He should be dead, but he keeps coming back.
Shakespeare suffers slings and arrows of SATS fortune. It’s been awhile since I saw a story like this in The Guardian. Obviously RSC profits are down and they need their major donors – schools – to return to the fold and fill their coffers again.
Jacqui O’Hanlon, the RSC’s director of education, said: “School managers will not release teachers for a day’s training because Shakespeare is no longer seen as a priority. If that’s the message being given to teachers and the message pervading schools, what impact is that going to have on the wider entitlement young people have to engage with Shakespeare?”
Shakespeare never was a priority, but because he’s been raised to semi-divine status, it’s heretical if anyone doesn’t think the sun shines out of his arse. And what’s all this about “the wider entitlement young people have to engage with Shakespeare”? What entitlement? Is it part of the constitution? What utter nonsense.
Barry Sheerman MP, the committee chairman who raised the issue at a hearing this week, said: “It’s quite chilling if schools don’t want students to go and see Shakespeare if it’s not examined.” Government edicts on the curriculum were reminiscent of “Soviet Russia” and teachers were “too frightened” to complain in case they weren’t promoted, he said.
And how many of Shakespeare’s plays have you seen, Baz? In how many of them could you understand every word regardless of changes to the English lexicon over the past 400 years? How is it chilling if Shakespeare is neither seen nor heard nor examined? Oh, I see. You’re not really as bothered about Shakespeare as you are about chucking a few rocks at the government. What exactly do government edicts on the curriculum really have to do with Shakespeare? The agèd demi-god is being recruited for financial purposes by the RSC and political purposes by some Commons sub-committee chairman.
As I’ve said before, I think it would be rather a good thing if someone finally admitted that Shakespeare is largely incomprehensible to modern audiences and that it’s time to pick on some other antique, but more recent author as the focus of the literary world’s idolatry. Of course, there’s already someone to fill that role – Jane Austen. She’s two centuries old, a literary idol, being an author whom no one is allowed to dislike, and her English is at least generally comprehensible; but her limp satire on the painful social habits of the age won’t appeal to most boys, which would entail a specially edited volume for them. Thus, a revised opening to Pride and Prejudice:
IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a sniper rifle must be going to frag some Strogg.However little known the accuracy or skillz of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the Makron’s minions, that he is considered as the rightful target of some one or other of the soulless mechanical puppets of Stroggos.“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that the Strogg base is let at last?”
Now the boys are reading and they don’t even notice the subtle and insidious love story between a member of the GDF (Elizabeth Bennet; “Enemy infantry spotted!”) and a putrefying Strogg trooper (Mr Darcy; “I require stroyent!”). Whenever one of the Bennet girls captures a husband, she can say, “Spawn host created”.
Once again, I call for Shakespeare to be pulled down from his pedestal. School children can thank me later by buying my edited-for-boys version of Pride and Prejudice when it’s published. It’s also about time the RSC stopped thinking that it had some right to anything but an audience of fanboys; and it’s also about time it stopped trying to make people feel guilty for not worshipping Will the Quill.