Monday, 23 April 2012

Shakespeare's birthday

That time of year thou mayst in me behold,
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

It is the wont of those of us no longer in our salad days to lament the past. There are certainly some things to be sad about.

Today was a happy day and a sad day. Happy, because we were celebrating the birthday of the greatest poet the world has ever known. To whit, I was sent to the local teachers' supply store find a poster to display at a little gathering we were having this evening in honour of the Bard. Sadly, they didn't have it. "I'm afraid we just don't have much demand for that anymore," she said. We commiserated on the sad state of an education that doesn't include Shakespeare.

Shakespeare isn't taught much anymore. Kids are no longer exposed to the magic of the poet who has been the single greatest influence on the language that we all speak.

I wonder why. Has Shakespeare somehow become politically incorrect? A dead white male poet? Or are his themes considered inappropriate? Or is it a reluctance to force kids to read something that may not be immediately relevant in today's world? Is it too hard?

I know that some teachers, given the choice, teach Shakespeare with a passion. But I also know that it's possible to go through school without reading a Shakespearian play or a Canadian novel. So much for the beauty of our language and the culture of our land!

Surely Shakespeare is more important than ever in a world that is becoming more and more materialistic and utilitarian, where governments are moving to the right, where funding for the arts is being cut, and our language is deteriorating into textspeak. 

Our generation had Shakespeare thrust upon us. We had to read it aloud in class. We had to recite soliloquies. And I for one am eternally grateful. I can think of nothing I learnt at school that has meant so much to me. What is life without beauty?

Tonight, at our gathering, as we sang songs, recited soliloquies, and read sonnets, every one of us gave silent thanks to a teacher who many years ago introduced us to Shakespeare.

1 comment:

  1. It is too hard. There is barely the skill in most present English departments to teach the contemporary novel.

    Which is fortunate, as most students won't have read a contemporary novel.