Crimes Against Shakespeare: 005

 

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My gut reaction deserted me a little for this one, perhaps because of the subject matter, so I found myself consulting both my girlfriend and my best friend, the latter also an English teacher. Second and third opinions corroborating my initial intake of breath, and therefore I am pleased to present you my latest Crimes Against Shakespeare Award …

We do a lot to try and make Shakespeare ‘relatable’ at school. I’m a big fan of letting the story unfold piece by piece rather than showing a DVD and then going back into the text. I enjoy presenting moral dilemmas and then allowing students to place themselves in the position Shakespeare’s characters find themselves in.  We do quite a few ‘decision flowcharts‘, and I’m also a fan of the ‘pie chart of responsibility‘ after something’s happened.

And, yes, diary entries.  Much Ado About Nothing seems to be fertile ground for Year 8 pupils, who often write fluently and thoughtfully about the jilting scene.  Obviously, there is the occasional Golden Dogberry, but that’s to be expected.  Others seem to enjoy writing as Don John.  On other occasions, students seem to enjoy channeling Richard III‘s existential angst.  Or drawing up Wanted Posters for him.  Or putting him on trial.

But it’s never, ever occurred to me to get students to write suicide notes, so this report in the Independent made me choke a little.  Yet it was only after consulting a couple of people that I decided to feature the story.  Why?  I suppose because I (and my bestie) could see what the school was trying to do, but it’s just so misguided.  Teaching Shakespeare can be a tough gig – amongst the general population there’s an ingrained resistance that needs to be overcome, and some of that comes down from parents whose only experience of Shakespeare at school was an unsatisfying one.  They tell their kids that Shakespeare was boring, and we’re automatically playing under a handicap … of course we need to break that self-fulfilling prophecy, but still!

What we need is more stuff that celebrates Shakespeare, and less bad publicity, thanks very much …

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