I don't believe it's your fault that you don't appreciate it, and I mean that with absolutely no sarcasm or derision. I think part of the problem is that you are not being taught Shakespeare well. If you were, you would be aware of a few things:
- It is not hyperbole to state that Shakespeare's works are in a very large measure responsible for the way we speak English today. His particular use of the language, his absolute genius for wordplay, sarcasm, wit, idiom and, yes, foul language were all so influential, so copied and ripped off and played upon, that there is no way to honestly look at our language today without looking to Shakespeare to understand its origins.
2a. There is almost NO CHARACTER OR TROPE today that is not already contained in Shakespeare. Shakespeare did not invent all of the character types we know today, but he invented a large portion of them, and the ones he was not the first to create, he did better than anyone else. From poor little whiny rich boy Hamlet, to the pure, sociopathic evil of Iago, from the racism and jealousy contained in Othello, to the doomed lovers in Romeo and Juliet. When you feel like you need a shower after witnessing something evil or dirty, you can thank Shakespeare for Lady MacBeth, whose constant hand washing never could quite get them clean. My favorite, though, is the rich, egotistical King Lear, who cares more and loves based upon how well he is flattered by his two conniving daughters, rather than listening to the one daughter who actually loves him, who refuses to pander to his hubris.
2b. There is no MOVIE, BOOK, play, hardly even a comic book today that will contain a character that is not already contained in Shakespeare. Certainly every major cultural trope contains characters who were first given to us by Shakespeare.
- It's good stuff! Sure, it's not exactly accessible language, but nothing truly good is easy. You should know that. Look what website you are on. Shakespeare was a better writer than possibly anyone ever. His stories and the way he tells them transcend human ability. Very few writers are able to tap into that ability beyond human ability, that sustained "zone," for lack of a better modern day equivalent word, that allows them to write damned near perfect stories, with fabulous wit, incredible characters, that wrap us up and shut off the rest of the world and entrap us in his for the time we are reading or watching.
A couple of suggestions. If you want to read a book that will explain FAR better than I ever could what I am stating here, and will make Shakespeare not only interesting, but make you need to read the plays covered within, almost any book by Harold Bloom on the subject is the way to go. Harold Bloom is to literary criticism what Shakespeare is to literature, only he writes today and is very easy to read and his books are extremely enjoyable. He's also smarter than almost anyone I know. Here is a good introduction:
Since you probably won't read that (if you or TigerTime will promise me you'll read it, I'll buy it for you), then might I suggest a movie to take the modern viewer into the world of Shakespeare and give you a little bit of an idea what the early viewer was feeling.
The most accessible of these would be Baz Luhrmann's 1996 Romeo and Juliet, with Leonardo DiCaprio and the fabulous, lovely Claire Danes. The language has not been changed but the setting is a modern one. It is not a perfect rendition by any means, but it is very cool and you can see how much easier it is to understand the language when you watch it performed. Highly entertaining.
Better yet, forgo language altogether, and watch one of the best and most influential directors of all time give his version of (my opinion) Shakespeare's best play, King Lear. Akira Kurosawa's Ran is an EPIC (not the stupid internet appropriated meaning of the word, either) rendition of King Lear set in Medieval Japan. It is a fantastic, colorful, grandly tragic, bone-chillingly violent retelling of Shakespeare that is testament to the fact that Shakespeare's stories transcend culture and are translatable literally anywhere on earth.
I'll stop now, but I hope that I have given some idea that the works of Shakespeare are NOT just some old stories with outdated language and ideas. They are anything but. And I am truly sorry if your teachers are teaching it as if it "has" to be taught.
It does "have" to be taught. It should be taught as if it needs to be.