the ability to challenge yourself but also have something to fall back on, making the reading process much easier.
Hamlet is a play that results in the death of nearly every character. This is a common theme among several famous Shakespearean plays. While most people hate the idea of killing off favorite characters, many of the American classics we love stick to this tragic theme.
Copious amounts of fans love movies such as The Notebook, Titanic, Old Yeller, and Divergent. According to a study by Ohio State, when viewers watch or read a tragedy, they often reflect on their own life and come to feel thankful for their own situation. By killing off a character like Hamlet in the end of the play, Shakespeare creates an even more idolized and beloved individual for readers to discuss and idolize.
A debatable discussion today is the relevancy of the plotline and characters in modern day society. Anja Djupensland felt that, “The language of Hamlet makes it feel outdated.” So while some of the central themes such as love, betrayal, and revenge are universal and still relate to viewers today, others aspects do not.
A character that seems out of date and somewhat disappointing is Ophelia. As Hamlet’s love interest, she does not resonate with many young women in this day and age. Times have changed, and not as many women rely on and completely worship the males in their families the way she does.
Ophelia does whatever she is told and does not stand up for herself when the men in her life treat her so worthlessly and inappropriately. It is frustrating as a viewer to see this prominent female character add little to the story and act powerless. When she presumably ends her own life, it suggests that she felt she had no purpose other than pleasing her father or her lover Hamlet.
Hamlet makes his feelings on women known in Act 2 Scene 1 of the play stating, “Let me not think on’t. Frailty, thy name is woman!” Although he is ranting about his Mother and her decisions, his statement seems to have some relevance towards Ophelia as well. Furthermore, his Mother, his female role model, does not exactly prove to be a strong, independent woman either.
Ideas such as death, madness, and secrecy are all still dominant themes in entertainment today. When Hamlet holds up the deceased court jester’s skull, and when he talks to King Claudius about where Polonius’s body remains, he brings up an interesting idea. He says to the King, “Your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable service—two dishes, but to one table. That’s the end.” He brings up a good point: that death makes everyone equal.
Most English teachers would agree that Hamlet is must-read. It’s a classic play that’s not quite as gooey as Romeo and Juliet, but includes more action than A Midsummer Night’s Dream. When you take a minute to think about what an old piece of literature Hamlet is, it’s amazing that we still study and appreciate the story today.