Shakespeare: In Which I Rant

Thursday, September 11, 2014

So, I've never been huge on blogging, but lately whenever I have seemingly random (but totally awesome) ideas, I will sit up in bed all night thinking and expanding about them. I needed a place to vent, talk about my thoughts. So here I am!

Today, I want to talk about Shakespeare.

Super attractive guy, I know.
First off, I know what everyone is thinking. "Ew. Shakespeare? Boring." But I used to be like you too. I remember sitting in my high school desk reading Romeo and Juliet, confused by the language and painstakingly bored. And then I got to college, and I began taking a few Shakespeare courses where my eyes were opened to how awesome Shakespeare can be. And what caused this revelation? Decent teaching.

Pretty cool stuff, if you ask me.
First off, in college they actually taught us how to read Shakespeare properly so that it actually made
sense. You see, in high school they are so worried about iambic pentameter and rhyme schemes that they never slow down and tell you to read it like you would anything else. In high school they teach you to read to the end of a line and then pause. But in reality, you should be reading to the punctuation marks LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE. I think that if someone had actually practiced reading it aloud and showing us how to do it, we wouldn't have hated it so much.

In high school, they are focussed entirely on reading the text (with the exception of that one Romeo and Juliet movie where they fast forward through the sex scene like it doesn't exist). I have to say, I completely disagree with this. I was able to travel to Stratford and London for three weeks as part of a college course. I was amazed with the Shakespeare shows I saw, and it made me fall in love with reading Shakespeare. If our schools focused on seeing Shakespeare performed, as it was intended to be, then students would be more apt to enjoy and pay attention (especially if they get a cool field trip to the theater out of it).


Reading the text aloud. I can't tell you how much of a difference this can make. How long does it take to read through an entire Shakespearean play? Like three hours, max? If high school teachers encouraged students to form study groups and read the text aloud, either in class or as homework, then they would 1) enjoy it a lot more since they are interacting with their peers and 2) understand the text a lot more since they can hear the dialogue and not focus on who the characters are. Every Shakespeare class I have taken, I have read some aloud and some to myself. Without fail, the plays we read aloud we understand better, talk about more, and overall enjoy studying more. If high school teachers started doing this at that level, we would have more students comprehending and enjoying Shakespearean texts.

Church where Shakespeare is buried. 

Lastly, censoring the text. Because in high school the teachers usually have a limited amount of time to read and discuss a text, a lot of material gets left out. Usually, the material that must be forgotten is the interesting and controversial stuff. For example, did you know that there is pretty good evidence that Ophelia in Hamlet is pregnant and considering (if not already had) an abortion? Did you know that in Othello, Desdemona's father only has a problem with Othello because he is black and considered "monstrous"? How about the number of sex jokes (specifically oral sex) in Taming of the Shrew? These are the kind of things found in the text that high school teachers leave out, either due to time constraints or fear of retaliation from conservative parents. If we could actually use the deeper themes and motifs found in Shakespeare's plays to talk about the issues surrounding teenagers, their attention would be held a lot longer, and they would be more apt to stay involved in class discussion.
So that's the end of my rant about Shakespeare. I love Shakespeare, and I really wish other people could have positive experiences with him too. He is hilarious and serious and silly and dramatic all at the same time, and personally I think that is awesome.

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