The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0363  Thursday, 25 July 2013


From:        Mari Bonomi <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         July 24, 2013 5:51:22 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: R&J Film


Mr. Serrano takes me to task for preferring Shakespeare’s own words to someone else’s emendations for audiences the emenders believe are too incompetent to process the original text.


Then he opines, “If a teacher cares more about the plays’s text then she shouldn’t use class to show movies. More, if you’re a serious purist you’d teach the plays in their original pronunciation besides.”


First of all, I suspect Mr. Serrano has never taught high school students in English classrooms.  Second of all, he seems unaware of the value to the students’ learning and understanding of seeing key scenes played out. For that purpose, many teachers (even at the post-secondary level) will show 3-5 minutes of one scene or another.  Even better, many teachers show the same scene as filmed by several different directors. Students enjoy defending or attacking different presentations on the basis of how they understand the text.


Your assumption that teachers “use class to show movies” seems to hint of a disdain for those of us who toil(ed) in the classroom trenches daily.


Frankly, I rarely used video in the classroom, preferring to have my students create their own visuals. (I always enjoyed watching to see how they would stage R&J 3.1 and learned a lot about the possibilities of staging from their less-jaded approaches.)  But not every classroom lends itself to such activities, especially now that every teacher must spend most of his or her time teaching to one or another standardized test by which both s/he and his/her students will be judged.


I also chose not to use the appalling parallel texts, with Shakespeare on the left and some other person’s modern “translation” on the right. Feh!


Finally, do you really believe that high school sophomores (or freshmen, as R&J is often included in their curriculum, unlike the district where I taught for almost 40 years) would be more engaged in the text if it were original pronounciation? Especially as they’d find simply comprehending what they were reading to be quite difficult? Do you expect them also to engage in disputations about precisely how this word or that was pronounced on the stage of the Globe? 


I’ve watched 6th graders not only read A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Folger Library edition, but also present their own stagings that showed as much grasp of the text as most rep theatre productions I’ve seen.  Shakespeare really isn’t that hard to comprehend, especially while watching a production.


If you enjoy seeing stories called “Shakespeare’s XYZ when in fact it’s really Screenwriter <insertnamehere>’s XYZ, then enjoy yourself :) I will happily see R&J at Staunton this fall during the Blackfriar’s Conference, where I know Shakespeare is honored in the practice, not in the breach.


Mari Bonomi


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