A Confession

I hate Shakespeare. I have a BA in English, am an English teacher, and a have no problem admitting to literary snobbery, and yet I totally despise The Bard. Romeo and Juliet were idealistic and stupid, Lady Macbeth needed some Xanax, and seriously, how many goddamn Henrys do we need to read about? The reason why this comes up now is because I have to teach Julius Caesar starting next week and am struggling to muster up any enthusiasm whatsoever. Yes, I know, there are "so many fun things you can do with plays." And I don't care.

I can't pinpoint one specific reason why Shakespeare irks me so much. I'm not a huge fan of reading plays in general, so I know that's definitely one factor. Drama doesn't allow me to become as invested in the characters or as connected to the plot and setting as I can with prose. I also hate poetry for the same reason, so that applies to his sonnets as well. My literary tastes also veer towards the contemporary, which Shakespeare definitely is not (I don't mind Chaucer, though, who is about 200 years Will's senior).

As a seventh or eighth grader I really wanted to like Shakespeare- I even requested, and received, his complete works for Christmas one year (cough, cough, dork, cough). I muddled through some sonnets and tried to get through Antony and Cleopatra, if I remember right. Then, freshman year in high school we read Romeo and Juliet and I decided the man was an idiot. Were you kidding me? They were that stupid? Really? Being dumb, naive, and suicidal is not romantic. And from that moment on I was over him. I've read many plays since then and still have not become a fan.

Don't misunderstand me- I hate reading Shakespeare, but I appreciate what he has done for literature as a whole, similar to how I feel about what Michael Jackson has done for music, Kobe Bryant for basketball, and Louboutin for heels. There's a difference between disliking an author because he's a talentless hack, and hating an author because the two of you just aren't on the same wavelength. And, I guess that's the message I'll have to hopefully convey to my students these next few weeks, since I know they'll probably hate Julius Caesar more than I do (pessimistic but realistic): you can hate the game, but don't hate the player (or, I guess, for my students, "playa.")


  1. I feel you -- Shakespeare is about as good as a lot of other dramatists, but if you don't like drama much, it can be hard to feel sympathy for The Greatest Writer In The English Language Ever. I found it difficult to teach a semester-long Shakespeare survey course a couple years ago. That said, making students sword-fight in class was a lot of fun. We spent an hour one afternoon acting out Polonius' death four or five ways, pulling down curtains, discussing the best and most characteristic way to stab, etc.

  2. Thank you! I got a smidge of crap from some colleagues about my dislike (one coyly alluding to perhaps it was because I didn't understand him- as if!), and feel better that you, a super smart doctorate student shares my opinion! We'll see about sword fights with the group I have...