Prufrock's Page

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

To Teach Or Not To Teach?

Should younger readers be taught Shakespeare? That's the question being posed by, among others, author Nick Hornby: "So many people can't understand the language, what's the point?" And mystery novelist Christopher Brookmyre adds his voice to the chorus:

"When I was at school, English did seem like a prescription for putting kids off literature. The notion of studying texts that we could relate to seemed totally distant. Shakespeare is a particular bugbear of mine. Reading it flat off the page - or, even worse, acting it out in class - seems designed to make it unappealing. Listening to Macbeth being annihilated by a bunch of semi-literate Glaswegians for hours on end kind of puts you off."

When one was first confronted by The Merchant of Venice in school, one recalls looking at the first page in utter bewilderment. The metaphors seemed impenetrable, the sentence construction all wrong, and meanings of the very words themselves elusive. As time went on, however, the clouds began to lift. And though the quality of teaching wasn't of such a high order (sorry, Mr Gomes) as to make one fall in love with The Bard, one nevertheless emerged with admiration, if not quite affection, for the play. Once one was thus broken in, one tackled other plays such as Macbeth with much more confidence and appreciation. (Love those witches.)

Exactly the same process was repeated later when one looked at the first page of Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (so what's a moocow, anyway?), but that's another story.

And the point one is trying to make is: Simply because a piece of writing doesn't appear to be simple at first glance, there's no reason for the younger reader not to be urged to persevere. Such effort yields dividends, not to mention an enhanced appreciation of the usage of the English language -- a facility that's sorely needed these days, given the evidence of today's newspapers and advertisements.


  • Was spared the toil, save the odd oxymoronic Read for Pleasure stoties.

    No, most youngsters would cry off at the earliest if allowed to :)

    Even more so for politically incorrect poets/authors in Indian languages.

    By Blogger Anand, at 3:30 PM  

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