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What are some negative aspects of students learning about William Shakespeare?What are...
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High School Teacher
As an English teacher with 25 years of experience, I have certainly heard my fair share of complaints from students who hate the idea of trying to read Shakespeare. I'm sure nearly every English teacher has heard this complaint at least once. Yet it is hard for me to arrive at many negative aspects concerning the importance of students being at least rudimentally introduced to the greatest writer of the English language. I believe every student, from the lowest to the highest levels of achievement, should read at least one Shakespearean play--preferably every year from middle through high school.
The biggest complaints I hear are that "the language doesn't make any sense" and "I don't understand it." Fifteenth and sixteenth century language is demanding, but that should not be a reason to avoid Shakespearean plays. The first-ever reading of a Shakespeare play will no doubt befuddle most young readers, but a good teacher will guide their students through the rough spots and be ready for an explanation of actions, intentions and language. Greater understanding is usually found with reading the material aloud; audio recordings of the plays assist comprehension; and the outstanding film versions available serve as the perfect supplement. I don't necessarily advocate large doses of Shakespeare for lower level English students, but honors students should understand that studying important works of literature is part of their undertaking, and there is still no writer more important than Shakespeare.
Posted by bullgatortail on January 8, 2012 at 12:09 PM (Answer #2)
High School Teacher
I have colleagues who have decided that Shakespeare has lost his relevance. This is a difficult idea to wrap my mind around. I'm not angry at them, okay I am angry at them. I have always taught Shakespeare and I always will. The only limitations might be if a student is not ready for the language involved or the teacher is not excited about teaching it. The former argument is even suspect because I recall reading a children's version of A Midsummer Night's Dream to my six year old and she loved it (there were lines from the original text in it). Modern English translations can be had for most any play. I remember dreading to take a Shakespearean Survey course in my second year of university. What I found was an enthusiastic, if not obsessed, professor who unlocked the door to the Bard's world which rocked my world at the same time!. Themes of sex, death, love, power, betrayal....all hit me in high definition (in my brain!) iambic-pentameter that got me to my 8:30 am class early. I have seen academically challenged kids get excited when they figure out what "Tell thee Macduff was from his mother's womb / Untimely ripped" actually means. Shakespeare's work will never go out of style as long as teachers keep it in style.
Posted by simoncat on January 8, 2012 at 12:41 PM (Answer #3)
High School Teacher
I hate to think there are any negative aspects to learning Shakespeare, but I had to pick one, I would say it's when students don't really learn or read Shakespeare, but are left on their own to decipher the text. This usually leads to disgruntled students who only develop a hatred for the words and do not learn anything. Dropping students in the middle of a play on their own, is the same as giving them a play in a whole new language. Without any instruction, would you say the students are actually learning the new langugae or picking out every third word that looks familiar.
Posted by pirateteacher on January 9, 2012 at 10:15 AM (Answer #4)
I can't think of a negative aspect of learning Shakespeare, although the answers above do a good job of explaining why students sometimes dislike being expected to learn Shakespeare. Using good films to begin to teach the plays may help to break the ice. I've also found that in teaching anything, reading closely, out loud, as a group, and discussing anything unclear helps students overcome barriers or language and/or history.
I've used the Branagh/Fishburne film of Othello as a way to get students interested in that play, and it works every time.
Posted by vangoghfan on January 9, 2012 at 10:49 AM (Answer #5)
The negatives proposed are failures of instruction, not the failures of students attempting to learn. Kids will embrace a Midsummer Night's Dream because it resonates with their magical thinking -- but they have to see it! These works were meant to be seen, not read. The shift in the language of course makes the text obscure for almost all high schoolers, but a good production with masterful actors will keep you thinking of the play for days. Read synopses, see the plays, then read the First Folio with a good Shakespearian lexicon to appreciate all the wordplay and artistry of language. Crawl before running.
Posted by enotechris on January 26, 2012 at 6:39 PM (Answer #6)
Being a high school student, I know how english teachers feel when almost all the class groans at the mention of shakespeare, but I feel it is beneficial to learning reading such brilliant pieces of literature. Also I love studying Shakespeare-recently we did the taming of the shrew and I know all of Katharina's speech.
In answer to the question-"What are some negative aspects of students learning about William Shakespeare?" personally I feel there are none for me to consider as a student, but most students feel it is too heavy and complex for their level.
Posted by jackskellington999 on February 1, 2012 at 3:15 AM (Answer #7)
The negative impact of Shakespeare / Shakespearean characters is being discussed at http://www.enotes.com/hamlet/discuss/118089, triggered by the question: " Does Shakespeare's genius so compel us to identify with his dramatis personae that it turns us into murderous Macbeths, suicidal Hamlets and brutal Othellos?" Hamlet is violently dragged into a hell created for him by others; Macbeth violently drags others into a hell created by none other than himself;Othello has a hell contained within himself ~ ot - hell - o ~ that others simply help to trigger a violent release ! And we are fascinated by all this hellish violence! Someone must ask why? What guidance can their criminal, brutal and suicidally tragic downward trajectories provide to perfectly normal human beings who are never likely to throttle their wives in their beds on a mere suspicion of infidelity;nor murder their bosses in their own guest room to rise up the career ladder; nor, unable to "bear the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" - mark the word fortune as in fate and destiny - will or can fatally destroy their entire families; nor as young lovers will fall to their deaths enacting convoluted plans constructed to fake death to escape the intolerable rivalry of their elders.These Shakespearian characters are simply trapped in negative case studies, where they arouse such "fear and pity" that they set an example of what you should not be rather than what you should aspire to become...
Posted by nataranjan on February 11, 2012 at 5:49 AM (Answer #9)
Middle School Teacher
Posted by litteacher8 on February 19, 2012 at 6:00 AM (Answer #10)
The only issue I can see is readiness. It seems that many of today's students don't have the reading/emotional skills to relate to Shakespeare's different use of language and plots that lack exploding cars and lots of gunplay. I fear that exposing them to Shakespeare before they're ready can lead to an aversion for works that they might enjoy later.
Posted by timbrady on February 21, 2012 at 3:32 AM (Answer #11)
I specialised in Shakespeare for my two degrees, doing dissertations on the First Tetralogy for my BA and Shakespeare on Film for my MA. I was fortunate that both my tutors were passionate about the Bard, and even those students who groaned at the thought of Shakespeare were won over by the end of the courses.
The only negative aspect I can think of is that there isn't enough teaching time to study the plays in the best way possible - by performing them. I don't mean staging a full-blown production, rather assigning parts to students, and getting them to read out a scene, then discuss it in class. My tutors did this occasionally, and it always produced animated and useful discussions which deepened everyone's understanding of the play in question.
Posted by sandrainspain on February 22, 2012 at 4:11 PM (Answer #12)
Valedictorian, Super Tutor, Tutor, Prefect, Dean's List
well i have studied a few of shakespears writings and they seem interesting and his way of writing and explaining things has inspired me a lot and he teaches you alot from his writings!
my favourite writings of his were, mocking bird, merchant of venice, mackbeth, othello, hamlet and a few others
he portrays life differently and has many great lessons to be noted in his writings.
Posted by just-s on February 22, 2012 at 11:43 PM (Answer #13)
Well, you could spend time learning how to write business letter and e-mails correctly, a skill sadly many lack when getting out of school, but I don't think that's the ones who read and understood (or well at least handled) Shakespeare.
Thus there is no negative aspect about it in any way, it might be though, it might seems irrelevant and the language might not seem very compelling, but isn't that what it is making it kind of great (and an adventure?)
Posted by harris90 on February 26, 2012 at 12:30 AM (Answer #14)
Valedictorian, TA, Librarian, Super Tutor, Expert, Tutor, Prefect, Dean's List
Shakespearean language is quite tricky! Students have some difficulty working around the concepts and ideas, which can promote a negative atmosphere in the classroom. However, some students grasp really well with Shakespeare.
Posted by wanderista on February 26, 2012 at 6:10 PM (Answer #15)
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