DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Shakespeare, ‘To Read or Not to Read’

Written by: on October 11, 2019

The other day I was in London, UK (!) out for a walk on the other side of the Thames River. I wasn’t wasting time; I was wandering aimlessly with curiosity. I had about an hour or so before I was to meet a friend who I had served with as a missionary about 20 years ago. The plan was to meet at the Globe Theatre.

William Shakespeare, his works I was taught were timeless and of essential value especially, to the awakening mind. Unfortunately, no longer are his writings encouraged as teaching material as a part of English literature curriculum within the education system in British Columbia. It is not easy to read a play, sure. Does Shakespeare breathe life through his words, be it play or poem? Beyond the reading and writing between the lines that Adler encourages [1], there’s life all over the page and beyond the pages of Shakespeare (and, others) that can be imagined, even lived in. The reading of a play requires more than a ‘partial reading’ as Adler perceives it. Perhaps reading plays is just too difficult? Adler seems to think so.

This kind of reading that calls into practice extraordinary perception and insight, is not necessary with every book or piece of writing. Adler writes that, “Even when you become more skilled, you will not want to read every book with the same degree of effort. You will not find it profitable to expend all your skill on some books.” [1]. Knowing the difference is important because there can be beauty-found in unforeseen places. All of sudden, in the most surprising place, a gem can be found. It can be risky to skip too quick and skim simply for the sake of finishing a ‘less than outstanding work’ or a piece that holds ‘less importance’ in the way of relative application. We are explorers aren’t we, as we read?

“The person who says of a novel that he has “read enough to get the idea” does not know what he is talking about. He cannot be correct, for if the novel is any good at all, the idea is in the whole and cannot be found short of reading the whole.” [1]

That day, just on the other side of the Thames (that is to say, the side that I knew a tad less than the other), I happened to walk down a street that I certainly wouldn’t have had there been a map in my hands to guide me. It was a side road and it was very quiet. I noticed only a few obvious tourists on its sidewalks. On my way in the direction toward Southwark Cathedral I observed a sign, deteriorating and pressed into a rock-wall just off to the side. It was the location of the original Globe Theatre. No longer standing, the place where the original Globe once was, has been preserved. This is sacred ground.

Sometimes, I wander aimlessly with curiosity through a book. I used to wander or float as if in clouds through the plays of Shakespeare as well. Admittedly, it was sometimes a guided wandering with help through the curiosities. I think I would like to read a couple lines again and find if I should come across something of the original, something of the ancient-sacred. A place perhaps down a side-road, along a sidewalk no longer walked by many, whereby a gem of old might stand-out suddenly and inspire the birth of a new thing.


[1] Van Doren, Charles. How to Read a Book (A Touchstone Book). Touchstone. Kindle Edition.

About the Author


Chris Pollock

Dad of Molly Polly Pastor at the Mustard Seed Street Church Trail Runner

7 responses to “Shakespeare, ‘To Read or Not to Read’”

  1. mm Greg Reich says:

    Chris a poetic post. I openly admit reading Shakespeare was a tough read for me in school. But it was a read worth doing. Like so many that age I couldn’t have done it without the assistance and input of my teacher. There seems to be some books that are better understood with the help of others that have a passion for their message. Shakespeare for me is one of those items.

    • Simon Bulimo says:

      Reading is a process and with insights. Great to read your work that is inspiring.

    • mm Chris Pollock says:

      I hear you, Greg. Thanks for taking a moment to respond! Shakespeare was a source of much inspiration and imagination for me grown up. My dad, being an English Lit. teacher, quotes and scenes were sometimes at the dinner table. It was a tough one form to find out that Shakespeare was no longer an essential aspect of the Province’s curriculum. It cut with me as well knowing of what my daughter will be missing in these formative years. I struggled with reading plays too, still do. I think some of Plato’s works challenged in similar ways. The Gorgias was one of my favourites! See you Monday.

  2. Nancy Blackman says:

    Ok, you had me at Shakespeare. I was raised by a father who LOVED Shakespeare and bought season tickets to the plays. Shakespeare is not an easy read, but is every book supposed to be? Shakespeare wrote poetic plays. He was a master of capturing the word in air and placing it on paper at the right moment. I think it’s why his works are still alive today.

    By the way, there is a Shakespeare Hotel in London. Yep. I’ve earmarked that one!

    Thanks for the poetic reminder to a great writer. I love that you “wander aimlessly with curiosity through a book.” That should be a spiritual discipline!

    • mm Chris Pollock says:

      Hi Nancy, thank you! Miss you. Shakespeare!
      ‘Capturing words in the air’ and setting them to life on the paper. Awesome thought. There’s a mood, some kind of rhythm or wavelength that such writer’s find and flow in.
      Thankful to learn from such influence, such that can inform interaction with world around. See you Monday!

  3. mm John McLarty says:

    Reading like an explorer- looking for the hidden gem even in a book that may not be all that interesting! It seems like Adler may have started a book about reading books, but could have just as easily been writing about relationships!

  4. mm Jenn Burnett says:

    Certainly this is the value of ‘the scenic route’. I love that idea of the ancient-sacred. It applies so beautifully to place, and story and scripture. Is this perhaps a strategy not only for reading, but living? To know when to skim and when to linger? When to mull over words or moments and perceive them with our soul and not just Instagram? The real challenge is how to navigate your way through all the DMin reading and make the right choices of where to linger. Blessings on your journey my friend!

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