Teaching Shakespeare!

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I usually write about writing in some way, but in this post, I want to talk about teaching Shakespeare. The spring semester is over, but as an adjunct professor, I teach the entire year. I am not complaining about this situation, because I love my work, just explaining the schedule.

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I have loved Shakespeare most of my life—the reading of the plays, the viewing of productions, acting in them, directing one production, writing about the plays, and teaching the plays. I studied Shakespeare as one of my areas of specialization in graduate school, so I am always excited when I have the opportunity to teach Will.  Shakespeare has been a lifelong companion.

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This college class is being held at The Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College.  Because this is an adult evening college, which also administers the summer session, all of the students in my class are adults.  They are working towards their undergraduate degrees as are the traditional age students, but they bring the added responsibility and attentiveness to the class that comes with maturity and experience.  I love teaching both traditional and non-traditional students, but both bring different needs and different expectations.

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The class has just begun, because the first summer session has already started. I have held the first class, which was an introductory lecture on Shakespeare’s theater and England at the time. Tomorrow we will begin examining the plays. We will cover some of the comedies in the first half of the session and some of the tragedies in the second half. By the end of 12 classes during the span of 6 weeks, we will read and explored 9-10 plays. The first play of the course will be one of my favorites: A Midsummer Night’s Dream.   I feel like I have a special relationship with this comedy, because I have studied it, taught it, written about it, acted in it, and directed it.  It was also the play of the first live Shakespeare production that I saw when I was in 10th grade.

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I am looking forward to teaching Shakespeare!

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22 thoughts on “Teaching Shakespeare!

  1. Shakespeare is a favorite of mine as well. “Romeo and Juliet” was my introduction in 9th grade to Iambic pentameter. I thought it was the coolest thing ever, plus I had the good fortune to have an awesome teacher teaching it. I thought I was so intelligent to be able to ‘get it’.

    So, Rawk On!

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  2. My granddaughter is completing her first year of high school and her English teacher chose to study The Merchant of Venice this term. My granddaughter has had difficulty relating to this story and consequently Shakespeare is not high on her list of favourites, though she did put a great deal of effort into learning the lines assigned and reciting them well in class. Any advice or insight you can provide that would help her to find some common ground that would perhaps make the story more meaningful to her would be appreciated. Thanks Charles.

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    • Wow, what an odd and interesting play to choose for 9th grade, I assume. This is a play filled with cynical people and corruption, not what I would choose for youngsters. Perhaps, if she looks at how Shakespeare shows there is potential for bigotry as well as forgiveness in many people that might help. It also illustrates that the world is not fair, something many young people understand immediately.

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  3. Jeri Bonenberger

    I am so jealous. I would love to just be a fly on the wall. I loved your Shakespeare class! If I can be so bold as to make a suggestion to GHOSTBUSTERBEV, have her listen to the play (audio books) or better yet watch one of the many versions of it. It will help your granddaughter to understand context, subtext, characterizations, etc. Also, for anyone who has never read Shakespeare, I would suggest reading it first with a translation (No Fear Shakespeare) and taking notes, and then reading it without the translation. Every time that I read Shakespeare I find something new. My favorite English professor (Dr. C. French) helped me to rediscover Shakespeare with a vengeance and in his class we immersed ourselves in the plays that we were reading.

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  4. The very first Shakespeare play I read (in high school) was MacBeth. I can still remember playing the part of one of the witches – such fun. Best of luck with your classes – sounds like fun!

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  5. johnlmalone

    I have named the naked stone figurine with the cherubic bottom in the bird bath ‘Bottom’. Shakespeare would have been pleased 🙂

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  6. Ron

    Fantastic Post! As a diehard Oxfordian and ex-teacher, I still admire and respect all who love Shaxper, whoever he was! And I have a very deep love for those who pass on their love for Shaxper to the generations to come. Bravo!

    Ron

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  7. I love Shakespeare, but hate with a fiery passion the story of Romeo and Juliet! This is one of my soap boxes and something people think I’m weird for. I have disliked the story ever since I had to study it TWICE in 9th grade (I moved in the middle of my Freshman year, causing me to do so. I started my time at the new school with a high score on a test my first day because it was over the end of the Odyssey and basic Shakespeare Info). I have always adored Macbeth and Othello though and would love a more in depth class now that I am more responsible in my time.

    Congratulations on getting to teach something you love!

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