Robert M. Schwartz
Reading Shakespeare deliberately can be an excellent guide to living life deliberately. The Bard not only carries on these 400 plus years later, but remains a cornerstone of Western thought. Not many modern folks fully comprehend the language of Shakespeare’s plays, yet the works endure on American stages and in film and television. Nearly every work has a film adaptation and then another film adaptation, ranging from decades old BBC productions to those of modern Hollywood. Renowned theater troops perform the work still, as do high school theater classes. And the latter is where we will spotlight Shakespeare’s enduring resonance in this curricular unit. High schools are such an enigma in modern America, where all of life’s dramas are possible and apparent and relatable in some way to some scene of some play in Shakespeare. Teachers may struggle to find a way to relate 400 year old language to their students, but when theme and concept and ordinary human emotions are so strong, there is nothing Shakespeare cannot touch, even Twitter.
There was no way the Bard could have been able to tell as he sat with his quill committing verse to immortal page, that four centuries later teenagers would find more value in quick, easily available communiqués from friends, celebrities and strangers in the form of social media. The empire of Facebook is daring to rival Shakespeare’s canon in historical significance, but a part of that empire – and arguably an increasingly part – are smaller and even less complicated offshoots of the social media giant. Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat and Instagram have gained enough legs in modern teen culture that they each have a place in history alongside Shakespeare himself.
So where to start, when dealing with two entities on opposite ends of a spectrum – social media, which modern teens hold in near if not top priority in their lives, and Shakespeare – revered poet, “mortal God” to Bloom
, the same to many scholars and artists and patrons alike. Yet to those same modern teens, Shakespeare is mostly something they experience if they are required to at school, appreciate if their instructor is particularly effective, and ultimately forget as easily if they don’t harbor personal appreciation or go into the arts. It may be a mid-semester morning’s dream to hope that the lines from Shakespeare will be
important to an average teen as their devotion to posting tweets, status updates and pictures, or updating their timeline. However if one focuses on the quip or loaded line, an educator might be able to at least utilize the profound devotion to modern tech and media in order to encourage further understanding, appreciation, and real learning. With these short, well-articulated, charged lines so common in Shakespeare, a class could focus on the depth of a phrase or short speech, say, 140 characters or less. This reminds me of something the kids do. . . .
In tweeting Shakespeare, it may be possible to draw the interest of modern learners, perhaps just enough for them to look a little more deeply. If we can engage them with tweets and hashtags, perhaps they’d even delve more intently into the depths of one of the Bard’s most challenging works: