Saera’s Shakespearean Surprise
I never thought I would like Shakespeare.
All throughout middle school, I developed the idea that Shakespeare was weird, totally inaccessible, and only read or viewed by those who went around with their noses in the air. One afternoon, in my ninth grade year, I happened to read a few lines of Romeo and Juliet while at a friend’s house. She had to read the play for her English class (I never had to), and I was curious about it…I mean, who hasn’t heard of Romeo?
I happened to read the scene at the masque, when Romeo meets Juliet. After reading about the kissing, I decided that Romeo was a jerk, Juliet was an idiot, Shakespeare was weirdo obsessed with a perverted form of love, and I would never read his works until I absolutely had to.
It wasn’t until my junior year in high school that I happened across an old collection of Shakespeare dramas at a library sale. My love of old books, my growing recognition that being well-read meant being familiar with Shakespeare, and the books’ low price convinced me to buy the set. As soon as I hopped in the backseat of our car, my curiosity compelled me to glance over the plays I had just purchased. The idea of reading a tragedy did not appeal (happy endings were a must for enjoyable reads), so I purused the comedy titles. A Midsummer Night’s Dream caught my attention, and I decided to start with that.
By the time we reached home, I was hooked. After four laughter-filled hours, I finished it. Thankfully, it had dispelled my notion that Shakespeare was all tragedy, teen lovers, and incomprehendible “Old English” that had to be studied by experts to be enjoyed. To me, it was just a hilarious plot, confused clarity, and a fun read. And, what’s more, I had done it completely on my own! A year later, I moved on to Much Ado About Nothing and Taming of the Shrew. Thankfully, I read them in unannotated editions, completely on my own, completely for my own pleasure.
Two years later, during the 2009 Fall Semester, I took my first Shakespeare class. Ever. And it just happened to be a 4000 level “Shakespeare for Teachers” course. I discovered that there is more complexity to Shakespeare than I had ever thought, and I discovered that I can in fact enjoy mulling over the works and studying them out! In fact, I discovered that I could succeed in a 4000 level Shakespeare class without any previous experience of studying Shakespeare! Since that discovery, Shakespeare is no longer scary.
Now, as a junior English major, I still hate Romeo and Juliet, detest Hamlet, and have my misgivings about Shakespeare’s obsessions. And tragedies.
And while I am now engaged in Shakespeare studies, and enjoying them immensely, I still believe that no one has to study Shakespeare to benefit from his works. Simply reading them for pure enjoyment is often the best way to experience them. At least, it was for me. Who would have guessed that reading a Midsummer Night’s Dream three years ago would have resulted in an a blog about Shakespeare? Certainly not me.