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8/06/2017

English News

 

Why Shakespeare?

What relevance can the work of a man dead for some 500 years possibly have on the life of a teenager in 2017?
 
These are common questions from our students when they study Shakespearean texts as part of our English program. We have no difficulty in explaining to students that the development of higher order thinking skills is the true aim of this type of study; however, the question of relevance is an interesting one.
 
On Thursday 1st June, students from all grades had the privilege of watching Brisbane-based Theatre Company, Shake & Stir, perform ‘Statespeare’, an examination of the relevance of Shakespeare’s texts to high school students today. Through an energetic, amusing and engaging presentation, our students learnt that:
 
  • Teens will always want to rebel against their parents, just like poor old ‘star cross’d’ lovers, Romeo and Juliet
  • Love triangles are just as much of a thing today as they were in Elizabethan times…the heart wants what the heart wants! We see this in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Men of weak will can be easily manipulated by strong women a la Macbeth when he does the bidding of his dear lady wife
  • Flirting takes many forms and can be natural to some and oh so difficult to others.  This is certainly the case in Taming of the Shrew
 
As English teachers, we bang on about the way in which Shakespeare held up a mirror to society and his works reflect the unchanging nature of the human condition. A trio of extremely talented performers communicated in one hour what we have been trying to get across to students since forever!
 
As a matter of interest, the works of William Shakespeare (the individual who has contributed more words and phrases to our language than anyone else) is studied at Toolooa over a number of year levels:
 
  • The year 8 Extension class are introduced to Shakespeare through his comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • The year 10 pre-senior classes explore tragedy in Romeo and Juliet
  • The year 11 Senior English classes look at tragedy in either Hamlet or Othello or comedy in Much Ado about Nothing
  • The year 12 Senior English classes analyse themes in either Macbeth or Taming of the Shrew 
 
In a time when a number of schools are turning away from studying Shakespearean texts, we are proud of our commitment to exploring these aspects of the traditional literary canon as well as more modern works. Having said that, the Shake & Stir performance certainly cemented for our students the idea that such modern works draw heavily on the work of Shakespeare – from Twilight to the Lion King! 
 
A big ‘thank you’ to Ms Roo for organising this event. 
 
Mrs Kean – Head of Department (English and LOTE)