Recently, Alexandra Petri wrote a column for the Washington Post entitled, “On the Bard’s birthday, is Shakespeare still relevant?” It’s a great article and I suggest you click through the link and read it. Now, I don’t know what got into me this afternoon while I was reading the article on my lunch period, but my response to this particular article came pretty quickly–so quickly, in fact, that it’s hard to read what I scribbled on the back of a detention referral during the last ten minutes of lunch. Reading it a little closer, it seems pretty defensive of the Bard, but then when I think of it, in this day of social media, maybe the question finally has an affirmative answer. Maybe we can finally stand up and say: Shakespeare is irrelevant!
And he is NOT innovative!
Because come on, Juliet did not text Romeo that she was faking it (though Romeo couldn’t check a pulse and since when can a teenage boy tell that she’s faking it?) so it has no meaning now. Because it’s not savvy and does not use 21st Century skills and therefore …
THEREFORE … SHAKESPEARE MUST HAVE BEEN STUPID!
And why should Juliet die anyway? Don’t you know that heroines don’t die now; they just come back to sparkle?
And what about plain Kate? You know, Bonny Kate, Kate the curst, Kate the pure that everyone hates? Does she not now nobly sacrifice herself for fair and prim Bianca, instead of being dragged kicking and screaming down the aisle?
Oh, it’s all so irrelevant!
If Shakespeare were smart and savvy, Olivia would be checking into Foursquare and checking her brother’s Facebook status so they don’t get mixed up, and even if they did, she’d be very good at tweeting about Orsino.
And don’t get me started on that group that falls asleep in the forest. We’re supposed to believe that there’s something magical about it? They obviously did what any other group of kids do in the woods these days–drink, drink, pop the painkillers stolen from their parents’ medicine cabinet, and drink. Oh, and post the footage to YouTube. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, nowhere to dream.
(Of course there’s nowhere to dream, the public school system stole that from them)
Anyway, we are too smart of a modern (or is it post-modern or post-post-modern?) society to believe sarcastic ad hominem statements made at funerals, and nobody in our modern culture would ever use underhanded means to get and keep what they want. Power does not corrupt, siblings do not fight over inheritance, and people do not get into debt so deeply that paying back said debt feels like literally giving part of themselves over to someone else. Our society is beyond all that.
So he’s irrelevant. Not innovative. Not authentic.
Oh, and he’s also hard to understand, and it’s not fair to my students that they have to unwrap his words.
Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone, besmeared with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war’s quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
‘Gainst death and all oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the Judgement that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes.