1. Some facts of Edgar Allan Poe and Oscar Wilde’s biographies are surprisingly similar: they both had elder brothers and younger sisters, both lived in Chelsea, Britain (though, under different circumstances and in different times: Edgar studied in a boarding school in 1817, and Oscar moved there in 1879 to establish a writing career). Also, both became estranged from their parents: Poe over his gambling debts during his university studies and Wilde due to his charge of "gross indecency" for homosexual acts. Both authors first started to write poems and both have the volume titles “Poems”, however they then moved to other genres. Also, both suffered from their unhappy love lives which were ruined by different reasons: Poe’s wife Virginia died from tuberculosis, while Wilde became involved in a homosexual relationship with a man.
However, there are also some very controversial details about their past. After blowing up all his inheritance and seeking for the way to support his family, Poe got enrolled in the United States Army as a private on May 27, 1827. His fellow cadets were fond of his satiric poems about commanding officers. That was the year he released his first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems - a 40-page collection of poetry, signed as "by a Bostonian". Only a half of hundred copies were printed, and the book did not receive any attention. By coming back to Baltimore two years later and having to look after his widowed aunt, second cousin and ill brother, Poe published his second book, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems. Poe published his second book, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems, in Baltimore in 1829. In 1831, Poe released a third volume of poems, simply titled Poems. The book contained some earlier written poems plus a few new ones. Clearly, that Poe’s hardships and difficulties in life, such as serving in the army and taking care of his family had influenced his writing and inspired him to pour his thoughts onto the paper. However, it was after his brother’s death that Poe first tried to turn writing into a money-earning career. He was first famous American writer to write for money, as well as is believed to be one of the earliest American short story-writers and the founder of the detective fiction genre and a great contributor to the genre of science fiction.
Oscar Wilde, on the contrary, was an aesthete and his best inspiration lay in beauty and flamboyance rather than suffering and sorrow. Being a part of the developing movement of 'decadents' who proclaimed pacifism, social reform, and libertarianism, Wilde made his mark with style and wit, and many of his plays were very successful. He was also friends with fellow playwright George Bernard Shaw, English social critic John Ruskin and American poets Walt Whitman and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and clearly that such connections must have brought some quality vividness and style into his works.
While Poe's best known fiction works are Gothic, and the most recurring themes included the subject of death, the effects of decomposition and physical sings of death, questions of premature burial, reincarnation, and mourning; Wilde’s works, however, reflected on life as it was, with all due criticism and wit. His most famous works include comic masterpieces Lady Windermere's Fan and The Importance of Being Earnest, novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (author’s only novel), and his long poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol. Being given an excellent education and appearing as a saint and a sinner at the same time, Wilde learnt the art of self-publicity and fully experienced both fame and judgment from the Victorian society.
2. Shakespeare is widely known to be the best playwright of all times. His works such as Romeo and Juliet, Lady Macbeth, Kind Lear, Hamlet, Othello and others are included in high school and college syllabi all over the world. However, many debates have been recently going on about whether reading Shakespeare is still relevant in nowadays world.
Considering the fact that he was the author of English Renaissance, it is understandable that college students who have had a certain insight into old English language and the world history of that time would understand a bigger percent of the content of his works. Advanced vocabulary, different from the one we use today, the underlying tones and archetypes and the complicated composition of plays, which are meant to be watched rather than read, can easily bore even the most hard-working student and turn him away from enjoying the classic literature.
Of course, it is hard to argue that Shakespeare was a legendary English writer and that he majorly contributed to the English literature and the world’s dramatic plays. Reading his works may enlighten one’s mind, show an example of the classic English language and help to become an intelligent, educated person. However, even though his impact on the English language cannot be understated and his work on human nature and elucidations of different historic personas and events can greatly contribute to the students’ mental outlook, the vivid enthusiasm is rarely to be seen when it comes to read Shakespeare.
My personal experience with reading his work shows that it is necessary to be acquainted to certain historic and political events of Shakespeare contemporary era, as well as have an insight into people’s morals and principles of that time in order to be able to fully understand the meaning and underlying allusions of his plays. On top of that, some themes in his plays can be deemed to be maturely sexual, and some scenes appear to be rather violent.
I have heard about some students from other schools and countries turning Shakespeare’s works into more modern and usual way of performance. For example, one 10-grade student from Toronto wrote a rap song based on Macbeth, which helped him to investigate the storyline and get a grasp on the main subjects arisen in this play. Students from one New York school were given an assignment to create a music video based on the chosen Shakespeare’s play, which inspired them to interpret the works in their own and get absorbed into this kind of literature. Given the fact that some aspects of the times of Shakespeare’s and his characters’ lives might not be relevant anymore, it could as well be arguable whether his plays give us a lot of important information and life skills we need in nowadays society.
I personally believe that getting introduced to classical literature is vitally important for every self-respected individual, however it might be useful to expose some other nonetheless interesting and fascinating authors of different eras in order to broaden our horizons and give the students a possibility to choose their favorite genre or literature era instead of making it mandatory to spend some valuable time over reading something your heart refuses to accept as inspirational and necessary at this certain stage of life.