Now that we have celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the semester is finally in full swing; from here we roll on through the rest of winter and towards spring. Plenty of great Shakespeare-in-education news to come in 2014. In the meantime, here’s what’s been going on out there since you last checked….
John, Paul, George, Ringo, and… Will!
The Liverpool Echo brings us up to date on all the excellent primary-school Shakespeare going on at Overchurch Junior School in the village of Upton in Merseyside, on the Wirral Peninsula near the legendary birthplace of the Beatles. Says teacher Stuart Rathe:
“The aim of the festival is to introduce children to Shakespeare in an exciting way. They are experiencing the plays as they are meant to be experienced – living, breathing stories with ghosts, murders, magic and kings and queens – rather than experiencing them for the first time as simply required texts on the curriculum. It’s non-competitive and there’s a nice ensemble feel to the festival – we’re all in it together. Hopefully this will create a passion for Shakespeare and give some children the acting bug too.”
Little Latin… or quite enough?
In recent years scholars have begun reexamining the somewhat unplowed ground of Shakespeare’s education and questioning some of the old myths about his lack thereof, especially the Oxfordian arguments about how grammar school couldn’t have possibly given him the foundation to write great plays. A 2013 book reviewed recently in the Wall Street Journal — Shakespeare and Classical Antiquity, by Colin Burrow — suggests that digging into the complexity of Shakespeare’s education can help us see the plays in a new light. Like Lynn Enterline in Shakespeare’s Schoolroom (2011), Burrow finds richness in the rhetorical exercises practiced by schoolboys and sees ways in which such role-playing work found its way into the voices of the playwright’s characters. (Note: Though the Wall Street Journal is behind a paywall online, the WSJ.com site should let you read the article once for free.)
Reports of his death are an exaggeration
Rebecca Schuman writes in a new column on Slate.com: “Literature students have a new ‘classic’ to study: the Political Correctness Killed Shakespeare article.” Schuman rips entertainingly into conservative handwringing and “pearl-clutching” about how radicals in the academy are shoving out Shakespeare in favor of “perspectives on gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, transnationalism, and — gasp — creative writing.”
Says Schuman, linking to a Chronicle of Higher Education article to back up her case: “So here’s a big surprise: this incessant litany of ‘English killed Shakespeare’ articles? They’re actually—ahem—full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Not only are rumors of the English major’s demise greatly exaggerated, but any actual drop in majors in recent years has little to do with the death of the classics and more to do with the fact that English—even when it’s semester-long Milton classes—doesn’t train one to be an engineer.”
South Dakota Shakespeare is a go
Good news from the Vermillion Rotary Club this week: the South Dakota Shakespeare Festival, a project run by students from the University of South Dakota, will be back with a “rollicking ride of banter, bawdiness and classic battling of the sexes,” aka Taming of the Shrew. Rotary Club members were given a preview of the performance Monday. Read all about it in the Vermillion Plain Talk online.
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