I hope that regular reader/contributor Bill doesn’t mind me reposting this message he sent me on Facebook, but I thought it would make great conversation and surely more opinions on a question like this is better than a few.
Question: I’ll be teaching a semester long Shakespeare class this year. If you were in high school again, and were able to take a class like this, what are some issues that you’d like to tackle.
Reading list: Othello, Shrew, Merchant, Tempest, and one more, undecided.
I’m not sure the range he has to work with (i.e. is he specifically asking about parts of the text to study in detail, or ways to structure activities in the class), but maybe he’ll chime in with answers.
One thing that comes to mind, which I take from the local Rebel Shakespeare group here, is to include performance. Public performance. “Bill’s Class Presents, Scenes from Shakespeare!” Preferably outdoor, if you can find a place. Or in a classroom if you must. Get friends and family to come. Nicely combines the ideas of “Shakespeare must be performed”, demonstrating / showing off what you’ve learned, as well as serving as a sort of informal final exam / graduation ceremony.
As for the texts themselves, why not make that undecided one something from the later plays, like Winter’s Tale or Cymbeline? It seems like The Tempest is it for the later stuff, that’s all kids ever see. I think it’s important to show that not every play met the structured definition of history / tragedy / comedy. I suppose Tempest covers that, but so often discussion of that play is all about it as Shakespeare’s farewell to the stage, and less on questions of “It’s not really a comedy or a tragedy, what is it?”
Although the idea has been done to death, I’m sure that today’s high school kids would get a kick out anything involving new/social media mixed with Shakespeare. We have no end of Twitter/Facebook versions of the plays. You could perhaps have them come up with something in that area. We certainly didn’t have that when I was in high school! 🙂
Who else has ideas for Bill?