April Is for Shakespeare

But,Is He Still Relevant to Today's Teens?

Jack Shea, Contributor

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April is National Poetry Month. It is also Shakespeare Month worldwide. At Abington High School, students learn about Shakespeare pretty much every year.

Shakespeare is an important part of learning. He shows modern audiences a different time period, one of danger, love, families, and peace.

Mr. Cutter and Mrs. McHugh both taught “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to their sophomores this year. Their colleagues Ms. Slayton, Ms. Pflaumer, and Mrs. Clifford taught “Romeo and Juliet” to their freshmen this year. Senior teachers also taught “Othello” or “Hamlet.”

Some kids like Shakespeare and can get into it, while others don’t really seem to get it because of the language and they just give up. Mrs. McHugh said, “I think once students overcome their fear of the language of his plays, they ultimately enjoy the experience.”  The language of Shakespeare can be difficult because he uses a lot of big words that students nowadays don’t use anymore. Ms. Slayton, who taught “Romeo and Juliet” to her freshman and “Othello” to her seniors this year said, “Many dislike the language. They get frustrated that many of the ideas could have been communicated so much more clearly in plain language.”

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The messages that are portrayed through his [Shakespeare’s] writing are still relevant today.”

— Ashley Politio

On the other hand, students at Abington High seem to like the way Shakespeare is taught. Some English teachers do movies, some projects, some perform plays, and overall students seem to like this. Mr. Cutter, who taught Hamlet to seniors this year, said, “I’ve found that if taught in an accessible way, students definitely learn to like Shakespeare.”

According to Dr. G., Department Head of English at AHS, “Participating in a performance, such as the grade 9 students do with Miss Pflaumer, is like stepping into a time machine.” She added that when grade 10 students watch “Midsummer” the following year it flips the tragic ideas of “Romeo and Juliet” and gives us hope in the magic of love.”

Another thing students seem to like about reading Shakespeare is his story lines. There is a lot of action and it never really gets boring. There is always something going on. Mrs. McHugh said that her students like the “universal themes and entertaining plots and characters.” Ashley Polito is a senior at AHS. She read Othello and said, “The messages that are portrayed through his [Shakespeare’s] writing are still relevant today. When Iago betrayed Othello it is still something that could happen today.”

Mr. Cutter said that many of his students like the drama found in the plays. He said students “enjoy seeing how things spiral into being, since often we know the outcome at the beginning” of the play.

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I will remember the fun I had acting it out in my group and my character Tybalt.”

— Gregorio Baez

Most people have heard of William Shakespeare and have been taught at least one of his works. The English Department teachers remember taking classes on Shakespeare as students. Dr. G., whose bachelor’s degree is in Theatre Arts from Providence College said, “Not only did I take two courses in Shakespeare ( Tragedies; Comedies & Histories) but I performed in Richard III as Queen Elizabeth and as Titania/Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Shakespeare leaves a clear mark on people’s lives.

During the month of April, freshman in Ms. Pflaumer’s English class performed Romeo and Juliet. Freshman Gregorio Baez said, “I will remember the fun I had acting it out in my group and my character Tybalt.” Baez played Tybalt during Act 3, scene 1, when Romeo kills him because Tybalt killed Romeo’s best friend Mercutio. John LaRosa said that, “I will, like Gregorio, remember the fun I had acting this out with my friends and my group.” LaRosa played the part of Prince Escalus and wore a costume, including a crown, cape, and fake jewelry. Diego Martinez, a new student to Abington High School, played the role of Romeo. He memorized his lines. Martinez said that, “I am going to remember that I acted in front of the class with my group.” He added that “I played Romeo and it was really fun.”

Most English teachers feel Shakespeare is important to teach. Mrs. McHugh said, “I think Shakespeare stands the test of time although the scenarios are often over the top. The emotions, themes, and relationship he presents are very relatable, even after all these year.” Dr. G agreed and said, “Yes, I do think Shakespeare is important to learn about, both a comedy and a tragedy, to learn about what is common human experience, almost 500 years ago and now.” On the other hand, Ms. Slayton said, “I think it’s important to cover at some point, but not so much necessitating it every year. I think that an option should be to take a class that focuses on Shakespeare for people who enjoy it.”

Shakespeare is still all around us in books, movies, TV, songs–he’s everywhere! “Think about how many people enjoy shows like Game of Thrones…Shakespeare has lots of the same themes and can be just as bloody!,” said Dr. G.

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