The Tuesday Muse – The Classroom.

(It’s only Wednesday and computer access has been sparse so I’m still Tuesday-Musing! Anyway..)

When delving into a book entitled ‘Introductions To Shakespeare’ (a collection written by lots of well-known people, nearly all (if  not all) who have acted in a play or two by said playwright), I came across this marvellous piece by Ralph Richardson written in 1957 and talking about ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ :

“My own first meeting with ‘The Dream’ was when I studied it with my schoolmaster in the manner prescribed for the examination. Everything about the play was anatomised – the internal and external evidence, the strong and weak endings, the sources of the plot – a dry-as-bones examination with never one word to let in the idea that the work had been written first and foremost as a work of entertainment, of delight and laughter. All that was a strict taboo, something quite unheard of, but as far as I was concerned, this attempted desecration was completely unsuccessful.”

Now despite talking about Shakespeare and all that, what he has said does rather relate to everything else I’ve ever been taught. What is the point in learning something if you don’t know how to use it? Or if you’re never taught the practical uses? Would people not be more inclined to learn things if they knew how they related to their own lives? Added to that, it would be so much more interactive and engaging. I would prefer to be taught a great lot of stuff, then see what I know after, not be made to learn a huge amount of things that I don’t care about by the ‘syllabus’ says we need it for the exam (which will be out of date pretty soon anyway). What’s the point in exams if nothing is really learnt in the process? Things are learnt for examination, not for life – which is a huge shame – and what is the point in learning things if they are not going to be for life?

Going back to the original quote, Shakespeare is a playwright. His work is intended to be performed and observed, not studied with a fine comb in a classroom. Why not run English and Drama together?

“Divorced from regular physical performances his plays would die – or at best be translated into something quite different from their basic nature.” (John Clements, 1971)


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