Essay about William Shakespeare's Relevance Today

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William Shakespeare's Relevance Today

For as long as formal education has existed in Britain it has been a largely standard assumption that teaching the works of William Shakespeare is relevant and necessary. Perhaps the relevance of his writing is taken for granted, perhaps it is necessary to re-examine the role of Shakespeare for the modern audience. There are indeed many people who question the relevance of this 440 year old playwright to a 21st century audience, taking it even as far as perhaps the greatest heresy of all, questioning the necessity of GCSE pupils learning Shakespeare at all. This “proposed vandalism from the policymakers” (Guardian 09/02/01) is opposed wholesale by supporters
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“Each play of Shakespeare is the development of a metaphor or group of metaphors. There is a matrix out of which feeling finds words, emotions take shape and voices become characters. That which is referred to most often- in metaphors, images, allusions and statements- is usually for Shakespeare what is significant”

(Rehder 1980 p56)

However simply because the theme is, arguably, not reliant on the context or overall setting, and that this theme is relayed by metaphor and not in descriptive prose, is not perhaps justified cause to say that the theme itself will necessarily be relevant; or indeed that the metaphorical vehicle by which it is conveyed will be relevant or appreciable either. For example one of the more central themes of King Lear, as with all the tragedies, is death. Death as a theme can be said to have starkly contrasting meaning and therefore perhaps relevance for a modern audience as compared to a Shakespearean one. Today death is a rare and terrible tragedy of momentous importance in the life of an individual, in 16th century England with its plagues, starvation, infant mortality and state violence; death was
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