Write Again…Good times with the bard

Published 4:30 pm Friday, June 17, 2022

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“What’s in a name?” asked Shakespeare.

Well, actually his boy Romeo did the asking. But old Will put him up to it. You know what I mean?

The English language’s greatest wordsmith asked through his various plays’ characters, a lot of questions and offered many opinions and viewpoints that are as relevant today as they were several centuries ago.

Am I right, or am I right?

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Tell it, brother.

“Parting is such sweet sorrow.” Under certain circumstances that’s the truth if ever the truth were told. Exquisite pain.

What brings on this Shakespeare stuff, Old Timer?

Since you asked, I’ll tell you.

When I was teaching English at Manteo High School, ninth & 11th grades, each year we did a unit in freshman English on “Romeo & Juliet.” Imagine trying to interest, to teach ninth-graders anything at all that Shakespeare wrote. If you can.

Their initial response was about what you would imagine, when I’d say something like “on Monday we are going to begin reading and studying “Romeo & Juliet.” They weren’t exactly giddy with anticipatory excitement.

We would begin with just an overview of who Shakespeare was. You know, when he lived, where, and just a general depiction of those times.

Each day I would put those words and phrases that we would encounter in the lesson on the board, with definitions. That is, what was meant in that often challenging language (to us) and how it might be expressed today.

I would read aloud some of it at the start, but soon students would take it up, take it over, very soon I wouldn’t have to designate a somewhat reluctant reader. No sir. They wanted their turn to read aloud.

We would pause whenever and wherever a question might arise, or someone wanted to offer a comment. Teachable moments, they are called.

I kid you not, friends, those ninth graders almost all, loved “doing” Shakespeare. They were surprised that they did. But they did.

Having three sections of ninth grade English each day, I reached a point when I knew which parts “grabbed them” the most.

Plus, between us I surely learned a lot more about the bard of Avon and his genius than I knew before.

So, that’s my little story, folks. About some memorable experiences in a schoolroom on the Outer Banks almost forty years ago.

Oh. Ask me what William Shakespeare’s wife’s name was, if you don’t know or remember. I’ll tell you.

Let me end with something he wrote that just might surprise you a bit.

“What a piece of work is man.”

We know that’s so, don’t we?