We all teach it. We all read it. We all know it. We all quote it. We all study it. We all pride ourselves in our ability to dissect it and regurgitate its 'meaning'.
But does it burn you? Does it haunt you? Does it drag you from your body and show you the greatness of its understanding? Do you cling to it in times of solace? Do you revel in it when in times of joy?
Do you teach its passion?
Or are you like the painting of a sorrow, A face without heart?
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I don't get a chance to teach Shakespeare to my Juniors because I cover American Literature...so I LOVE to teach and direct one Shakespeare play every year in each of my Theater classes! What I love most about his plays are that they contain everything an actor and director needs to know about each character; he also crafted each and every sentence the way HE wanted his characters to sound. In a lot of modern plays, the actor must create a make-believe history for their character in order to understand them--Shakespeare GIVES us this with every play. It is like this "all inclusive" vacation package that leaves us needing nothing else! Whenever I hear, "Shakespeare is overrated!" I say, "Give this a chance and then we'll talk!"
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
Oh! that I were a glove upon that hand
That I might touch that cheek! ("Romeo and Juliet," Act II,ii,21-23)
Those lines elicited a response in my heart the first time I read them, and they continue to do so each time I read or speak them. For, how can anyone say anything more purely romantic than to wish to be a mere glove just for the sake of touching the loved one's cheek?
Shakespeare communicates directly to one's soul and heart. How can one present Shakespeare to a class without opening the door that reveals one's own heart? Vraiment, j'adore Shakespeare!
I have appreciated Shakespeare more having moved to a school where there was no Shakespeare taught until Year 13. Beginning with Hamlet and Othello for seniors the ideas of the Bard have 'caught on' and year 9 and 10 students are asking to 'do' Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth. This is a very welcome change from students forced to study a Shakespeare play for year 9 external examinations in the UK.
I have found students need to be ready for Shakespeare, aware of Shakespeare and enthused by their teachers about Shakespeare. The results are passionate, absorbed students and really great lessons fror the students and the teacher. Enthusiasm is infectious...if you have it, they get it.
I do not remember to whom this quote should be attributed (possibly Horace Mann) but it applies in this discussion, "It doesn't matter how many good books you get into. It's how many good books get into you." This perfectly encapsulates the beauty of Shakespeare--the number of hearts and souls his writing has touched. His characters are so clearly human, that almost any high school student can recognize someone s/he knows, and the themes he examines are still the same themes our kids deal with today--some on a daily basis.
And let's not forget the beauty of his poetry, which some kids might openly scoff but will secretly ponder in their hearts.
I definitely love Shakespeare. I could get into all the reasons why I personally have loved his work since college, but I'll just give the reasons why I love his work in the classroom:
The "Oh...oh DAMN!" moments my students have. I love watching all the lights go on when we do the Porter's speech from Macbeth or when we examine Hamlet's caution to his mother about Polonius.
The fun my students have doing detailed analysis and exercising critical thinking skills. They can spend 45 minutes picking apart the two pages that contain Banquo's murder, and love it.
Props. Give a kid a sword and watch him/her become more outgoing, more comfortable, more confident. I suppose that works will all drama, but Shakespeare provides lots of sword opportunities.
I think that Shakespeare's power "burns" through the heart of all literature. Teaching history, I find the themes of Shakespeare as vehicles where historical reality can be better understood. Reading and teaching Shakespeare are domains where I think students can better understand elements of the human predicament. I cannot conceive of being able to relate historical figures, their actions and motivations, without Shakespeare injecting some notion of thematic development into the dialogue.
Sometimes I judge a book/play/short story not by what I think of it immediately after reading, but by how long it haunts me afterward. I measure it by how many times I think of it, and reinterpret what I've read when my own life teaches me something new...I remember those old readings, and they change, for me, based on my new understandings of life. Shakespeare is certainly one of those authors. Does it work that way for you? The way I thought of Romeo and Juliet when I was the same age as the main characters is wildly different forty years later!
So yes, I love Shakespeare.
Although they don't exactly burn or haunt me, I have always loved the plays of Shakespeare. I haven't read them all, but there's only a few that I haven't read at least once. No writer in English has ever been comparable. And I'm proud to say that I share birthday, April 23--also the day The Bard died.
i love shakespeare! it almost hurts to read some of the plays. they feel so relatable even though they were written hundereds of years ago, many students my age laugh when i say this. i just get shakespeare if you know what i mean. there are so many quotes from it that mean something even today. i saw 'a midsummer nights dream' in london and it was amazing, seeing the play acted out sent a chill through me. the language is beautiful and it is so well written. many plays written today could not be compared to shakespeare's. its worth teachers really showing their enthusiasm for shakespeare, its what first made me realise how brilliant shakespeare's work is, having a teacher that is passionate about the work really helps. it is difficult to write down how much i love it but this is a quote i particularly like:
im not sure why but this just stuck with me for days.
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