Monday, June 02, 2008

To the ESOL Brigade:

Why are you teaching Shakespeare?

Surely it is only a hangover of the old imperialistic attitude to the language as ‘belonging’ to the British – as ‘real’ English being RP and home-counties middle class? (Shakespeare Wallah + Posh Shakespeare)

Cultural superiority and blind obedience to dogmas-out-of-date?

If you think Shakespeare needs to be taught because of the ‘impact’ he has had on ‘THE’ language – you should be teaching the ‘King James’ bible too – it had a far deeper, direct and more profound impact.

Do you actually know enough about the texts and the theatre to teach ‘Shakespeare’ at all? Are you going to do more damage than good? I spend a lot of time trying to un-do outdated, outmoded and culturally loaded views of the plays imparted to students.

Strong evidence suggests Shakespeare himself never wanted the plays to be read at all – they were meant to be watched, to be listened to, to be transient and ill-defined: Why then are you making your students read the words of the plays at all (another case to be made for the poor-selling sonnets)?

The language of the texts is not the language of today – if you want to ‘illustrate’ language change, an extract might be OK – but a whole play? Why – your students are learning English for communication, surely?

If a whole Shakespeare, why not a whole Milton, or a whole Chaucer? – why not Beowulf?

They are likely to encounter the plays only in their own languages or in dubbed or subtitled films – why do they need anything more than the story for that?

Should you be using film at all – the plays were meant for the stage? Any film is an adaptation – the best, with lots of cutting.

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