For most of us, our introduction to the classics comes via high school English class. If you have a teacher that is passionate about the subject you are bound to learn something. If you have one that just reads from the book and is waiting on retirement, well, we have seen a lot of results of that.
I was fortunate to have one English teacher that brought stories like "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "To Kill A Mockingbird" to life in a unique way. We had to read the books, discuss them, then watch the movies. By watching the movies we could see where liberties were taken, what was lost in the interpretation, etc. I had a similar experience with a teacher in college. Great guy but he had us read "Heart of Darkness" then watch "Apocalypse Now". I am probably one of the only people in the free world that disliked the book and the film. I even tried to watch the film again not too long ago and to be quite frank, I wanted to rip my eyes out.
Now, Shakespeare, a man who I would dare say is dreaded by many, wrote one of my favorite plays, "Macbeth". I had to read it in high school and oddly enough, I took to it. Its dark nature is probably what attracted me, but I always enjoyed the story as well as "A Midsummer Night's Dream".
Recently I happened to watch a fantastic current interpretation of "Macbeth". Patrick Stewart plays Macbeth and Kate Fleetwood is Lady Macbeth. The setting is during a modern day war and the Three Witches are represented by nurses which was amazing. Here is their "Double Double Toil and Trouble" scene which is creepy as all hell. This would be the best version to show to high school students, if I was their teacher, because it captures the misery, the darkness and sheer all out creepiness of the play.
I have always complained about Hollywood's lousy way of interpreting novels to the screen. White Oleander anyone??? But it is the one broad medium, besides TV or even Broadway, where Classics can be revived. Show people a somewhat updated version, but do not lose the tone, the language or the true meaning. I would bet that a lot of people will pick up the book afterwards. I watched Bleak House with Gillian Anderson, then proceeded to download the book onto my Kindle and have been reading it with glee. Dickens was a great writer and yet, I had never read a thing of his. For shame on me.
I believe that Classics exist because after some light hearted/heavy romance or sci-fi or mystery novels, we want to go back to "The Great Gatsby" or "Little Women". There are memories of self discovery or a reminder of who we once were when we read them. Not all classics are great or loved, Aldous Huxley and I never got on well, but the books have stood the test of time for a reason. They embody a place and time that no longer exists. For that I am most grateful.