Let me explain myself.
I believe it was 4th period yesterday when, after asking the class for the 4th time to get up and arrange themselves in groups only to be met with vacant stares and absolutely no movement whatsoever, I started re-arranging students myself. If they weren’t going to move, well, hell, I was going to move them. To be precise, I moved their desks, the ones they happened to be sitting in–I did not violate my policy of never having any kind of physical contact whatsoever with a “client.”
Anyway, in the course of this vigorous activity, I did happen to grasp one empty desk and overturn it, which produced a series of somewhat alarming thuds. For these thuds, and the psychological alarm they caused, I sincerely apologize. In fact yesterday, a few minutes after the accident happened, I felt so bad that I undertook a self-assigned penance.
And that is why the entire 4th period class witnessed me traveling from group to group for a half-hour, monitoring and participating in group discussions–with a large desk born awkwardly and painfully atop my be-stooped back.
You see, it’s perfectly reasonable, the things we public school teachers do to stay mentally stable and relatively clean of conscience.
So today in class I think I conducted myself in an exemplary fashion, and that is because we were involved in a truly righteous pursuit, the study of Shakespeare. We started out today by letting students summarize, comment on, and question the articles we read yesterday. These articles discussed a wide array of topics: the prevailing scientific and religious thought of Shakespeare’s day; details about the Globe theater and what it was like to go there; speculations about Shakespeare’s identity, religion, and private life; and the debate about whether or not to “modernize” Shakespearean language to make it more accessible to more people. Students read and “taught” these articles to each other yesterday, and today we just discussed any lingering questions and curiosities that came up.
Overall, it seems like we kept coming back to the idea that Shakespeare is so special because of the way he breaks down barriers between things we consider “opposite.” For example, he broke down the distinction between comedy and tragedy by giving audiences a time to laugh, even in the midst of the most bitter tragedy. He broke down the idea of two “opposite” genders by consistently confusing the gender identities of characters in his plays. This gender-related confusion was even stronger considering that in several of Shakespeare’s plays, female characters, who were portrayed by young male actors, disguised themselves as males. I wonder what kind of costume and make-up that double-disguise required?
After considering all this, I showed a clip from the end of the film Shakespeare in Love. This film shows a rather accurate portrayal of a Globe-like theater, an Elizabethan audience, and Queen Elizabeth, although I made clear to the class that the plot of this film is a total Hollywood-style fabrication, as well as the fact that Shakespeare wasn’t as “sexy” as Joseph Fiennes. In the film clip, we see Shakespeare and his company putting on the first production of Romeo and Juliet, much as it must have appeared back in the proverbial day. I also really like how the Hollywood story imposed on the historical fact does help us understand the depth of emotion contained in Shakespeare’s words. (This film was also co-written by Tom Stoppard, a great fan of the bard, and considered by some to be the greatest living playwright. It’s kind of cool to see what the greatest living playwright has to say about the greatest dead one.)
So now I think we’re ready to start reading the bard’s actual words. Tomorrow we’ll read and “decode” some sonnets in preparation for starting the plays themselves on Friday.