Shakespeare is regarded as one of the most well-known writers in history. His words resonate with everyone from teenagers reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream to lifetime fans who see his work performed on-stage in London. His quotes are among the most famous – and the most repeated – throughout the world, even among non-native English speakers.
But how does a passion for Shakespearean English affect your language skills if you’re a student struggling in school or college? Naturally, there are pros and cons to feeding your love of Shakespeare while trying to better your performance both in and out of the classroom.
1) Grow your vocabulary
Reading Shakespeare requires regular use of a dictionary. No matter how expansive your vocabulary may be, it’s simply not possible to read an entire piece without occasionally–or, let’s be honest, frequently–turning to a dictionary for definitions.
2) Learn phrases that you may be quizzed on
If you’re a student, you never know when you’ll be quizzed on the definition of a “fortnight” or asked what a “pedant” is. (You’ll want to add Romeo and Juliet and The Taming of the Shrew to your reading list if those words are new to you.)
3) Exercise your brain
Generally speaking, the majority of young adult novels don’t exactly challenge your brain. For the most part, books in this category are an easy read. Shakespeare, on the other hand, puts your brain to work and motivates you to seek additional meaning in what you’re reading.
1) You won’t learn conversational English.
In reading Shakespeare’s works you’ll inevitably notice the repetitive use of certain words and phrases. While they may be interesting, they won’t be relevant in everyday conversations.
2) You might start misspelling things
Shakespeare wrote in a time when what is known as modern English was in its early days. No dictionary had been published, there were few rules regarding grammar, and even the vocabulary for the language was limited. While the publications most students read today have been cleaned up, there are still many noticeable differences in how things are spelled. Specifically, traditional British English spellings with an “re” and “our” are present in words like “theatre” and “colour.” If you’re a student in the U.S. or are learning American English as a second language, you may start misspelling words after reading Shakespeare’s work.
Reading Shakespeare is a rite of passage for many students–a sign that you’re graduating from kiddie books to international literary masterpieces. If you’re having a hard time understanding Shakespearean English, or are just looking for ways to better your skills in a traditional English class, a tutoring service is a great way to get ahead. Private tutors offer support in every area of the English language, from getting through a difficult semester to learning how to be a stronger writer. And if you love helping others understand the difference between Shakespearean and modern English, you may want to consider becoming a tutor yourself!
Dusty Fox is a full-time freelance writer who contributes to WiseIvy and the Language Trainers network. Visit the WiseIvy website to learn more about the nationwide tutoring services they offer.