Please, No Bard Bashing
Why do Shakespeare? He's one of the oldest and the deadest of the old-dead-white-guys that make up the Western canon--what relevance does his work hold for a modern audience? Do we do Shakespeare just because we don't know what else to do? Is it Mamet's fault for using too many swear words, sending us running back to the safer material found in ninth grade English?
Asimov, Bloom, and every smart dude (and dudette) in between has tried to answer those questions. Except for the Mamet one. It's pretty clear he curses way more than is required, though. As a result we have some great scholarly press devoted to 'why Shakespeare.' These works offer good, objective answers. I'm here to offer subjective answers. I'm here to talk about why I do Shakespeare.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I do Shakespeare because I can make as many fart jokes as I want. And that, my friend, is awesome. Shakespeare is vaudevillian in his volume of puns, anatomy jokes, and slapstick routines; he crams them into every available nook and cranny. In the middle of "Henry V," an epic historical drama written to serve as a ballad to the glory of a national hero, Shakespeare inserts an entire scene devoted to the fact that the French word for "robe" sounds like a dirty word. In "Romeo and Juliet," Mercutio has an entire speech devoted to analogizing an orgasm. Shakespeare employed some of the most talented comedians and clowns of his time, and often allowed them to write or deliver extempore portions of their performance. The comedic order of the day in Shakespeare's England was word-play, genital jokes, and Three-Stooges style physical comedy. The result is that, regardless of which play you're working on, there is a healthy dose of humor to be found. Farts were funny then, and they are funny now. Shakespeare, fart-like, is always funny.
These are the reasons I do Shakespeare. There are more, some of them a little snooty, some of them a little boring. But all the reasons sum up to the fact that I do Shakespeare because I love Shakespeare. It brings me joy. I like to share that joy with others. And from sword fights to fireballs to bad puns, there is so much joy to be found courtesy of the oldest and deadest old-dead-white-guy. I highly recommend him.