Confession: I hated Hamlet in high school.
It wasn’t that I hated Shakespeare or English class. In fact, I tended to like most of what we read. But I found it hard to care about the original emo king (“Just kill him already!” I cried at least one) and I’m not surprised current high school students aren’t in love with Hamlet either. The #worstbookever hashtag on Twitter offers a hilarious look into high school reading requirements. Publishers Weekly features a few highlights–Hamlet included, of course.
When I reread Hamlet in grad school, I found myself with a much greater appreciation of the play. (“Alas, poor Yorick!” is a hugely famous quote, so it’s easy to forget the sadness of the scene. Hamlet is holding the skull of the one person who ever treated him with affection. Tears!) So it’s not like these kids on Twitter are totally lost. And honestly, who really loves homework? For me, this brings up the question of what kids should be reading in high school. Is it worthwhile to give them “classics” they hate? You’re not going to win every reader even with the best book, but I wonder if syllabi need to be updated.
I’d be curious to hear English teachers’ takes on this. Any books/plays your students particularly hate or love? What would you cut from your syllabus or make sure to keep?