So I just got my books (these purchases are exceptions as they are for school) for one of my summer classes in the mail today, can you guess which author I will be learning about? I decided to take a Shakespeare class because I have come to the realization that I know very little about his wok, despite being an English major. For some reason, I haven’t been
exposed to “the classics,” as I found myself primarily taking elective courses that focused on contemporary novels aside from my mandatory survey courses. In the survey classes, we learned from anthologies, so I read bits and pieces of different classics but rarely a classic in its entirety. I seem to have more knowledge in contemporary texts, which is why I enrolled in summer courses that focus on readings I am “expected” to know. I constantly have people asking me if I read certain works and once they hear: No, I have never read Jane Eyre. To Kill a Mockingbird? Yeah I heard of it, I did not read it though, I find that their eyes widen as they say, “Well aren’t you an English major?” Yes, I am an English major, NO that does not mean that I have read every popular American literature that exists. I am aware that these books appear on lists such as “Books that Everyone Should Read” or “The Greatest Novels of All Time,” but my major in English stems from my love of reading literature – any kind. This is why I used my electives in college to expose me to texts that are not as accessible, to broaden my horizons, but now that my college experience is coming to an end, I decided that I should turn to authors, or to be politically correct, playwrights, like Shakespeare because I will probably be more inclined to pick up Jane Eyre over the summer to read (which I will do since it is one of my unread and owned books) than I will be inclined to pick up A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I believe that a course on Shakespeare is necessary because his writing is so important but it often needs a certain amount of guidance to fully be appreciated.
The first time I read Romeo and Juliet was last year while I was student teaching, I read Macbeth in 9th grade, I read excerpts from The Tempest during a Comparative Literature course, and in middle school a theater company came to our school and performed Othello. That is the extent of my familiarity of Shakespeare and I feel like it is such a shame considering that he is highly influential in literature and I will most likely be expected to teach one of his plays at one point in my life. Part of me is happy that most of the works that I am required to read are not the plays that you typically think of when you hear Shakespeare, yet another part of me is a little upset that I will not be reading his more well-known works because I feel like those are the plays that I will most likely find on a future curriculum. Yet seeing that I already have a basic knowledge on Macbeth, Othello, and having read and taught Romeo and Juliet, it will be interesting to discover works by Shakespeare that I would not have selected myself.