I woke up very early this morning and couldn’t go back to sleep. What woke me was a dream I was having. I was teaching a class of first year college students (do they still call them freshmen?) and we were discussing who the real protagonist in Romeo and Juliet was. I had a list on the board, The fathers, the prince, Romeo, etc., ending with the Friar. After a minute everyone got a wrong answer so I told them it was the Friar and launched into a dissection of the history of England, the anti-Catholic sentiment of the age and how Shakespeare used his plays to promote the propaganda of first the Queen and then the King of England against the Catholic church. I won’t go into the entire lesson, it is one that I taught several times during my teaching days.
One way I kept younger kids, meaning teenagers, awake was to compare the feud between the families to modern day gang wars and how the warring factions of the government today were much like the war between the King of England who was also the head of the Church of England and the Catholic Church in other countries and the Catholic Kings. The kids ate it up with a spoon.
After waking up, I lay in bed contemplating Romeo and Juliet and other Shakespeare plays where the bias was blatant if one knew the history of the era in which it was written. Personally, I like the comedies best because he used outright parody of the pomposity of the gentry versus the vitality of the commoners to poke fun at everyone from royalty to the servants, merchants, and country bumpkins. He walked a close line between mocking and sneering and lecturing against the unpopular ideals of the King and his Lords.
What I find interesting is that after all this time, I remember all the details of the lesson, history, and play and could stand up in front of a classroom and give it again with a few peeks at the play to get my quotes right. How weird is that? No really, I wonder how weird it is.
Anyway, now I have Shakespeare on my mind. And I really, really miss teaching.