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Lessons from ShakespearePosted Wednesday, September 19, 2007, at 10:08 AM
And he wrote it all with a feather...
Granted, the level of sophistication in my appreciation was maybe a little low at the beginning. I seem to recall laughing a lot at first. (At the tragedies, anyway. Not so much at the comedies.) And one of the best uses of Shakespeare's prose early on was learning to say things like, "Arroint thee, puke-stocking!" or "Thou whoreson mandrake!" to friends and colleagues. You could say that even in front of a teacher, and she couldn't accuse you of cussing without impugning Shakespeare. Teachers, especially English teachers, don't like to seem to impugn Shakespeare. (Be advised: This doesn't work with Shop teachers. They don't like anyone but themselves doing any kind of cussing in class, and they don't care whom they impugn.)
Of course, as I grew older and wiser, I appreciated Shakespeare on levels beyond his astonishing fund of previously unknown cusswords. He was possibly the greatest observer and reporter of Human Nature in the history of English Literature, as well as being a whiz with an iamb. There is much to be learned from his works. So in the interest of spreading around the knowledge, here are the lessons to be learned from some of Shakespeare's plays, all boiled down for quick uptake. Consider it a public service. I know how little time folks have for Elizabethan Drama these days:
Macbeth: When out riding across the heath, don't talk to strange witches.
Hamlet: If your father is murdered by your uncle, either go ahead and avenge him or please just shut up about it.
The Taming of the Shrew: A woman will fall in love with you if you just act crazy enough.
Julius Caesar: When somebody tells you to beware the Ides of March, find out what they are and beware them, for crying out loud!
Antony & Cleopatra: Be careful how you hold your asp.
Romeo & Juliet: A layman should never pronounce a person dead. Call in a qualified physician for that sort of thing. (Or at least an apothecary.)
King Lear: Never trust your children.
Titus Andronicus: It is very difficult for disputatious parties to get back to reasoned and amicable negotiation once the rape, mutilation and disembowelling has started.
Richard III: The guy with the hump seldom wins in the end.
All the Comedies: Dress up like some other person. It's a scream.
There. Feel free to use those in English class, kids. And be sure to call your teacher a rump-fed runyon. She'll be so impressed that you're quoting Shakespeare!!
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