I’ve never been a big fan of Shakespeare. When reading his works, I would become easily confused, which would lead to my loss of interest. It was difficult to see the significance of the themes in his plays. How was I supposed to relate to two star-crossed lovers destined for tragedy, when the only tragic thing in my life was math homework over spring break? Or to a power hungry King with a habit of blood-shed, when I’ve never been a competitive person and being the center of attention only interested me when it involved a stage?

Though even I must admit that there’s something amazing about Shakespeare’s work. At first you read it, and with a sigh you think, “What does this even mean?” But a closer look shows you a side of writing you may never have seen before. It takes a truly gifted person to be able to put one whole thought into ten syllables. After you realize that Shakespeare didn’t write this way to make it difficult for high school students to pass English, but to fit the mold of the iambic pentameter, you start to dislike him just a little bit less.

Think of it this way, your English teacher says he/she wants you write a 300 word essay, no more than 310 and no less than 290. The goal is to get your entire thought into as close to 300 words as humanly possible. So, you go ahead and write your essay. You get to the end and use the infamous “Word Count” on your Microsoft Word. Oops! Your essay is exactly 324 words. You have to take something out. But what? You still want your essay to make sense, of course. Shakespeare ran into the same kinds of dilemmas. If the line was over ten syllables, he found a shorter word, or combined words into contractions. When you think of his writing this way, it doesn’t seem so awful. In fact, it seems to make perfect sense.

You’re probably wondering how a girl who claimed to detest Shakespeare with every bone in her body could have come to such peace with his writing. Believe me, I didn’t tackle Shakespeare by choice. We started reading Macbeth in English a few weeks ago. Luckily, it just happened to be around the same time our Drama director, Dennis Price, told us that we were doing a cut of Shakespeare’s Henry V for the One Act Festival. When I heard the wonderful news, I wanted to hurl. But when I got the role of King Henry in Henry V, there was only one thing I could do. I realized I had to embrace the wording rather than fight it. I’ll be honest, the first time I read through that script, I thought I’d drop dead of a coronary right then and there. I had a smile on my face, but on the inside, I was screaming, “What!?”

Dennis Price, the director of Monmouth Academy Drama, has been working with the Theater At Monmouth for eight seasons, this summer being his ninth. He has acted in fourteen Shakespeare plays and will be in two more – Merchant Of Venice and The Winter’s Tale – this summer. He says that his favorite Shakespeare play is Henry V because it is “beautiful, violent, funny, action packed and exciting. It’s got everything you’d want in a movie today, but it was written 400 years ago. That’s what makes it so unique.”

Monmouth Academy’s Advanced English 12 class was lucky enough to have Mr. Price come in to talk with us about Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Though we’d whined and groaned about the play for weeks, as soon as he came in, we sat attentively and listened. Maybe it’s his years of experience in the Shakespeare department, maybe it’s his acting abilities, or maybe it’s just his personality, but whatever it was, for those eighty minutes we actually cared about Macbeth.

I remember the last thing he said to us during that class, “Think of the way Shakespeare writes like modern day texting,” he’d said. “You want to use the smallest number of words but still get your point across. That’s exactly what Shakespeare was trying to do a few hundred years ago.”

So maybe you’re not lucky enough to have a professional actor come in to explain Shakespeare to you, but you shouldn’t give up on Old William altogether. Though they are difficult to understand at first, Shakespeare’s works are important to read and understand, and if you’ll give them a chance, they can be entertaining too. Mr. Price gave us one last piece of advice when we were rehearsing Henry V, and that was, “Listen to it out loud. Go see a play, try to find a recording, or read it out loud to your friends. The plays were meant to be heard and were written that way. It’s so important to hear it.” I’m not saying Billy Shakespeare has to be your new best friend, I’m just saying maybe you should give him a chance. After all, first impressions can often be deceiving.

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