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‘O, what learning is!’ Pedagogy and the Afterlife of Romeo and Juliet

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2007

Stanley Wells
Affiliation:
University of Birmingham
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Summary

One of the curiosities about the afterlife of Romeo and Juliet – or any other Shakespeare play – is the scholarly neglect of one area of great activity and importance: school Shakespeare. Jonathan Miller roots his discussion of afterlife firmly in performance. Critical dialogue extends the concept to include its own transformative contribution, as it implicitly and explicitly records its own role in establishing, interpreting and evaluating the Shakespeare canon. But that substantial fraction of the afterlife: how Shakespeare is studied by students under nineteen years of age, goes largely unremarked in the major journals. When ‘teaching Shakespeare’ is addressed, the focus of attention is undergraduate level or higher. In the past dozen years, Shakespeare Quarterly has devoted two issues to the topic, but only three out of thirty-two articles concern schools. Shakespeare Survey is innocent of any direct address to pedagogy or to schools: the articulation of ‘Shakespearian studies and production’ with teaching is left for readers to infer.

Yet patently, school Shakespeare is an activity of major significance. The numbers involved are huge. Currently, in England and Wales alone, the National Curriculum requires that each year at least half a million fourteen yearolds must study, and be tested on, one of three plays: Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Julius Caesar. World-wide the numbers can only be guessed at.

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Shakespeare Survey , pp. 141 - 152
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1996

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