A friend of mine recently stated, on facebook, that Shakespeare is overrated.
Responses and discussions followed: how only in Singapore does this happen, other countries have vibrant conversations/dialogues about other writers, plays staged, etc. And also how Shakespeare is promoted here, in schools and on stage, because he's not as opinionated/critical/political as other writers. And how other writers, or more of their work, should be taught in schools, not just Shakespeare. I had an issue with every one of these points.
There was also the point that all writers are equally important, which I knew I would not be able to objectively comment on, so ignoring that bit of absurdity, I settled for saying this:
There are countless reasons why Shakespeare is not overrated, or irrelevant/overdone, that would require a whole essay and more. Ever so often I look through some of my favourite Shakespeare prose/verse/sonnets and am reminded how remarkable he was (is). He brought writing to different levels both creatively and technically, and dealt mainly with themes that are timeless.
When I was in school, Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Ernest was staged – this was a start to what has remained an insatiable love affair between Mr Wilde and myself. In the past week alone, I've had conversations with various friends, all who went to different schools, about Wilde, Thoreau, Dickens, Tolstoy, Salinger, Orwell, Huxley, Dostoevsky and Poe. Just random conversations that came up over coffee. And they were quite vibrant.
Look at it this way: 2 of my favourite bands are The Beatles and The Clash. The Clash's music was political and critical. The Beatles, some say, are overrated, very similar to the 'Shakespeare is overrated' argument. Would there be The Clash, and all their open political (and sometimes anti-government) messages, without The Beatles? We'll never know, but perhaps not as they were a big influence.
Secondary school introduced us to Shakespeare and other literature while tertiary, under/post-graduate education present opportunities to go much deeper into literature if you are so inclined. But if you ARE inclined that way, nothing they teach/don't teach in any school will determine how much you go on to discover - the library is then your best educator.