4 reasons why kids should study Shakespeare

by Anna Michaelidou

Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em.

- William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night


William Shakespeare is known by many people as the 'father of English Literature'. Almost four centuries have passed since Shakespeare stopped writing yet his poetry and plays are as vivid and alive today as they were back then. But with so many modern writers why should children continue to study Shakespeare?

Who was William Shakespeare?

Shakespeare was one of the world's greatest poets and prose writers delving into rich, complex language and complicated characters and themes that are still as much of today's world as they were in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright and actor born in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire in April 1564. He was married at the age of 18 to Anne Hathaway and they had three children together; Susanna in 1583 and twins Hamnet and Judith around 1585.

Shakespeare produced most of his best known work between 1589 and 1613. His writings consisted of comedies, history, poetry and tragedies. And his plays have been translated into countless languages all over the world. Some of his famous works included:

  • The Merchant of Venice
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Hamlet
  • Antony and Cleopatra
  • Twelfth Night
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Macbeth
  • Othello
  • King Lear
  • Winter's Tale
  • As You Like It

Of course the list goes on and all of Shakespeare's work deserves a mention in my opinion. Shakespeare had a successful career in London as an actor and writer before retiring around 1613 in Stratford where he died in May 1616.

This year celebrations will be held across the world, commencing in the UK, to honour the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare and his work.

Why Study Shakespeare today?

Here are four very real reasons why children should be encouraged to read the works of one of the world's greatest literary giants:

1. Extraordinary Storylines

The great thing about Shakespeare was his ability to write great plots. Some may say that Shakespeare's writing has inspired many of today's best modern works. His themes include:

  • Revenge
  • Love
  • Marriage
  • Power
  • Ambition
  • Murder
  • Obsession
  • Dreaming
  • Ambition
  • Loyalty
  • Death
  • Sin
  • Guilt

All of Shakespeare's plays have terrific story-lines. Take Hamlet; a magnificent tragedy with an extremely powerful depth. The main character Hamlet finds out about his father's death, his mother's marriage to his uncle and speaks to the ghost of his late father who tells him to seek revenge on the new king (the same uncle) for his murder. The play explores different relationships such as Hamlet's obsession with Gertrude, his mother and his love for Ophelia who he tries to convince his insanity to. Beautifully written and a must for all who have a love for literature, Hamlet is a truly gripping drama.

Macbeth is another stunning play about ambition and contradiction full of wonderfully creative characters and subtle witchcraft. All of Shakespeare's plays tell a story in an enlightening and absorbing manner, captivating the reader into the tale. Children of all ages can benefit from reading the works of this literary legend whilst inspiring them to gain knowledge about past histories and enhance their imaginations.

2. Powerful Characters

Something I believe cannot be disputed is the fact that Shakespeare's characters are so very full of depth. Shakespeare had a wonderful way of exploring his characters and describing their emotions.

Romeo from Romeo & Juliet is by far the world's most famous young lover whilst Hamlet can probably be seen as Shakespeare's most complex character. Shakespeare's characters are blessed with different traits and are created to grasp the reader's attention; which is exactly what they do. From villains, murderers, lovers and dreamers to traitors, servants, witches and magicians, Shakespeare's characters are full of everything you can imagine and more. What better way to build a child's imagination and teach them about the different themes today's world holds than to encourage them to read Shakespeare?

3. Stunning Quotes

Shakespeare quote

If there is one thing Shakespeare is still very well known for it is his powerful portrayal of words and the famous quotes we still hear today from his works.

Probably one of Shakespeare's most quoted phrases is to be or not to be: that is the question from Hamlet. Hamlet deals with his obsession with death and questions whether to take his own life forming a quote that was to be around nearly four hundred years after it was first written.

Other great Shakespearian quotes include:

Romeo, Romeo, where for art thou Romeo? - Romeo and Juliet

All the world 's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts. - As you like it

If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? - The Merchant of Venice

I am one who loved not wisely but too well. - Othello

The course of true love never did run smooth" - A Midsummer Night's Dream

The fault, dear Brutus, lies not within the stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings. - Julius Caesar

4. Challenging and inspiring

I can think of no better way to challenge a child's reading than to have them study some Shakespeare. Once a child feels comfortable with their reading a great way to build their eagerness and stimulate their brains is to encourage them to read some of Shakespeare's works. A great way to do this is to read together the first time to help them slowly understand the language and be there to help them overcome any difficulties they may face at first.

Reading Shakespeare can be a wonderful learning curve and a great ability for any child to possess. Shakespeare's writings are timeless and full of meaning. Children can learn so much from studying the works of this famous bard including understanding the history behind his writings and learning from the messages he wished to convey.

It's not enough to speak, but to speak true.

- William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream