THE BARD & THE TEENAGE BRAIN
Why Shakespeare was written for teenagers:
Shakespeare made up thousands of words and phrases. His characters speak a language everyone can understand, even if they don't know all the words.
Teens make up words and phrases all the time. They all seem to know and understand what they're saying, even if the adults can't always keep up with the latest "lingo."
Shakespeare's characters are impulsive, they are fickle, they fall in love at first sight, they often react spontaneously before thinking things through.
Teenagers are impulsive. The prefrontal cortex (responsible for weighing outcomes, forming judgments, and controlling impulses), is the last section of the brain to develop (not until the mid-20s).
Shakespeare's plays were meant to be seen and heard. Even Shakespeare's audiences would not have understood all of the words without seeing the plays in action.
Teenagers want to be seen and heard in order to be understood. They also need to experience things for themselves in order to understand. Anyone who has ever tried to lecture a teenager knows this is often an exercise in futility.
Shakespeare’s characters operate at a high level of intensity.
The transition from childhood to becoming an adult is an intense period of physical and emotional growth. Everything feels like the end of the world.
Shakespeare's characters love to joke around and play with language to provide a double meaning which is often "inappropriate" and hilarious.
Teens typically enjoy pushing boundaries in terms of what adults deem as "appropriate," particularly with language.
Shakespeare was a rebel. He didn't follow the classical form – he created his own. His plays also celebrate rebellion. When a rebellion against authority is successful in a Shakespeare play, then it's usually a comedy. When a rebellion is unsuccessful, the play is usually a tragedy.
Teenagers often identify with rebels, because coming of age is about defining who you are as a unique individual. It’s about breaking the rules, trying new things, being free to explore, taking action, and becoming an independent thinker.
Shakespeare never preaches: he lets the audience decide for themselves.
MORALITY & JUDGMENT
Teenagers hate being told what to think, (especially by adults). They want to decide for themselves.