Monday, November 29, 2010


So I have been thinking about trying to run some kind of radical-for-here ideas through the gauntlet of our department. The first one is switching Julius Caesar for one of the comedies - probably Midsummer Night's Dream or Much Ado.

This afternoon I kind of tested the waters. I mentioned the idea to another teacher in our department - one who's been at the school for quite a few years AND is fairly close with our department head. She sounded encouraging... but then, well, I've got cancer, so maybe it's just that she didn't want to come out and say "look, C, your idea sucks." Because that might be mean, and you aren't allowed to be mean to a cancer patient. >;)

I am getting spoiled!

Anyway, I'm trying to formulate a strong argument. (I could use some help.)

1. Studying only Shakespeare's tragedies gives an inaccurate understanding of his work.
2. Also, Shakespeare's comedies are great works in their own right.
3. Studying the structure of Elizabethan comedy provides new insight into the structure of tragedy by contrast.
4. I'd like at least one more reason - perhaps two - that are independent of the rest.

Thus, we should study at least one Shakespearean comedy. Obviously, any time spent doing that is time spent not doing something else. I propose that the something-else that we are not doing during that time should be Julius Caesar. It makes sense to swap out Shakespeare-for-Shakespeare, and both Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth are (a) more significant to our cultural heritage, and (b) better plays.

I want more. Help?


Knighton said...

Before the time of GPS, I, too, did not want to teach Julius Caesar. So, I taught A Comedy of Errors instead. In fact, I confess that I've never even read Julius Caesar. I agree with you that students should be exposed to at least one comedy. I'm assuming that you're teaching 10th grade. The GPS for 9th states, "The student identifies, analyzes, and applies knowledge of the themes, structures, and elements of dramatic literature and provides evidence from the text to support understanding; the student:
a. Identifies and analyzes types of dramatic literature (i.e., Shakespearean tragedy and comedy)." The GPS for 10th grade states pretty much the same thing except, that the student "a. Identifies and analyzes types of dramatic literature (i.e., classical tragedy, history play, modern drama)." So, the only fly in the ointment that I see is that Shakespearean comedies are only mentioned for 9th grade. In my GPS training, we were told that we didn't have to actually read all of the types mentioned in the parentheses, but we did have to make sure we covered it with students even if that meant giving them a summary and discussing the characteristics. Therefore, when I taught 9th grade lit, I taught R & J, but I summarized A Midsummer Night's Dream and I discussed the characteristics of comedies. Now, with my 10th graders, I teach Antigone, and I summarize the other two types mentioned in the GPS. If I have time, then I will teach A Comedy of Errors. I'm sure that this is not the answer you're looking for. Maybe I'm just giving you facts that you can use to make a counterargument. :)

Tom Roth said...

I know you teach H.S. (I teach a 3-4-5 multi-age)...
We read Shakespeare with the kids, however we use these kids versions:
Fun read and gives the "basic" ideas for the story. Just thought I would share.
Go for what you would do if no one was there to question you!

Clix said...

Knighton, what's particularly interesting is that it sounds like - by the standards - our FIRST play ought to be Antigone, with Shakespeare as a backup. That definitely gives me something to work with as far as axing Caesar, but that argument leads in a VERY different direction, and more significantly, I think even though both arguments are against using Caesar, I don't think they work in tandem very well.

I must think on this.

Tom - thanks for the book rec! I dunno, man... if that were the case I'd live on pie ;D

Joan said...

I often live by these words - "Sometimes it is better to ask for forgiveness later than ask for permission first." Just do it.

Rachel said...

Another idea for support might be that the dramas provide a thematically skewed view of humanity. We still study Shakespeare today because the conflicts and themes are true to basic human nature. The dramas present one viewpoint of those human themes and some of the dangers of the darker sides of humanity, while the comedies poke fun at our blunders and imperfections. The comedies provide an alternate study of themes relevant to human nature. Shakespeare's comedies bring balance to the evaluation of themes and are good introductions to satire, which the students will likely study in future grades. Overall this might be too "fluffy" for your admin, so I might just stress that last part, about developing a working knowledge of satire.

Perhaps the other value of Shakespeare is the wordsmithing in comedies. While he works puns in the dramas, I think it is much more prevalent in the comedies. I know for us that was a state standard, working with puns/double entendre.

Fran Lo said...

I know this is coming in late, but I teach Midsummer Night's Dream to my 8th graders (we do Macbeth in 7th grade), and think it would be a fabulous play for your students. We act out the play in class, which makes all that "weird" English comprehensible. The multiple plot strands make Dream a bit of a challenge, but my kids manage. And the physical comedy is so wonderful. It's a shame to make kids think Shakespeare is only serious - I think part of our job is to help them become enthusiastic about Shakespeare - and I can't think of a better play.

I was introduced to Shakespeare with Julius Caesar (grade 9), and I never "got" Shakespeare until I saw his comedies.

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