When I first saw these pictures of YOLO Juliet, a book from Random House’s “OMG Shakespeare” series, and I didn’t really have opinion. The OP didn’t appear to have an opinion either, simply posting the picture with #WilliamShakespeare. I was about to move on with my life…that is, until I saw all the comments.
“NO. STOP. NOPE. NO. I AM DRAWING THE LINE.”
“THIS S*** SHOULD NOT EXIST AND YOU KNOW IT. GET IT THE F*** OUT OF MY FACE.”
I was floored by the rash reactions the mere sight of these books immediately caused. It came as no shock that academics (*cough* elitists) were horrified at the “dumbing down” of Billy Shakes. Why shouldn’t OMG Shakespeare and similar texts exist? If a young student hates reading, but finds this intriguing, so be it. If someone reads this and realizes, “Hey! You know what? Maybe Shakespeare isn’t so scary or intimidating or boring. Maybe I should try reading the real play, or go see it performed!” …Is that really so bad?
Newsflash: not every YA-aged reader is going to become an English major, or literary academic, or traditional scholar. Most kids are trying to get by with passing grades and at least trying to enjoy school (while balancing accumulating masses of homework, sport, extra-curriculars, community service, part-time jobs, and whatever semblance of a social life is left over after all these requirements to living in 2015)
Even if the readers of OMG Shakespeare and the like don’t find a passion for Shakespearean text, at the very least they were reading and got a grasp of the plot/symbolism/characters etc, and classic literature continues to evolve and stay relevant. This is creative and intuitive, and targets a demographic (obviously young adults, meaning grade school students) that is constantly turned away from exploring/experiencing literature by elitists who think it’s a medium that can only be expressed one way.
This is just like the negative reactions people have to Instagram, saying the app is only used to “boast about their hiking” or “spend more time taking pictures of their sneakers at the gym than working out”. I think these nay-sayers are missing the point…the person who posts these pictures climbed a mountain. They went to the gym. If applying a filter is what it takes to get you outside, take thousands of pictures! Climb those hills and Instagram all you want!
I have a degree in English, Latin, and Medieval Studies. I work at a publishing firm and will be going to graduate school soon for library sciences. Even I find Shakespeare hard to read…I’m a fully grown woman trained in the art of reading! A seventh grader though? Psh, Billy Shakes was so hard! I know for a fact when I read Romeo and Juliet in 7th grade, I didn’t understand a word of what I was reading until I saw the movie. Besides which, Shakespeare was a playwright, and his pieces were meant to be interpreted and performed. Is this not an interpretation?
I think this is great. And cute! If you don’t, why don’t you try opening up your mind sometime and see something from someone else’s perspective for once. Language is fluid, and how it is interpreted and conveyed constantly changes! Accept it!
tl;dr: Shakespeare doesn’t care. Get over it!