Do you think Shakespeare still serves a useful purpose in an English class? 

For this essay, you will use Shakespeare’s tragic play Macbeth as the basis for your evaluation of his current status and value, along with our class discussions any other experiences you have had with his plays and sonnets.

Macbeth deals with a wide range of issues such as gender, psychology, ambition, morality and beyond. It has been made into a plethora of productions starring Michale Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, and more. Legendary directors, like Akira Kurosawa and Orson Welles, have adapted the play. In other words, this play is widely celebrated. However, does it offer us, in a college class value?

Do you think Shakespeare still serves a useful purpose in an English class? To the best of your ability, try and ignore the massive historical aura that pervades his legend (e.g. Shakespeare should be studied because he’s a legend and historical) and really try and get a sense of what the point is (if any) of reading Shakespeare’s work. Similarly, think honestly as you concoct your thesis. Even if you found reading Macbeth challenging, try and be mature and realistic about gauging the value of reading this play. It will not suffice to say “Macbeth is boring and hence useless.” You can, however, state that the level of difficulty is so severe it will deter students from reading and hence, will not yield the intended results. Is there value in trying to glean themes and ideas out of difficult versions of English? Could students glean the intended ideas more effectively from a different text/the body of work of a different author?

 

To begin, it may be helpful to make a general assertion of what you perceive to be the function of an English class such as this one or English 100 (you might even rationalize the function of high school English): is it to prepare students to write in their intended fields? Is it to expose them to iconic works of writing? Is it to sharpen critical thinking skills? Do Shakespearean plays fulfill this need? As members of a classroom community, you all are authorities on this matter.

 

We will be discussing counterarguments quite a bit in this unit. Regardless of your thesis on the matter (or any matter), remember that the counterpoint always exists. Therefore, for this essay, you are required to include the counterpoint for every point that you make. If you believe Shakespeare should be taught because it gives an opportunity to analyze an older form of English, then you must acknowledge the counterpoint that there is plenty of complex writing that is not written in old English (and will be easier to comprehend). Remember that including a counterpoint does not mean you are changing your mind. In fact, if used properly, using a counterpoint should strengthen your argument.

 

  • As per usual, be sure to articulate where you stand on the value of Macbeth by using textual evidence from the play (citing Shakespeare is a bit different than other texts–we will discuss this);
  • We will be discussing notions of general relevance/influence but try and keep your argument related to Shakespeare’s relevance in schools, not just his relevance in general society.

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