Shakespeare, the Greatest… WGAF.

shakes beer

Disclaimer: I never liked him, didnt care for his work, and avoid renditions. Though I have referenced him before and know the stories vaguely, and I see some of the beauty in some of the poetry and appreciate it (a little). I’m tired of teaching it, and I only did it for one day! It was Romeo and Juliet. They were freshmen. We actually didnt read it most of the day. Instead, we watched a few youtube videos about it, and I checked the sparknotes.
The 6th period class read it. Well, its bastardized/dumbed down version, cause I’m sure the original vocabulary is all but lost on students. So, about 4 young teenagers took turns poorly reading simplified interpretations of dialog from 16th century iambic pentameter saturated in abstract anachronisms about an overnight-teen-lust-affair-gone-double-suicide.
Somehow I escaped high school not realizing Juliet was 13. Somehow I didnt know that Romeo was hung up on a different girl that morning. Somehow I didnt realize that the church Friar blessed the secret marriage of a teen boy (lets hope, it doesnt say his age, just no face hair) to a barely teen girl whos families had extensive drama, who had known each other for less than 24 hours. Maybe I never was really familiar with the story, but now the absurdity of it all was perplexing (and a turn off) to me.
High schools everywhere and teenage students with developing libidos and heightened senses of emotional attachment (to almost anything), are going over a “love story” where a boy hung up on a girl in the morning is professing his love to a post-tween in the evening. They get the blessing of the church (whoda thought?), secretly marry, spend the night together. Then she takes drugs to seem dead (cause thats her best option), then he drinks poison to join the suicide (cause time is of the essence), she awakes, finds him dead and then stabs herself. Awesome story US curriculum builders (or non builders, I guess)!
Didnt the US shed the crown in 17 seventy-something? 300 years later and we cant come up with better stories for students to read? Anything more relevent and less morbid?
He’s one of the greats. So, of course students should know of him. Should they also know he, ahem, borrowed the story from Arthur Brook’s 1562 poem titled virtually the same “Romeus and Juliet”? Or that, many of his stories are “borrowed”? Of course many artists borrow, steal, and adapt. Its just that when we put people up on pedestals, they become less relatable to others, and more specifically students. I intend to inspire students but these encrypted stories left over from before industrialization, are hard to connect students to.
I am actually more interested in the Shakespeare conspiracy, or the authorship question. I just find it more fascinating, regardless of it being true or not. Check that here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakespeare_authorship_question
A recent film was even made about this issue. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/07/who-wrote-shakespeares-plays-anonymous_n_846303.html
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shakespeare/debates/conspiracy.html
     I’m actually shirking teaching duties as I type. I tried though. Made all the students read out loud, whatever they were reading on their phones and laptops in an effort to show how reading and writing english (I welcomed spanish as well cause irony in the classroom can be fun/ny) help us do so much. Some students say they hate reading (just now! here, in class), one of which I saw browsing paragraphs by phone. Maybe “reading” seems different than just, you know, looking at words and making sense of them.

I am just a substitute teacher so there are very little expectations on me. I do value education, I just place relavence above classics. I’m sure many students may come to appreciate Shakespeare this season and the next. And the next. I would just hope we can develop or locate some decent poetry, prose, and plays, with a subtext that examines love and lust in a more thorough and thought-provoking manner. Maybe even some stuff the local students would enjoy.

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