When I was first introduced to William Shakespeare, I was very much the Unhappy Person. I had no idea what he was saying, what a sonnet was, how to write in iambic pentameter with stressed and unstressed syllables, or the point of Romeo and Juliet. Imagine my joy when I learned that as an English major, I was required to take a semester long course devoted to Shakespeare. The last thing I expected was to walk out of the course Team Shakespeare.
Shakespeare’s works are a reflection of the human experience. Centuries after his death, students around the world are still required to read his works, like I’m sure many of you had to in school. When I had to read a different play each week, I started to realize how his plays explore the full spectrum of the human experience: love and betrayal, ambition and power. Through complex and flawed characters, he portrays the joys and sorrows of life that mirror the experiences and emotions of his readers to this day.
Furthermore, Shakespeare has shaped the English language as we know it. He is responsible for countless words and phrases that are still in use, such as “eyeball,” “foul play,” and “break the ice.” Not only are his phrases embedded into our vernacular, but we also see his influence in modern culture. Whether it’s Hamlet in Disney’s The Lion King, the parallels of Breaking Bad’s characters and five season structure to the five-acts of Macbeth, or the doomed lovers from Romeo and Juliet in West Side Story, Shakespeare’s works continue to serve as a source of inspiration in film, literature, and theater. After all, as Shakespeare said, “all the world’s a stage/and all the men and women are merely players.”
And, after immersing himself in the world of Shakespeare over the last five weeks, Mr. Chillemi is now officially Team Shakespeare.
Damien Chillemi and Diane Vestuto