Shakespeare in class

OK. Here we go again.

We are getting close to the end of term. (If you missed the introduction click here.) We finished Geraint and Enid by Tennyson and then I read straight through another of his epic poems; Enoch Arden. This is a story about two boys, one rich, one poor and a girl who was loved by both. The two boys are best friends but Enoch, the poor one, goes of to sea to make his fortune, is shipwrecked and returns years later a broken man. No one in town recognises him. He learns that Annie and Philip have married and are living in the big house. He spies on them one night and sees how happy they both are and especially sees that they have a family now. He walks away heartbroken but happy to have seen them. He does not reveal himself because he doesn’t wish to cause them any upset. It is a very moving story and the class was entranced. The story was made into a silent movie in 1911.

The next task is to get them to look forward to studying Shakespeare. And for this I choose Romeo and Juliet. I borrow a DVD copy of “Westside Story” and show it in class without any introduction. When we finish they are all quite surprised to learn that it is in fact a modernised remake of “Romeo and Juliet”.

Next,  I recite a classic Australian poem that will possibly be new to most of you. This is “The Play” by C J Dennis. I wanted to record this poem and recite it for you but I don’t know how to work my recording device. So I’ve a version here by Jack Thompson. Click on this to hear it.

You may find some of the slang difficult but you get the general idea; I hope.

I sent them on their way; two weeks of freedom and then back to school. In the middle of the holidays the phone rings.

“Hello Sir. This is Jackie Smith. Do you know the ten things I hate about you?”

“No. But ringing me up on my holidays is probably on the list of the ten things I am going to hate about you.”

“Oh, don’t be silly Sir. No the movie. “Ten things I hate about you.” My dad took me to see it. He says it’s a Shakespearean play called the “Taming of the Shrew”. You hafta see it and then see what you think and then we should all go as a class excursion and if you like I will go and make the booking.”

“That sound interesting Jackie. I will go and see it, but I’ll decide if it’s appropriate and make the booking myself. If it’s OK.”

“Great. OK Sir. See you next term. But go and see it.”

And I did and we all went to see the movie even although some parents and a stupid narrow minded Principal needed a bit of encouragement.

Over the next few years we saw Shakespeare in Melbourne, and the Bell Shakespeare company’s productions whenever we could.

And every student learned poems and passages from poems and plays and recited them to the class and on many occasions a School or House captain would drop in to make some sports announcement and if we were doing poetry, for example, would ask the class if they were being asked to learn passages off by heart, they would all moan and say yes, and the senior would say how terrible it was back then and then immediately recite something from Hamlet or Macbeth and bow proudly and walk out.

But what about young Daniel who had been so difficult? Late in the year Daniel’s parents saw me and exclaimed that I was costing them a lot of money. Why? Because every time there’s a birthday in the family we now have to go to Melbourne to some theatre or another to see some play or other and if there’s Shakespeare on we have to go whether it’s a birthday or not. And did you know that we were very worried about Daniel at the start of the year because we thought he was starting to get into drugs and now he isn’t.

And that’s that.

 

 

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18 thoughts on “Shakespeare in class

      1. Codswallop.!!!! You were the driving force even if you let them drive a bit. They’d have passed their L’s with flying colours – if you get my drift. Great story.

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  1. you must have been an awesome teacher, and I love the theater, although I don’t think I’ve ever seen Shakespeare performed live, lots of movies of course and reading but not up close and personal. That would be amazing.

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