Like most kids in high school, I was never a fan of Shakespeare. In fact all of the mandatory reading in high school made me dislike reading. To make matters worse, after undergrad, I went to law school where I was inundated with so much reading that I had a fleeting thought about reading for enjoyment.
It wasn’t until many years later that I started reading for pleasure. This quickly progressed into an obsession and my blog. I’ve read around 650 books – about 99% are romance books. I may not be “well-read” in the Shakespeare arena, but I have a considerable number of romance books deliciously tucked into my head.
My teenage daughter found it odd to find me reading Shakespeare. She wouldn’t bat an eyelash if she saw me reading an erotic romance, but when she saw me reading Richard III she shouted, “Why?” Her tone of voice was amusing as she seemed almost appalled. My honest answer was two-fold. First, I’m helping out a friend with a project. Obviously it is a good friend, because why else would I subject myself to Shakespeare. Second, one of my reading goals for the year was to read a few books outside the romance genre.
Now, with age, a lot more reading experience, and a new perspective I have to admit that I’m still not a fan of Shakespeare. Sorry, if that offends every English major out there.
I’m not an English major. I majored in civil engineering, went law school, and am well-read in the romance genre.
How does Shakespeare compare to contemporary romance?
- If a romance author were to try and publish a book with as many characters as were included and alluded to in Richard III, a publisher wouldn’t even waste their time with a rejection letter. Richard III would be sent straight to the circular file.
- Shakespeare not only uses the same name for different people, but often refers to the same person by different names without ANY clarification. This is the crux of why I really disliked the play.
- Shakespeare requires a history background to actually understand the genealogy surrounding the characters. I felt the play was like a long relationship problem on the LSAT exam (but not all the information was provided). It wreaked of unfairness.
- The actual language in Shakespeare was challenging as I lacked a familiarity with old English. However, by the end of the book I didn’t feel any need to read the translated easier version in the No Fear book. I have come to love reading authors from other parts of the world where some of their phrasing or lingo is different from my U.S. background. In fact I was completely amused by some of the odd phasing in Shakespeare that crept into modern language. “No doubt.” was a particular favorite.
- It is unfair to plainly state that Shakespeare’s words are “superior” or contain more “depth” than current authors. I have read some romance authors that are also linguistically beautiful. In fact, their words come off the page like a song.
- Alternatively, I find that Shakespeare is similar to antiquated and wordy legalese. Today’s law schools teach students to write with clarity and to write succinctly. Old school ways should be left in the past.
- Great romance books have great characters. The reader gets to know and understand the way the characters think. Shakespeare lacked in this department as well. While the reader does get to know Richard III, the other characters (all too many) were often wishy-washy and flat.
- Not truly knowing the characters made it unclear how to interpret their feelings through dialog alone. It was like reading a text from someone and being uncertain if the sender was being sarcastic.
- There may be more use of thematic devices and other literary devices in Shakespeare. I don’t mean to condemn Shakespeare as a barren book not worthy of any recognition. However, I do take issue with the common misnomer that romance books lack in this arena. Many authors use similar devices in their works. Most reviews or book discussions focus on the entertainment value rather than a full blown deconstruction of romance books as considered as literary works.
I’m not suggesting that English teachers replace Shakespeare with romance books in their curriculums. I believe that there is an educational value in learning HOW to read Shakespeare.
I take issue with people bashing those that prefer to read romance over traditional literary works. It is very pretentious and egotistical to take such a position.