Romeo and Juliet
Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" But soft, what light from yonder window breaks?
It be Juliet, and she chippin.
All teachers approach required curricula with their own philosophies. I am charged with teaching my freshmen "Romeo and Juliet," and I have a philosophy about it.
I studied the works of William Shakespeare for two semesters at the Johns Hopkins University, during which we read almost every play except "A Midsummer Night's Dream." We dissected the noble bard's great soliloquies and sonnets, his masterful plays on words and his lunatic characters. I recall that the professor told us he couldn't bear to lecture about the scene in which King Lear plucks out his eyes, so we skipped that scene. Onward and onward we went through an impressive body of work.
When I looked at the recommended notes for teaching "Romeo and Juliet" provided by my school district, I found a document more than 100 pages in length. There were enough lessons there to stretch the play through an entire marking period.
I don't operate like that.
Most of my students won't ever see or read a Shakespeare play when they leave high school. Hey, most of us don't! So why not present Shakespeare as entertainment? That's what he was intending when he wrote the doggone plays, wasn't it?
Make a barnyard noise if you think William Shakespeare sat at his desk and wrote plays, all the while thinking to himself, "I bet some intellectual college scholar will give 40 lectures on this stuff 400 years from now!"
My students are zipping through a simplified version of "Romeo" and watching the 1973 movie stocked to the plimsol line with gorgeous teenage actors and actresses. And after watching a sword fight, the students are peppered with such thought-provoking questions as, "Why are they wearing tights?" and "Raise your hand if you think parents should arrange your marriage."
But you know what? When I roll the play, and I look out at a classroom full of freshmen from Camden, New Jersey who are actually caught up in it, even if they don't get every double entendre (or know what one is), I feel like I'm doing Bard William a good turn. It's what he would have wanted. Not the stuffy lectures. Just the teenagers, watching and connecting ... and asking for clarity when they don't understand.
You can teach Shakespeare if you want. I'd rather make it a play.