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Shakespeare for girls, and young language

Two more points from Kenneth Coleman’s lecture on teaching Shakespeare, at Shakespeare & Co.

First, he says that the four most-taught Shakespearean plays are all tragedies. The tragedies are — he says — about how men screw up the world. And in the four most-taught ones, the women generally kill themselves or are otherwise disempowered. We should be teaching the comedies, he says, because they’re about how women make the world livable.

Second, he objects to calling Shakespeare’s language “old English.” Actually, it’s young English, full of play, lacking rules, inventing itself.

Two excellent points.

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10 Responses to “Shakespeare for girls, and young language”

  1. Las tragedias son de Marte, y las comedias de Venus…

    David Welton, compañero apache, cuenta en su blog impresiones de la conferencia que dio Kenneth Colemann sobre la enseñanza de Shakespeare: Primero, dice que las cuatro obras de Shakespeare que más se enseñan son todas tragedias. La…

  2. We saw “The Merry Wives of Windsor” at Los Gatos Shakespeare last night, which is all about female empowerment. Which four tragedies was he referring to though? In the tragedies, everyone dies (to a first approximation).

    Hamlet is certainly not good for Gertrude and Ophelia, but Hamlet, Claudius, Laertes, Rozencrantz and Guildenstern all die too.
    Macbeth? Lady Macbeth is hardly disempowered, she’s a tragic figure too. Lear? Goneril and Regan have enough power to be tragic themselves.
    Is Merchant of Venice a Comedy? Portia is in power throughout.

  3. The four most-required tragedies (according to KC) are: Romeo, Hamlet, Macbeth, Julius Caesar. (Romeo is first, but I don’t remember the order of the rest).

    Sure, Lady Macbeth is empowered in the sense that a guy in a tower with a rifle is empowered. And she dies as a result. KC actually made a point of reminding us that ambition was not considered a virtue at the time, since being uppity disrupted the social order.

    Yes, Merchant is a comedy. Hohoho. Tough to do a version that doesn’t offend modern sensibilities … but still easier to do than the Shrew.

  4. But isn’t that the point of Tragedy – that hubris leads to death? How is Lady MacBeth less classically tragic than Claudius?

  5. ?? I don’t think Lady McB is less tragic than Claudius. I was responding to your saying that Lady McB is _empowered_. She’s empowered in that she’s not passive, but she’s not empowered in a way any girl or boy should emulate or be inspired by.

  6. I’m looking for a Kevin Marks who graduated from Arts High School, Newark NJ – 1959. Might the KM mentioned on this site be from Newark?

  7. there was a great book about women in Shakespeare by Linda Bamber(think that was her name) the basic premise was that in the comedies, women are the higher side of human nature– the opposite is true in the tragedies– and what that told us about not only Shakespeare’s view of women but his psyche

    I’ll have to find that book

  8. […] Shakespeare for girls, and young language ( […]

  9. Susan, please contact me via email…lost yours when i bought new computer…steven


    this links to Linda Bamber’s book on women and Shakespeare

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