Shakespeare is still relevant

Drama... Thea Shapiro has fond memories of learning William Shakespeare's work in her school syllabus.


However, his words have stood the test of time and have literally moulded the English language. Shakespeare’s plays and poetry still form a significant part of the English language syllabus in South African schools. And there is a good reason for this.

Sandton-based English graduate and teacher, Nichola Millen said that Shakespeare is the father of modern English. She also explained Shakespeare’s astounding contribution to the English language when she said that he invented almost 10 000 new words to add to the language. In essence, what this means is that Shakespeare is the very inventor of the words that we say and write.

Millen brought up an interesting point when she said that purists of the English language will fight for the inclusion of Shakespeare in the English syllabus, whereas more realistic teachers will raise an eyebrow. All pupils and teachers who have tackled Shakespeare’s work will know that it is complex and it is often time-consuming to grasp the hidden meaning behind his poetic and figurative language.

Bachelor of Arts graduate and Sandton-based tutor, Maren du Plessis, said that the bevy of online sources has made the prospect of obtaining a distinction a likely possibility for anyone studying Shakespeare. The online jungle at the disposal of all students means that simplified versions of Shakespeare’s work are readily available. Du Plessis further went on to say that the punitive marking system itself, has lead to a greater sense of hesitation among students to express their own critiques in literary studies.

The many layers of beautiful imagery within Shakespeare’s work do, however, encourage complex thought processes and makes students want to think deeper. Thea Shapiro, who matriculated in 2015, said that Shakespeare gave her the tools and understanding of what theatre is about. Shapiro also said that there is a lot of beauty in Shakespeare’s plays. She added that Shakespeare was always her first choice when she had to select a monologue for a school drama practical.

Regardless of one’s opinions of Shakespeare, his work has remained relevant in the school syllabus and his words have become as timeless as his theatrical creations of Romeo and Juliet, tragic heroes and evil villains.


Pascale Michael

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