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Helen Mirren and Shakespeare

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Messages: 1 - 15 of 15
  • Message 1. 

    Posted by Sidpickle (U14495445) on Friday, 4th March 2011

    Helen Mirren was reported as saying kids should not be made to read Shakespeare in the classroom, but their first experience of his works should be in performance, in preference on the stage or film.

    As we know the language can be difficult but fascinating. Is she right though? By trying to teach in the classroom are we turning youngsters off the Bard?

    Can radio put Shakespeare across to an audience of youngster? Or do you need the visual stimulation of setting and movement?

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  • Message 2

    , in reply to message 1.

    Posted by lifeonmarsfan (U14300854) on Friday, 4th March 2011

    Shakespeare is boring to read. Listening or watching Shakespeare is more preferable. And I was surprised at how easy it is to understand Shakespeare. It's not as high falootin' as we are led to believe in the US and can be quite universal. You can set most plays in any culture or situation and it would work! Amazing.

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  • Message 3

    , in reply to message 1.

    Posted by Brian Duncan (U14268215) on Friday, 4th March 2011

    Helen Mirren was reported as saying kids should not be made to read Shakespeare in the classroom, but their first experience of his works should be in performance, in preference on the stage or film.

    As we know the language can be difficult but fascinating. Is she right though? By trying to teach in the classroom are we turning youngsters off the Bard?

    Can radio put Shakespeare across to an audience of youngster? Or do you need the visual stimulation of setting and movement?

     



    Well. What most people mean by "Shakespeare" is plays. Of course they should be enjoyed in performance.

    As for "trying to teach in the classroom" - this is what teachers of English literature are paid to do, and Shakespeare's writings are, in fact, literature, and, as such, repay study and reflection. There is no conflict here, but the "turning off" has more to do with the teacher than the general concept of teaching: a bad teacher could make an o r g a s m dull.

    As for lifeonmarsfan's comment that "Shakespeare is boring to read" - oh dear! THe kindest thing I can find to say is that anything is boring to those who are ready to be bored. I've never been bored in my life, so I don't quite know what it would be like.

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  • Message 4

    , in reply to message 1.

    Posted by JermeriClart (U14480026) on Friday, 4th March 2011

    I did enjoy reading Shakepeare's tragedies at comprehensive school in the 60s.

    It was a magnificent revelation to me, and others in the class, coming from backgrounds where no-one had ever read or attended a Shakespeare play.

    Now, it almost seems as if pupils are conditioned not to like Shakespeare before they've even picked up a text.

    The child who likes books generally, will enjoy reading Shakespeare . It shouldn't be spoken of as if it's some form of punishment, or incredibly dfficult, but that it deals, powerfully and poetically, with such universal human themes as successfully and life changingly, as the best contemporary drama - like The Wire , for instance.

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  • Message 5

    , in reply to message 1.

    Posted by Richard (U13065358) on Saturday, 5th March 2011

    experience of his works should be in performance, in preference on the stage or film 

    Helen Mirren would say that wouldn't she.

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  • Message 6

    , in reply to message 5.

    Posted by I designed the future (U10597198) on Saturday, 5th March 2011


    I totally agree with her.

    I remember nothing - not a jot - of learning Shakespeare in class aside from how dull the overly close analysis of it was.

    If we ripped apart Eastenders (or whatever is fashionably cool for youngsters) word for word, and disected every character trait etc, it would lose its appeal quite quickly I imagine.

    However...

    When I played (albeit minor roles) in Shakespeare plays, and understood the script more from a point of view of a staged drama when idly reading in my spare time... Or indeed watched modern renditions of Shakespeare's works on celluloid... The bard, verily, came alive.

    It would probably be better to really go to town on vocab tests in English... then drop the students into a series of intense plays, and see if they swim in the comprehension pool, and discuss afterwards.


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  • Message 7

    , in reply to message 6.

    Posted by Portly (U1381981) on Saturday, 5th March 2011

    In my opinion Shakespeare is best learned in a classroom situation, with a teacher nearby to help when young people have difficulty understanding the meaning.

    Shakespeare employed quite difficult and dense language. If you read a play by his friend Ben Jonson, you will find it is crystal clear by comparison. So the problem isn't so much with the Elizabethan language as it is with Shakespeare's ambitious use of words.

    I would defy anybody, child or adult, to go to a performance of "Macbeth" and understand what on earth is going on, without having swotted up on the play beforehand! smiley - biggrin

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  • Message 8

    , in reply to message 7.

    Posted by Sidpickle (U14495445) on Saturday, 5th March 2011

    I would defy anybody, child or adult, to go to a performance of "Macbeth" and understand what on earth is going on, without having swotted up on the play beforehand! 

    Dear Portly I do agree

    I wonder if Helen Mirren realises that there are some excellent Shakespeare study guides available for school children that explain the story of the play, the characters, the politics and the subtleties of the society of the time. I enjoy reading these myself and cross referencing with the plays (these guides are available in bookshops).

    I do think that before seeing a production the students should have a basic understanding of the play and the language so I do not agree with Dame Helen on this one.



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  • Message 9

    , in reply to message 8.

    Posted by Dai Cottomy (U10601009) on Saturday, 5th March 2011

    There are plenty of DVDs of first rate performances of Shakespear's plays which can be viewed in conjunction with classroom reading.

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  • Message 10

    , in reply to message 2.

    Posted by Annie-Lou (U4502268) on Sunday, 6th March 2011

    Shakespeare is boring to read. Listening or watching Shakespeare is more preferable. And I was surprised at how easy it is to understand Shakespeare. It's not as high falootin' as we are led to believe in the US and can be quite universal. You can set most plays in any culture or situation and it would work! Amazing. 
    I totally agree, at school I was under the impression that Sharespeare's plays were writen in a foreign language!!
    Now I've seen nearly all of them and worked on productions of most of them (and if I never work on another production of A Midsummer Nights Dream I wouldn't be too bothered, I must have done half a dozen!) and they are definitely best experienced in action!
    I worked for a time at a childrens theatre and have seen that even quite young children can easily understand and enjoy Shakespeare if it is acted out.
    Some years ago I was working on a production of "Alls Well That Ends Well". I'd never seen it and thought I would familiarise myself with it by reading it. I gave up after about the first act! I kept falling asleep! It was unreadable.

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  • Message 11

    , in reply to message 10.

    Posted by anna - HOST (U2219604) on Monday, 7th March 2011

    and Helen Mirren is one of the readers of the Afternoon Readings this week:

    www.bbc.co.uk/progra...

    A

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  • Message 12

    , in reply to message 8.

    Posted by MalcolmTucker (U2812966) on Monday, 7th March 2011



    I wonder if Helen Mirren realises that there are some excellent Shakespeare study guides available for school children.... 

    Nah she hasn't got any kids. Of course, she's an expert (like so many people who have nothing to do with education) because she went to school.....

    I found the best way was to tell the class the story with big graphic diagrams. Then discuss the plot and characters with a bit of role play so they have a good idea of what's going on. Next go off and see a performance or watch a film. Finally read the play with a good parallel text. It worked every time.

    My husband always thought Shakespeare was awful because at school they just read the text, decoding it as they went. Dreadful. But trooping off to see a production without any groundwork is not much better.

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  • Message 13

    , in reply to message 12.

    Posted by Sidpickle (U14495445) on Tuesday, 8th March 2011

    Reference Shakespeare plays being taught in schools, I often think it ironic that we are trying to stop youngsters carrying knives and then we let them loose on plays where a large number of characters end up getting stabbed.
    I assume for this reason no school has Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi on the curiculum?

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  • Message 14

    , in reply to message 12.

    Posted by Annie-Lou (U4502268) on Wednesday, 9th March 2011



    I wonder if Helen Mirren realises that there are some excellent Shakespeare study guides available for school children.... 

    Nah she hasn't got any kids. Of course, she's an expert (like so many people who have nothing to do with education) because she went to school.....

    I found the best way was to tell the class the story with big graphic diagrams. Then discuss the plot and characters with a bit of role play so they have a good idea of what's going on. Next go off and see a performance or watch a film. Finally read the play with a good parallel text. It worked every time.

    My husband always thought Shakespeare was awful because at school they just read the text, decoding it as they went. Dreadful. But trooping off to see a production without any groundwork is not much better.

     

    Your approach sounds sensible, mistilteinn, but I don't really see why you are so hard on Dame Helen. She may not have kids but she knows a thing or two about plays.

    I'm guessing that you do not feel that you must never comment on or criticise the performances of the actors you see in the theatre, just because you yourself are not an actor!

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  • Message 15

    , in reply to message 2.

    Posted by heatherfeather (U14330731) on Sunday, 27th March 2011

    I agree in part with Mirren. In my high school we were made to read Shakespeare and memorize some passages. Hated every minute of it. We did see films of the plays as well as West Side Story but it as taught in such a way not to be a delight to read but a chore.

    I honestly never cared for Shakespeare until I saw an RSC production in London starring Judi Dench. I was amazed that his plays could feel so fresh. Since then I've seen a couple more RSC productions. I do believe that children should be exposed to his works but rote memorization seems not to be the answer.

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