I’m a HUGE fan of Shakespeare. I know what you might be thinking, “Well of course you’re a Shakespeare fan; you’re an English teacher; it’s like a prerequisite.” Maybe you’re right, but I know plenty of fellow English teachers who don’t like nor enjoy Billy-Bob’s work. As someone who enjoys writing poetry and someone who sees words as being powerful tools, I seemingly fell in love the long-dead playwright by the time I was in second year of college. In high school, I thought about his words fleetingly, and with little recognition except to identify that “Leonardo DiCaprio was a terrible actor who would never amount to anything” after watching Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo (plus sign) Juliet. I might have been wrong about Leo, and I was certainly wrong to ignore Shakespeare as I did when I was a youth.
The truth is that the man really did change the landscape of the English language, and poetic form for that matter, forever. His ability to manipulate words, create turns of phrase, and permeate cultures with his memorable words and wit still to the this day is testament to his importance to who we are now.
Convincing my students of this approximation is a whole other matter, however. One way I do get my students to see Shakespeare’s talent is by finding new forms of media that demonstrate how is mastery of word choice and placement are still unmatched. When recently demonstrating the power of Shakespeare’s use of iambic pentameter, the metrical beat inherent in his word structure formed by using unstressed followed by stressed syllables in five poetic, metrical feet, I found a delightful video of a Scotsman demonstrating a monologue from Much Ado About Nothing. The young man on the video does a brilliant job of jumping to various accents from around the world while never breaking his stride in reciting the monologue. I found this to be a perfect demonstration for students how Shakespeare’s use of iambic pentameter still sounds good to our ears even after all these years and in any accent you can imagine.
Enjoy the video below: