kheru2006 (kheru2006) wrote,

Reading Habit:If Shakespeare be the food of wisdom, then read on

JOHAN Jaaffar's article entitled "The never-ending interest in Shakespeare" (NST, Dec 15) was thought provoking and educational.

As a young village boy in the mid-twentieth century, he was exposed to William Shakespeare's works and that could be one of the reasons that his command of the English language is excellent.

The irony is that as the world progresses in the twenty-first century, even undergraduates have not heard of Shakespeare, let alone read any of his works.

My English teacher once told the class that we cannot really consider ourselves educated in the English language if we have not read a single work written by Shakespeare.

William Shakespeare lived from 1564 to 1616 and was known as the Bard of Avon as he was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England.

He has been acknowledged as the literary giant of English Literature and often referred to as as "The man of all seasons and for all ages".

This is because his literary works on universal themes transcend time and space.

Though he belonged to the 16th and 17th centuries of the Elizabethan era, he was really not of any particular age but of all time.

Tim Woods, the producer of the critically-acclaimed comedy The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) says, "Shakespeare is known not only for his literary contribution but also his ability to present various issues, from power struggles to love, that are still relevant to today's society."

Let me highlight some specific attributes and qualities of this unique person who has influenced and inspired many, including me to rise to greater heights.

Shakespeare has shown the world that an ordinary person can accomplish great and extraordinary feats if he puts his mind and soul into whatever he does.

He was just an ordinary person like you and me and was often beset with problems such as marital problems, and he even lost his only son.

But he never let setbacks and obstacles mar or hinder his passion and intensity for writing. He lived for writing and did it with aplomb.

In his short span of life of fifty-two years, he had written thirty-two plays which can be categorised into six groups, including History, Tragedy and Romance.

Many of his dramas are still shown on television and in cinemas worldwide and his dramas are also translated into other languages.

Shakespeare was indeed a creative genius. He stretched his imagination and senses to the limit and as such, he is known as a poet, playwright and dramatist par excellence. According to the Harvard Concordance to Shakespeare, his plays contain 31,959 speeches. Thus, he is also an excellent speech-writer.

Shakespeare was a master indeed of both prose and poetry. What we can learn from him is that we have to activate our imaginative right brain to unleash our creative potential.

Shakespeare was able to write, besides plays, hundreds of poems. Of particular appeal are his sonnets which are lyrical poetry with unique patterns of rhyme and rhythm that are pleasing to the senses.

His poems come alive because of the many literary devices that he used such as imagery, personification, and allusion. Reading Shakespeare's works, it is obvious that he understood the universal principle that life is a boomerang, that is, what we give out is what we receive.

The heroes in his plays not only fall and perish, but also suffer. For example, Hamlet is on the verge of suicide. Othello falls in a fit. Lear goes mad and Macbeth is in the racks. And what drags these heroes down to suffering, and even death, is human wickedness, the corruption of man's heart.

The callous cruelty that the lust of power begets not only horrified Shakespeare, it amazed him. But what most interested him perhaps is the inner tragedy, the conquest of a soul by evil and the effect of crime.

Reading his works will not only improve our command of the English language but will also make us appreciate moral values. We all need to learn from this genius who has made a tremendous impact on the minds and emotions of intellectuals, especially in the literary field.

Shakespeare's name and fame can never be erased from history for a world without him would be like a world devoid of a stage.

We are indeed greatly indebted to him. Shakespeare has inspired writers, lovers, public speakers, and even politicians. I am sure he can inspire us too in many ways and we will be richer for it.

Johan Jaaffar ended his article with the question "Shakespeare anyone?"

For now, some like me will respond in the affirmative but the future for Malaysians looks dismal unless we make an effort to introduce Shakespeare's works to our students.

Dr Elizabeth Jaya Joseph, Universiti Selangor, Shah Alam, Selangor New Straits Times Letters to the Editor 24 December 2012 
Tags: habit, reading

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