For high school students, the works of William Shakespeare are not the easiest literature to understand, let alone make them worry. The first hurdle, of course, is the language. With all the “LOL”, “ridiculous” and “OMG” used in the everyday vernacular of a teenager’s Shakespeare, like “to be or not to be: that’s the question”, it may sound a lot like Charlie Brown’s teachers . ears of teenagers. What, what, what, what, what, what
The next difficulty is to see how the complex writings of a 400-year-old dead man with a dog collar are relevant to today’s teenager. So how can teens feel better about Shakespeare? One word: Hamlet.
Literary scholars love to expound on Hamlet’s psychological struggles with mortality and insanity, his inability to act or make decisions, or a perennial favorite topic of discussion: whether Hamlet is in love with his mother. But critics of fancy pants always seem to forget that Hamlet acts like your typical surly teenager who has big problems with his parents, his girlfriend, and all of this called life. He may or may not be a royal teenager, but the Danish prince certainly wears a teenage “garb and suits of disgrace” like a boss.
Teenagers can find many ways to relate to Hamlet and his existential suffering. It could be the gateway to the score for the other eternally conflicting and philosophically complex Shakespearean players. Hopefully teenage readers find no common ground through the whole uncle-killing-dad-and-then-marrying-mom thing, but maybe they can be comforted by the utter confusion, pain and anguish that incessantly worry. and Hamlet stops. He is the Holden Caufield of the Elizabethan era. While it’s such an anachronistic comparison, the similarities between protoganoist The Catcher in The Rye and Hamlet are there. Surely, JD Salinger could have had in mind Hamlet’s nasty “Go to a convent” speech to his friend Ophelia when Holden gets mad at Sally Hayes (rightly so) refusing to run away with him, calling her a “real pain in the ass.” “.
In addition, both protagonists are mired in a kind of limbo in their lives, unsure of who they are and what they should be doing. Should Hamlet try to find out and verify some ghost’s claim that his uncle / stepfather poisoned his father? Is that ghost real or is he just freaking out? What’s more, should Holden try to be human and get close to the “fake bastards” or continue to feel lonely and abandoned, the way the ducks in the pond must feel every winter? Decisions, decisions, and neither is rushing to act.
Such similarities point to just how valuable Shakespeare’s Hamlet can be to a puberty-stricken teenager who faces the uncertainty and confusion of growing up. Forget Romeo as Shakespeare’s teenage role model par excellence. Of course, Romeo and Juliet is a bit more accessible, especially with a remake of a modern 1996 movie starring a young Leonardo Dicaprio as the dreamlike Romeo. However, most teenagers do not have passionately poetic effusions with their hapless lovers and marry within days of meeting. Hamlet, on the other hand, addresses the real problems teenagers face every day: parents, girlfriends, confusion, depression, loss, loneliness, and even mortality. And some also go through the stage of dressing completely in black.