The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1362  Tuesday, 29 June 2004

From:           Jack Heller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 28 Jun 2004 10:08:32 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 15.1344 As You Like It in the Classroom
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1344 As You Like It in the Classroom

Please pardon this late reply; I was out of town and away from email. I
think an assumption has arisen that my difficulty teaching a play
follows from not liking the play. Actually, I like As You Like It, but I
lost my way with it in the two class sessions I had to spend on the text
before the midterm test. The first class session went okay, but there
was too much for the second session. In the future, I may juggle the
schedule to give AYLI a full week. I might start with Jaques's "Seven
Ages" and ask the students if they think it is supported by the play.

Unless I offer a topic-based short course in January, I will only teach
Shakespeare every other year. There are lots of things I haven't done
this year that I would like to try. Kris McDermott asks:

 >Has anyone else had good
 >experiences teaching plays they don't really like?

At both my own inclination and my students' urging, I left Romeo and
Juliet off the syllabus this past semester. However, I'm thinking about
ending the semester with R&J the next time just to see how the play
holds up after the other plays have been read. I'd especially like to do
that after reading something like Coriolanus, a play whose merits far
exceed its cultural status. I don't think Shakespeare is holy writ, so
if students get a different view of his strengths and of our culture
from having those plays juxtaposed, that would be okay with me.

I did teach a play I don't like: Taming of the Shrew. I decided to
approach the play by introducing the students to some issues of textual
editing, raised by Leah Marcus's Unediting the Renaissance. We compared
passages from "the Shrew" and "a Shrew" and looked at some of John
Fletcher's comments from "The Woman's Prize." I mainly wanted to get the
students to consider Shakespeare's play not as "the" early modern view
of strong or shrewish women, but as part of his culture's discussion of
such women. Some weeks later, in an informal context (pizza party on
April 23), I happened to mention that I don't like Taming of the Shrew.
My students expressed surprise: from my presentation, they thought I had
only chosen the plays I like to teach. It is possible that the approach
more than the play itself guided my enthusiasm, as I continue to be
interested in how textual editing--not as objective as it has purported
to be--actually guides the reader's response. I suppose that I will
continue to teach both the plays I love and those I don't. Merchant of
Venice will be on the next syllabus.

Jack Heller
Huntington College

P.S. I do intend to read Teaching Shakespeare into the 21st Century.

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