In Honor of Shakespeare's 400th Anniversary

December 3, 2016 - 12:49pm -- Jennifer Arin

Ah, Shakespeare! The Immortal Bard is, alas, the bane of so many students, at least in the English-speaking world. Who among us hasn’t endured month-long lessons on Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, and Shakespeare’s other great and not-so-great plays?

 And yet, as a fan myself – who uses language to better effect? – I wasn’t ready to give up on him in my own teaching. Predictably, my students groaned when his name appeared in the syllabus.

“Don’t worry,” I assured them, “we’re reading just a few of his sonnets.”

Instead of giving Shakespeare his usual starring role, I’d tucked him into a three-week lesson on poetry. If the students were less overwhelmed by his work, maybe they’d appreciate its genius more.

The next essay the class turned in showed that the plan had worked – even if the evidence was expressed in a less than Shakespearean way.

“Shakespeare does a good job dragging the reader in and making them have a good time,” one student opined.

Another had more basic praise for what had impressed him: “He gets his point across without making any grammar mistakes.”