Confession Friday: I Don't Read Shakespeare

September 21, 2012 Classics, Uncategorized 20

It is with tremendous shame and utter humiliation that I admit I don’t read Shakespeare. It doesn’t make sense, because I love Shakespeare. The tragedies make me cry, the comedies make me laugh… When I see them performed. But I can’t just sit down and READ it. What kind of a bookworm am I?!

My first encounter with the bard was when we read A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 8th grade. Freshman year we did Romeo and Juliet. Sophomore year was Julius Caesar. Senior year we read Hamlet and Two Gentlemen of Verona. After enjoying the plays in class and seeing an incredible version of Two Gentlemen at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, I was a Shakespeare devotee.

I was also a HUGE fan of 10 Things I Hate About You starring the late Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles. One of my favorite bands, Letters to Cleo, was featured in the movie and on the soundtrack. Everybody, even angsty teenagers, knew that the movie was an interpretation of The Taming of The Shrew. I trusted in my mantra of “the book is always better than the movie,” so I decided I needed to read the play. I was so sure I was going to love it that I bought it in a compilation of Shakespearean comedies, so I could bone up on more plays and be extra super smart.

I made it about 20 pages into The Taming of the Shrew before I threw in the towel. I had taken for granted the teachers explaining the social implications of biting one’s thumb and the benefit of hearing different voices speaking their parts. I just couldn’t follow it, and I haven’t picked it up since. I keep it on my bookshelf though, because I want to appear intelligent. Sadly, I’m not brilliant enough for Shakespeare. Bookworm fail.

Any of my wormy friends have tips for enjoying the READING of Shakespeare? Am I the only person who has this problem?

20 Responses to “Confession Friday: I Don't Read Shakespeare”

  1. Kimmy

    I taught Shakespeare to my 8th graders, and my premise to me REQUIRING that we read it aloud with different voices was, do you read movie scripts for fun? Nope…you read books, and WATCH movies. Shakespeare was meant to be seen, not read. You’re perfectly genius still.

  2. Michelle Proulx

    Shakespeare is great if you’re reading it with a bunch of people, and the subtle nuances are being explained to you. If you’re just reading it by yourself … bleh.

  3. Erica

    I remember reading Macbeth in 6th grade, and Mr. Mason saying it was supposed to be seen. I love me some Shakespeare, but admittedly haven’t read any since I was 20. Kudos to you for trying! My tastes have run towards non-fiction these days, but I have definitely gleaned a sizable list of “to be reads” from you!

  4. Meg

    I haven’t picked up a Shakespeare play since I was in college, though I have seen a few performed since then. It’s just so much more work than I want to put into leisure reading! You have to look up every other word in the notes in the back and that completely ruins the flow of the play. I much prefer to see them performed.


    People tend to forget that Shakespeare was never intended to be read. They are plays and best appreciated that way. I’ve always figured why most students struggle with them so much because it is an unnatural approach in my books. No pun intended

  6. Maria Mankin

    I have to admit I actually enjoy reading Shakespeare, but I think that’s mostly because I’m a big dork 🙂 Also, my dad is a Shakespeare fanatic, so we started reading them together when I was just a little girl; now, they seem so familiar to me, and I’ve seen them performed so many times, that the read-through basically serves to remind me of those experiences.

    That being said, I whole-heartedly agree with everyone above – you don’t feel guilty not reading other playwrights, do you? It’s just because he’s a cultural phenomena that there’s this pressure to do it, when really, the play’s the thing!

    I say, take that copy of Taming of the Shrew off your shelf, leave it in some coffee shop in case someone else wants it, and don’t allow it to make you feel bad for one more minute!

  7. Teri

    I’ve never read Shakespeare unless it was mandatory reading for a grade. I’m sure Bill was a wonderful man but the iambic pentameter stuff just turns me the heck off.

    Found you on the TGIF Blog Hop!
    Great blog.


  8. Tilly Bud - The Laughing Housewife

    I love Shakespeare and – cough – do read him for pleasure, but he was meant to be watched, not studied. If you have a favourite film version of a play, watch it a couple of times so you have the story and characters fixed in your head, and then try reading the original.

  9. CorrieP

    Okay so I’m dated on this conversation because I just found your blog and am catching up on your brilliance! I enjoy reading Shakespeare every couple years…maybe cause I already have so many voices in my head they take turns with the parts? J/K. Also, my 8th grade music teacher turned me on to it and he rocks at everything! BTW, you really are brilliant!

    • Words for Worms

      Oh my heavens, Corrie, you are SO good for my already inflated ego! I’m so glad you’ve come to visit. In a later post I discussed books I’d bring on a desert island and I included Shakespeare so I could act out the plays with coconuts. I think it could work. 🙂 (In all seriousness, I’m having an “I suck at blogging” day so your comment was shockingly well timed. Thank you!!!!!!!)

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