Shakespeare & Selfishness

April 23rd 2016 marks the 400th death anniversary of William Shakespeare (you might have heard of him). I was in sixth grade the first time I read Shakespeare’s work — Romeo and Juliet, to be specific. I still have the first part of the prologue memorised: “Two households both alike in dignity / In fair Verona where we lay our scene…” You know the drill. It was around the same time that I really got into writing. I’d already written my first poem years ago (it was a masterpiece called ‘The Cat on the Mat’), but it was in about sixth grade that English became my favourite subject.

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Almost as good as ‘The Cat on the Mat’

Fast forward to high school. When the time came to start applying for university courses, I already knew what I wanted to study. Since I want to be a published writer, English literature and creative writing seemed a good way to go. It wouldn’t necessarily guarantee me a job as a writer, but if I wanted to succeed at something, I needed to learn how to do it well. But a while back, I started wondering whether I made a selfish choice.

There are so many people out there, like scientists, doctors, policemen, etc., who are dedicating their lives to making a positive change in the world. They work hard, not necessarily always doing things they find pleasant. Granted, writing takes hard work and isn’t always enjoyable, but that struggle is of an entirely different kind. On a good day, a surgeon saves a life; on the same, I write 500 words that I don’t end up deleting the next day.

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And not even 500 sometimes

I have never, for even a second, wanted to change my major. I have to think about my future before I start choosing science classes for the good of the world, and I know I can’t do better in any other subject. But I started feeling guilty for spending my time analysing stories instead of solving math problems. Reading Shakespeare? Wouldn’t it be better to study Hawking? English started feeling like a subject that could only benefit me, whereas others were studying to benefit the world.

Then, something changed in the last few days. I saw so many articles about preparations to celebrate Shakespeare. People wrote about his works, his innovations and the impact he’s had on the world. The inspiration he has come to be. Shakespeare knew his strength lay in words, and he used words to leave behind something that still matters 400 years later.

Of course, I’m not Shakespeare. The chances of my words reaching the world are small. But authors like him, and what they have contributed to the world, give me hope that focusing on your strength, whatever it may be, is not selfish. Ultimately, even if one person reads my work and finds a place within it, I will be happy.

And that thought motives me to write better every day.


I wrote this for The Daily Post’s Weekly Discover Challenge,  the theme for which was ‘Risk’. Let me know what you think! Thanks for reading, and until next time!

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7 Comments on “Shakespeare & Selfishness

  1. So true. We have to remember that art has value too – of course not the same kind of value as, say, medicine but it definitely has value. And that doesn’t mean you can’t be a poet AND a philanthropist!

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  2. This is really inspiring to read, Sohini! Shakespeare didn’t have the same effect on me; I sort of strongly dislike his work. But I can certainly see the beauty and why people praise it as well. And I, like you, never thought of changing my major (and didn’t); it’s great when we can find our passion whatever that may be. ^.^

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    • Thanks, Summer! That’s one of the nicest things you could say about anything I’ve written, and I’m glad you found it so. 🙂 To be honest I haven’t read much of Shakespeare, but love it or hate it, his work has undoubtedly had an effect on the literary world, and that’s even more inspiring to me than the work itself. And you’re absolutely right, it’s very lucky to find something to be passionate about! 😀

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  3. Great post, love the honesty in your writing ! I started reading Shakespeare around the sixth grade with Romeo & Juliet too, but I fell in love with his works only after having read Julius Caesar. Personally I wasn’t a big fan of tragedy, but Shakespeare changed all that and made me expand my taste in books. I believe writers also have the power to change the world, as they say; the pen is mightier than the sword ! – Cheers, Advaita

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    • Thank you for reading, and for your kind words! Shakespeare has pushed me out of my comfort zone, too, haha. I’m still not a huge fan of tragedy (although I don’t mind reading it) but I do like some of Shakespeare’s comic works, like The Comedy of Errors and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And that’s a good point, words can be very powerful. Definitely agree with you there. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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