Classics: They’re Not Just for “Smart” People

By Persephone

So…I was talking to a student this morning in one of my classes, and the subject of William Shakespeare came up.  Now, this was a pretty random topic, as it was a physics class, but I also know for a fact that I was the invokee of this particular subject.  What can I say?  I love Shakespeare.  He’s the bomb.

However, this student seemed quite reticent to read anything related to Shakespeare.  She described the language in his plays as making her feel “dumb.”  She even went on to describe several authors as above her academically.

Ack!  This drives me nuts, and I keep running into people who express similar sentiment.  It’s as if they’re too afraid to try anything new because it might make them feel stupid.  How low is your self-esteem if you won’t crack open a copy of Hamlet?  Seriously, reading about that teenager’s drama would make anyone feel better about themselves.  In my opinion.

But that’s just the point.  I started reading classic novels from authors like Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Dickens (although to this day, I think he’s a douche), and Alcott from a young age.  When I say young, I mean around twelve or thirteen years old.  And let me tell you: I didn’t understand everything the first time around.  No one picks up Shakespearean speech immediately, but that’s what practice is for.  If you’re too afraid to try to learn and expand your mind, reading from authors far more intelligent than most of us (I’m not including Dickens here–he’s still a douchebag), then what’s the point?  That’s how we increase our understanding of the world.  We have to see it from other perspectives, we have to study the cultures from our past.  They are already intrinsically a part of our culture today, but we’ve distanced ourselves from them.

Ours is not just a culture of technology and social media.  Or, at the very least, I’m praying it isn’t.  There has to be more to it than that.  We have to study and recognize the beauty of our past if we are to create it ever again.  So, to all you teenagers and lazy adults out there, put down your damn phones.  Don’t be scared to open a copy of A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream or Jane Eyre.  They’re excellent works that have much to teach us.  Besides, what’s there to fear?  It’s just fiction.  Historically, fiction’s entire purpose has been to create alternative realities through which to escape.  So, get on with it.

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