I can hardly recall anything specific that I learned in AP English. Visualizing the half-empty classroom in the north hall of my public school I can, however, remember one thing quite clearly: unwavering attempts by the teacher to force our simple little minds into the pun-infested world of Shakespeare.
Basically never will you see me frolic in reminiscing delight about how and what I was taught in high school (except if the image emerges of my hippy genius chemistry teacher whose long hair and demonstrative coolness totally wooed me). But teaching Shakespeare in particular - to a fifteen year old freshmen still learning how to learn and navigating the growing, complicated world around her - is a decision I've recently been ruminating. As all pedagogy does, I'm sure the given syllabus was created with the best of intentions. But come on, not even Marquez was able to get on the level of Shakespeare or Joyce until well into his 20's. As I'm sure happens all too often, I shunned and forgot all it was I had been taught about the playwright since those days in the classroom at Robert Service High. Shame descendeth upon me.
But my hip length hair and cold pale skin have become short and freckled, and my need to find new things to read has become as desperate as the task of deciding day after day what to make for dinner.
So I decided to begin with something easy: Macbeth. A tragedy for which to re-introduce me to the sport of reading Shakespeare. Something I don't recall doing in high school which I made a noteworthy attempt of doing here was taking seriously the pre-game banter. A little Harold Bloom, a little Google history lesson and pun analysis, and boom - no fear. Act I, Scene i - bring it.
Another helpful tool, something I learned by enthusiastic demonstration from my husband, (the man who also supplied me with his well traveled copies of Bloom and Shakespeare's Complete Works) is to feel the weight of the words by saying them again in utterly modern terms. For example, "I have a strange infirmity which is nothing / To those that know me"sounds like, "I'm the King, of course I'm fucked up. Just eat." Ridiculous, I know. The point of reading, though, is to visualize the story in your mind, to become attached to it with all of your senses, and it becomes much more distinct if you can bring it to life in a language you actually speak. Don't get me wrong, it's Shakespeare's play on words and rich use of language that make the whole experience worth it, but the process of translation is also necessary for enjoyment.
After having finished just one tragedy I have pages of metaphors and notes that I intend to look back on often as a reminder of how beautiful the english language can be.
Romance languages, we speak mightier than the!