Should Shakespeare Be Taught in High School?


Brianne Leber

Freshman english text book used in ERHS classes. The page features a Shakespeare portrait.

Brianne Leber, Journalist

Once upon a time, during my freshman year, my English teacher told the class to write an essay about whether or not Shakespeare should be taught in class. Freshman year me had many opinions that I fought for valiantly. However, junior year me is a little more mellowed out.

Previously I believed that Shakespeare was old, outdated, and resoundingly boring. Why do I even have to learn this?, I thought, none of it even matters! Now I can’t help but feel an appreciation for the (still old but merit holding) texts. Somewhere along the time between freshman and junior year, I started understanding what he was saying.

Mrs. Oberdank, ERHS English teacher, when asked about Shakespeare ultimately thinks the question is not should Shakespeare he taught but “is it ever harmful to expose them [the students] to it [Shakespeare]?” Students will say yes just to escape the torment of thous, arts, and thees, but I cant stop thinking that no, it can’t hurt.

A senior that would like to remain unnamed took the time to lament about her time reading Romeo and Juliet for class and couldn’t stop repeating the phrase, “it didn’t make sense!” When I asked how she was taught she stated, “the stupid book and the movie” before slumping back into her chair.

Brianne Leber
The spines of the textbook the student refers to.

Kenna Millspaugh, current teacher at Santiago High School, used to long term sub at ERHS. As a family friend of mine, my friend group and I spent a lot of time talking with her while she taught here. One specific lunch, we got bored and began acting out the different scenes from Romeo and Juliet. That was the moment I started to understand the text myself.

After some thought I concluded that it must be the way its  taught to students. “Any text as can be boring or engaging. It all depends on how you approach it,” Oberdank told me after I shared my conclusion. Students don’t understand the writing and the movie may not be as big of a help as we think, but it can be done. With enough explanation, context, and prayers, Shakespeare can be a valuable tool to show students that they can comprehend texts as rough as Shakespeare and teach the valuable literary skills required of English classes.

Freshman me would probably be very upset with current me, but Romeo and Juliet really was a story that taught me a lot about what I can do, even if I hated it then. I believe that Shakespeare should be taught by experienced teachers and revolve around understanding of the text. What do you think?