Another busy fortnight has passed at work. The end of the school year rapidly  approaches with its haunting burden of deadlines, decisions to be made, reports to be written. A nightmarish fortnight ahead and then some relax, I hope. 
What have you been dreaming of or  actually doing these latest couple of weeks? Unfortunately,  I could grant  myself very  little rest, hence I didn't have enough time for proper blogging, reading or reviewing but I could watch new TV series, go on with the ones I had started seeing and even go to an event in Rome to celebrate old Will's anniversary. I must do something different from the housework and schoolwork,  if I want to remain sane.  Women on the brink of a nervous breakdown has never been one of my favourite titles but it is simply perfect to describe my life.

Gareth Armstrong playing Richard III
So, as I told you,  I went to Rome to celebrate William Shakespeare's 450th anniversary. It was an event especially thought for teachers of English as a foreign language or of English literature to foreign students and organized by Trinity College London. It focused on the idea of  Shakespeare's undying modernity, what his work and his language can still teach to contemporary students.
John Gardyne, Head of Drama and Performance at Trinity, and Gareth Armstrong, examiner for Trinity and busy theatre professional, ran an interactive, performance-based workshop for teachers which introduced Shakespeare's extraordinary dramatic world and explored ways in which his plays and poems can be made relevant to Italian students today.
Gareth Armstrong read to us "On Quoting Shakespeare" by Bernard Levin to make it clear once and for all: the Bard's language maybe sound extremely complex to our students but it is not at all old-fashioned,  outdated,  remote, useless or totally uncommon

If you cannot understand my argument, and declare ma``It's Greek to me'', you are quoting Shakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sorrow than in anger; if your wish is farther to the thought; if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle, if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort or too much of a good thing, if you have seen better days or lived in a fool's paradise -why, be that as it y, the more fool you , for it is a foregone conclusion that you are (as good luck would have it) quoting Shakespeare; if you think it is early days and clear out bag and baggage, if you think it is high time and that that is the long and short of it, if you believe that the game is up and that truth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low till the crack of doom because you suspect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop) without rhyme or reason, then - to give the devil his due - if the truth were known (for surely you have a tongue in your head) you are quoting Shakespeare; even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I was dead as a door-nail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then - by Jove! O Lord! Tut tut! For goodness' sake! What the dickens! But me no buts! - it is all one to me, for you are quoting Shakespeare.
(Bernard Levin 1986)

Anonymous - Rafe Spall as Shakespeare
They read and commented on famous quotes from several different works, read and performed sonnets and soliloquies, asked us questions on how much Shakespeare we use in our lessons but also answered our questions on how to make his works more approachable to our teenage students.
Not an easy task, but more certainly a highly motivating mission: the language may be complicated but once young people familiarize with Shakespeare's intriguing verse and gripping plots and characters, they can't but love the master and admire his genius. And it is true. It happens. For instance, my students almost hated me when I proposed the stratfordian vs anti-stratfordians question at the end of our Shakespearian term. "Oh no! You can't destroy a myth like that, please! Shakespeare was not a fraud!". An interesting debate came out after reading about the doubts and watching the movie "Anonymous" (HERE)

Back to the Celebrating Shakespeare workshop, the part I liked best was "Hand in Hand to Hell",  that is Gareth Armstrong presenting Richard III and Macbeth from an actor's perspective. It was so interesting! It was a combination of major speeches and soliloquies from both plays with textual insights, historical speculation and theatrical anecdotage during which we discovered that the two shakespearian tragic heroes shared more than we suspected.

Leaflet of the event - John Gardyne in the picture

It was an enriching, rewarding afternoon. You know, I love teaching but, even more,  I love learning about Shakespeare, as well as  to go to theatre and see his plays on stage, to watch movie adaptations, to read and re-read his sonnets and his theatrical works, to read and learn more about his mystery and his huge production. He never stops amazing me, I never stop being in awe. This is why I'm sure the following couple of years, full of celebrations dedicated to him and his work, will make me very happy. I'll leave you with a little gift, one of  Shakespeare's sonnets, one we read and discussed in Rome last Wednesday:


As an unperfect actor on the stage, 
Who with his fear is put besides his part,
Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage,
Whose strength's abundance weakens his own heart; 
So I, for fear of trust, forget to say 
The perfect ceremony of love's rite, 
And in mine own love's strength seem to decay,
O'ercharg'd with burden of mine own love's might. 
O let my books be then the eloquence 
And dumb presagers of my speaking breast, 
Who plead for love and look for recompense 
More than that tongue that more hath more express'd.
   O, learn to read what silent love hath writ: 
   To hear with eyes belongs to love's fine wit.

No comments: