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this_velvet_glove's avatar

Is it just me or is Shakespeare overrated?

Asked by this_velvet_glove (1132 points ) July 17th, 2012

What’s your opinion on Shakespeare? Is he overrated or not?

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34 Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

Well, you don’t need to worry because he won’t be writing anything new.

Any time a person is as prolific as Shakespeare – we’re talking dozens of plays, a ton of poems and sonnets, and so on – not everything is going to be to everyone’s liking. That’s just common sense.

But on the whole, he wrote about basic human emotions and situations that are eternal in the sense that they have always existed and will continue to exist. Just for three examples: Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, and Macbeth. Could others have written similar drama? Sure. But they didn’t.

What ruined Shakespeare for me (for a while) was how it was taught in school. Rather than teaching the “message” and the beauty of the story, my English teachers used to go for the detailed explicatory crap and foreshadowing – all the stuff that takes the enjoyment out of the plays because it analyzes it to death.

So perhaps it is how Shakespeare is being presented to you that is the problem.

But again, no one liked EVERYTHING that the guy wrote.

filmfann's avatar

Shakespeare is like the Bible. Both are long, difficult to understand at times, and neither is written in English.
But it is hard to deny that it is a magnificent work.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Overrated? Maybe. Depends on what you are in the mood for. He had an interesting style, but it doesn’t always fit my mood. Sometimes I want Shakespeare. Sometimes I want Dave Barry.

JLeslie's avatar

Just you.

marinelife's avatar

Overrated? Not by a long shot. He invented more than 1700 words that are still used today including discontent, gloomy, jaded, mountaineer, premeditated and worthless.

He also added 135 phrases to the English language that are still in use today including a fool’s paradise, a sorry sight, a sea change, all’s well that ends well, and thereby hangs a tale, as pure as the driven snow, at one fell swoop, dash to pieces and eaten out of house and home.

Shakespeare was a great plotter too. His plots have been reworked in many modern films including Ten Things I hate About You, She’s the Man, The Boys from Syracuse, get Over It, Were the World Mine, Kiss Me Kate, Ran, A Thousand Acres, Catch My Soul, O, My Own Private Idaho.

This doesn’t even touch on the beauty of his poetry and his haunting language.

No, Shakespeare is not overrated.

this_velvet_glove's avatar

@marinelife Really? I didn’t know. I’ve read some of his plays, and I just don’t find them that great. But I didn’t know about all that… Maybe he’s not overrated at all (but I still don’t like his plays that much).

marinelife's avatar

@this_velvet_glove Ease into Shakespeare with his comedies. Read A Midsummer Night’s Dream or The Taming of the Shrew.

ucme's avatar

I think there’s reasonable doubt at least.

linguaphile's avatar

For me, he’s not overrated because each and every time I read a play that I’ve read before, I find something new. I agree completely with what @marinelife says, but to add to that, my favorite thing about Shakespeare is how he has more than one layer of meaning in many of his lines. I love how he says things about the most basic emotions—his word usage and imagery is just amazing.

Example… “These violent delights have violent ends and in their triumph die, like fire and powder, which, as they kiss, consume.” When I read that, I imagine a spark of fire “kissing” the gunpowder, which makes them both explode “triumphantly,” and both just disappear. There’s passion, attraction, consummation, destruction and a warning in one line.

Another example… “Much Ado About Nothing” as a title looks innocent enough. It’s not—it has four meanings and is delightfully naughty. The word ‘nothing’ used to be pronounced like ‘note-ing’ so—they are: 1. This is a lot of silliness about nothing 2. This makes a big deal about noticing others/spying on others 3. This makes a big deal about ladies’ nether regions (as in, women have nothing down there, men have something) and 4. This is a lot of silliness about virginity (which means ‘nothing’ to Shakespeare). It’s hard to imagine but, Shakespeare’s audiences really did understand all these layers of meaning.

I admit I’m biased… I taught Shakespeare when I was a literature teacher, and it was extremely important to me that I didn’t kill old Shakey for my students. So, I did a survey after each time I taught the unit—at least 85% of my students walk out of my classroom with a positive appreciation of Shakespeare. The rest were more ‘meh’ but none of them hated it. Four of my students ended up in the same college production of Hamlet. It IS how it’s taught. I don’t expect every single person to love Shakespeare, but there aren’t that many writers in history who have been able to accomplish the same with language usage as this guy did.

GQ and welcome to Fluther :)

Sunny2's avatar

@this_velvet_glove He’s not to your taste, but no, he’s not overrated. The more you learn about his work, the easier it will be to understand that.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Not everyone’s a fan of his work, but there’s definitely a reason it’s so easy to see one of his plays pretty much anywhere in the English speaking world.

bea2345's avatar

I was lucky enough to attend a stage performance of Hamlet, featuring the late John Gielgud.. Sponsored by the British Council, it took place at the Roxy Theatre, Port of Spain when I was still in primary school. This would be in the early fifties. I went with my four siblings and we were transfixed by the story. The scene with the skull in the graveyard was much appreciated, and was met with a chuckle. When as a teenager I read the play itself, I was astonished how much I understood of sixteenth-century English. No, Shakespeare is not overated.

6rant6's avatar

I think Shakespeare is like Indian food. If you think you don’t like it, it only means you haven’t found the dish that you need to find.

flutherother's avatar

I think ‘Old Shakey’ still has a bit of mileage left in him.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Why Shakespeare? Books have been written to answer that question. Let me interject a line about Shakespeare’s plays the great scholar Samuel Johnson wrote in 1765, “Unassisted by interest or passion, they have passed through variations of taste and changes of manners, and, as they devolved from one generation to another, have received new honors at every transmission.”

The Bard has stood the test of time. We still laugh at his antics. We gather wisdom from his characters. We recite his poetry to our lovers. We hiss at his villains. His language quiets our hearts. Joy springs from bringing his words life.

Welcome to Fluther.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Whaaaaaat? No, it’s just you. Shakespeare’s works are impressive and most of them are quite enjoyable. IMHO, at least.

Crashsequence2012's avatar

Plays: Perhaps.

Sonnets: NO.

AstroChuck's avatar

No, it’s not just you. I’ve been screaming it from the highest manure pile for years. It’s just not a very popular viewpoint to proclaim.

Rarebear's avatar

@filmfann What do you mean Shakespeare didn’t write in English?

Ponderer983's avatar

If I knew what that guy was even writing about, I would let you know. I needed a translator for that crap in High School. Elizabethan is not a strong language for me.

Rarebear's avatar

a) It’s English
b) It’s not crap.
c) Shakespeare’s plays are meant to be seen and staged, not read. I encourage anybody who says they “hate” Shakespeare to not see a good production of Much Ado About Nothing or Taming of the Shrew and not laugh.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Man, there’s all this love for Taming of the Shrew. What’s up with that? IMO, Taming of the Shrew is one of his worst!

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Aethelflaed : I played Hortensio in The Taming of the Shrew. I took a pie in the face in our production set as a 1953 live television broadcast. That happened for every performance for the run of the show. Also, if you can find some of John Cleese in it, you’ll get a glimpse of utter comic genius at work. I know there are some clips on YouTube.

Rarebear's avatar

@Aethelflaed I love Taming of the Shrew because there is a lot of jokes in there that kids can enjoy, and there’s a lot of physical humor. My favorite play is actually Richard III, but that’s not a beginner Shakespeare play. T of the S is.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake That’s no fair; anything John Cleese does is utter comic genius!

gondwanalon's avatar

Perhaps….
“What seest thou else
In the dark backward and abysm of time?”
-Shakespeare’s The Tempest (Act 1, Scene 2)

Rarebear's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake Oh, please find some of the youtube clips!

Rarebear's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake That’s a great scene with great dialogue.

muppetish's avatar

I would recommend watching a live performance of some of the plays instead of reading them. They are wonderful works of literature, but those who have not studied dramatic literature, which requires a different kind of reading than poetry or prose, may find it difficult to wrap their heads around what is so special about the text. In high school, I could not understand what was so special about Shakespeare and since our culture is oversaturated with references to his plays (especially Romeo and Juliet), it was difficult to even be impressed by the plots or characters. However, after studying drama in university and watching several of the plays staged, I am wowed by Shakespeare (and his contemporaries!)

AstroChuck's avatar

I think the reason so many language nuts love Shakespeare is aside from the 16/17th century English his impact on the English language in regards to vocabulary and idioms. There’s no denying the influence his prose has made, but that doesn’t automatically mean he was a great playwright. Fact is I could blow my nose on a canvas and somebody somewhere will see art because what makes good art is subjective. I don’t think Shakespeare is necessarily a poor playwright, I just don’t why the hype about his works. Among educated people I realize I’m in the minority on this. As there say, opinions are like assholes…

muppetish's avatar

@AstroChuck You’d be surprised! A good chunk of the students enrolled in the English department back when I was an undergrad detested Shakespeare (and a close friend of mine in the graduate department does not hide the fact that he loves Marlowe far more than Shakespeare, though he does appreciate the more acknowledged playwright in his own way.) And a sizable amount of students, myself included, did not quite appreciate Shakespeare until studying the plays with one of our beloved professors.

linguaphile's avatar

@AstroChuck As much as I love Old Shakey, I also have to accept that he was a story-line plagiarist, like Disney is. Most of his plays come from another story that was already in existence, like most if not all of Disney’s animated movies come from an already existing story.

What he did was—took story lines and added psychological depth with his own words, his own spin, and made them surpass the test of time. Steve Jobs did the same thing—he didn’t create; his talent was finding things that already existed and making it better.

We could argue both ways—that an “improver” is not an artist or a creator, and can argue that they are indeed artists. Either way, perdition catch my soul, I do love Shakespeare.

AstroChuck's avatar

Sorry about the poor writing and omissions in my last post. I was rushing my writing before clocking in to work and I didn’t proofread before hitting the “answer” button.

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