Relevant, but not ‘relatable’ …

John Kelly over at Shakespeare Confidential gave me something to think about this week.  Some things, actually.

‘I want to be an air hostess – what’s Shakespeare got to do with me?’

Possibly the first and most significant was about what I wanted to do with this fledgling blog, now that I seem to have some impetus and a little momentum.

There’s no secret to the fact that I really miss my University days: when each assignment was as fulfilling as a piece of creative writing; doing the research, slowly and patiently building up more knowledge until I suddenly reached a ‘critical mass’ and excitingly, explosively knew exactly what I wanted to argue in my essay.  So, as well as sharing the model answers my students have to suffer, part of the purpose of the blog is to give me a platform for further writing of this kind.  Writing as catharsis …

And yet, this approach to a Shakespeare (or Early Modern period) blog is a bit insular, and doesn’t necessarily answer the ‘Why Shakespeare?’ question we teachers are asked every year by disaffected students.  I remember having no answer when asked, as a trainee teacher in my first placement: ‘I want to be an air hostess – what’s Shakespeare got to do with me?‘  The answer is, of course, obvious to the converted – it comes from Ben Jonson’s famous eulogy:

He was not of an age, but for all time!

… and this needs to be an essential part of any Shakespeare enthusiast’s blog.  That question must be answered, or Shakespeare will always be the preserve of a tiny subsection of society.  In my classroom whiteboard number 2 has room for ‘Shakespeare says …’ underneath ‘Today’s Date‘ and ‘Learning Objective …’.  Students are used to seeing a selection of quotations there which change according to my mood or other circumstances – when exams or assessments are imminent, my favourite is Richard II’s:

I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.

And John made me think that like that tiny board, the blog needs to be relevant, although not ‘relatable’ (shudder).  Thanks for that!

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