Crimes Against Shakespeare 006

BH 6000

I’ve thought long and hard since I saw this article in the Guardian yesterday … and the upshot is, I’m simply not having it!

Now, you may accuse me of hypocrisy, given I practically started this blog with a post based on Juliet’s ‘a rose by any other name’ line.  But here’s the thing …

One – whilst this may well have been one of Shakespeare’s own spellings of his name, we need to bear in mind that back in those days, spelling was unstandardised.  IT IS NOW!  We have a very well accepted way of spelling his name, thanks very much.

Two – in UK English Literature exams, and coincidentally this year’s results were released yesterday, when the story broke, you are marked on Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar in the Shakespeare section of the exam.  I have been telling students for years that ‘you will get what you deserve’ by failing to spell author and character names correctly in exams marked by a stranger.  You simply can’t argue that you’re being clever about it … which leads me to

Three – we can do without any (s)nobbery about Shakespeare, thanks very much.  It’s hard enough to teach when students arrive with barriers up about Shakespeare (often placed there by parents), without institutions getting all proprietorial and elitist about it.  He’s not one of Lear’s unreachable and aloof Gods:  he produced a body of work which is relevant and meaningful today, which still manages to capture what it is to be human and the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune‘ that we all have to suffer in the 21st century: betrayal, jealousy, unrequited love, ambition, you name it …

Either the University of Southern California made a mistake and are pathetically trying to cover their blushes, or as they say, this was deliberate.  Making a statement as an educational institution.  If the latter, you, sirs, have committed a Crime Against Shakespeare with your (s)nobbery, aiming to inflate yourselves and your learning over the true mission of anyone who enjoys the works:  that should be the democratisation of Shakespeare across race and gender, creed and class.

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