Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Thing a week 02 - Once more unto the bard dear friends once more...

Or how education is controlled by idiots and wasted on the young.

The main thrust of this blog is something we Brits tend to be very proud of and most of us completely ignore, namely the works of William Shakespeare but there's also an undertone commentary on the regular complaint of the politician and tabloid on a slow news day about children not reading anymore.

I'm a big fan of the works of Shakespeare (though not the man himself, do some research and you quickly realise he was a bit of a git), it doesn't matter how, reading the books or watching the plays performed I'm hooked, but I wasn't always.

Like most high school pupils in the UK I had Shakespeare rammed down my throat at about the age of 13 or 14 and I hated it. The national curriculum force fed us two of his plays, in my case Romeo and Juliet and Henry V, and I hated them. Now they're two of my favourites. I was simply too young to get them. They didn't appeal and I couldn't relate. It put me off the bard for far too long.

In fact the whole reading list was fairly dire and for the most part obviously not aimed at the young teen audience. Which brings me to the second point. Books forced on children at school are so often the choice of middle aged committees based on "classics" they think children should be reading rather than good books that they will enjoy reading and will encourage them to read more so that they will carry on reading throughout their lives and find the classics on there own. Thankfully because of the wonders of comics and a great library I was an avid reader despite my education so I still read lots now. Most of my old school friends don't.

So how did I fall in love with Shakespeare. No surprise there. It started with a girl. A little over ten years ago on my first stay with a University. I was studying chemistry at York and got together with a young thesp. In an effort to impress, I borrowed her books and read with all diligence. The relationship was short lived and when it ended I was heartbroken. Now I would have to buy my own copy of the complete works of Shakespeare. No mean feat for a poor student. Then, six years after being put off Shakespeare for life by a misguided education system I had rediscovered and become smitten with Shakespeare while studying chemistry. Education is truly wasted on the young and it would be great if we could just let people learn things instead of teaching them until a person knows what they want to be. Sadly impractical though.

And how better to end this blog than with a couple of the great turns of phrase from the master wordsmith, firstly the first Shakespeare I learned by heart to impress the young lady (and it worked and hasn't failed to raise a coquettish smile whenever I've tried it since)

Take all my loves, my love, yea, take them all.
What hast thou then more than thou hadst before?
No love, my love, that thou mayst true love call,
All mine was thine, before thou hadst this more.

and lastly how the git with a great turn of phrase wanted to be remembered,

If thou survive my well-contented day,
When that churl Death my bones with dust will cover,
And shalt by fortune once more re-survey
These poor rude lines of thy deceased lover,
Compare them with the bett'ring of the time,
And though they be outstripp'd by every pen,
Reserve them for my love, not for their rhyme,
Exceeded by the height of happier men.
O then vouchsafe me but this loving thought:
"Had my friends Muse grown with his growing age,
A dearer birth than this his love had brought
to march in ranks of better equipage;
But since he died and poets better prove,
Theirs for their style I'll read, his for his love."


  1. It's not just the UK, in Australia we got the Shakers too. I admit I quite liked it though, even then.

    As for reading list books being based on classics, I don't think this is true any more. There will always be some classics, but there are a lot of efforts to be a bit more topical and trendier - even if this is often misplaced. What I object to is the weird portfolio of snippets of poems and prose that students get. Nothing coherent about that.

    Most people don't like being told what to read. I don't know a way around that for English reading lists though. I do know that it was only by reading Mills and Boon a lot that my sister became a fluent reader. Her next stop was Pride and Prejudice - but if the teachers had asked her to read that at school, she would have hated it.

  2. sorry for the delay darlin.

    In the US literature and english is a joke. although there was at one time in the late 1990's when they were trying to change this. yes i read shakespear and loved him because i was a romantic retard at the age of 14.

    now... now i find him a beautiful writer (and yet a shitty man). regardless some books were amazing and some were deathly.

    i guess its different here now that i really think about it. i mean i went on to take a british literature class in college and boy did i enjoy it. i speak middle english now! lol but that was college.

    i had a brit for an english teacher in high school once and she was insane. i loved her. she made us read shit that wasn't even on the list. haha

    wow. memories. i think that as time passes... regardless to what we read... we find ourselves doing it more. our minds mature ya know?