What, Exactly, Is “Good” Literature? Why Even Bother To Read? (In Defense of Shakespeare)

Between the Blog & Me


The Bard.

I think about Shakespeare often, which is strange considering my introduction to him: a Freshman year English Honors classroom, ripe with the trivial concerns and personal dramas (not to mention the myriad odors of rich perfumes and potent body sprays) of about twenty to twenty-five fourteen-year-olds, the god-awful foreign taste of dead Elizabethan English sitting on our tongues, and that awful, DREADFUL, air of cross-examination given by our teacher:

“Who does ___ meet before ___ event takes place?”
“What important bit of information does ___ learn after Act II?”
“What type of irony is used when ___ reveals ___ to the audience?”

We were reading Romeo and Juliet, at age fourteen–a dead, white, European play 400 years removed from us–and the only questions our teacher could ask, had to ask, were questions testing our reading comprehension. I was at a loss. What could this man possibly have…

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