Modern Canons

Nope, I am not talking about exploding ordnance. I will be talking about this list of suggested reading that every kid in the USA has to read in school.

Why do people place Shakespeare on that list? A pox on thee! The guy talked funny. Half the time he was taking really serious situations and making them comical. So, what is the deal with Shakespeare? A lot of people despise the Bard. I like him.

He is part of the Canon because of his word gymnastics and his great ability to tell a story. But, mostly he is held up as a standard of English literature because of something Ray Bradbury called “philosophical asides.”

What is the nature of existence? In Hamlet, we see a young man struggle with the untimely death of his father. I think that even George Lucas milked that a little for Luke Skywalker. Hamlet talks about this to Horatio. He really didn’t need to pick up a skull, I mean, gross. But talking about death reminds Hamlet of what he must do. He has to satisfy his father’s wish for vengeance.

We see loyalty and betrayal. These kind of trigger responses within the people who watch the play. So, even though Shakespeare wrote the play centuries ago. Yes, he wrote it. (Some people suggest that he didn’t write it.)

I relate to the whole thing. If someone dropped poison into my dad’s ear and killed him then married my mom, I would be totally ready to kick some butt. I understand his actions. Most modern heroes operate on these lines and Shakespeare kind of made it accessible.

In Hamlet, also we see the hero who rights a wrong. Today, movies have heroes that right wrongs or save someone from an evil fate. I wonder what Shakespeare would have done with CGI.

Recently, a favorite actor of mine, I mean I am a fan and respect his work, Patrick Stewart, did a series on Facebook. He read Shakespeare’s sonnets. It was such an uplifting experience. I was not the only one following the series. There were thousands of us tuning in to watch him read the beautiful poetry. These sonnets were about the major themes of philosophy, love, life, consciousness, God, and more.

The thing about the Canon is that it endures because it stays beautiful, because it stays relevant. People keep adding to it. If we took Shakespeare off of the reading list, we’d have to do a lot less work trying to figure out the thees and thous, but we’d lose our connection to a pioneer.

Do you detest Shakespeare?

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