More than 400 years ago, an English bard wrote about 40 plays in a language that discombobulates many people today. These words and the rich, universal themes that emerge from the pages are only a couple of features that draw people to the plays of William Shakespeare. His works have been a constant inclusion on English and Drama curricula worldwide and here at QAHS. This term, Year 11 Higher Level English Language and Literature students are studying Shakespeare's Macbeth, as an option for their Individual Oral, Higher Level Essay or Paper 2 comparative essay exam. In order to really immerse students into their Shakespeare studies, English teachers, Mrs Reed, Mrs Wood and Mrs Chetter engaged in a pre-show workshop with producer and company manager, Robert Jago. This workshop provided a wonderful opportunity to be lead through Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth with a focus on language, themes and creative ideas for use in the classroom. Our students thoroughly enjoyed the show and the experience of being at the theatre. It was also wonderful to have Robert Jago come and personally thank us for attending the performance which transported us to 1940s Italy to watch two feuding families and the love and tragedy that unfolds between them. Here is what Year 11 student, Josie Hamilton, had to say:
“Last Friday, I had the privilege of witnessing Sport for Jove's remarkable adaptation of Shakespeare's timeless classic, Romeo and Juliet. As an English student, grappling with Shakespeare's intricate language in Macbeth has been a constant challenge, but this experience proved to be an enlightening journey, which helped with my understanding of Elizabethan English. With Shakespeare's language being notoriously dense and often perplexing, many of us to struggled to grasp the true essence of his words. However, the outstanding acting displayed by the cast breathed life into the text, making it a lot easier to understand. Through their portrayal of emotions and intentions, they conveyed the meaning behind the words, which almost dissolved the language barrier.
As an HL English student, I kept drawing parallels between my experience with Romeo and Juliet and my ongoing study of Macbeth. The performance demonstrated how intertwining emotions with the language can be an invaluable tool in understanding the nuances of Shakespearean works. By analysing and perceiving the emotional undertones and intentions of the characters, we can decipher the complexities of the language and explore the underlying themes of ambition, power, and morality in Macbeth, or any other Shakespearean play we encounter. Watching Romeo and Juliet live has taught me that Shakespeare is not meant to be read merely for its surface value. Instead, it is an invitation to delve into a world of profound emotions, rich characters, and timeless human dilemmas. Just like the actors who brought Romeo and Juliet to life, I can embrace the challenge of understanding Shakespeare by immersing myself in the emotions and meaning that his language carries.
So, my “happenstance" with Sport for Jove's adaptation of Romeo and Juliet has shown me that with the right approach, Shakespeare's works can be more accessible than I thought. Through their performance, the actors showed me what was truly meant, in a real way more critical and convincing than SparkNotes ever could".
Teacher of English & Student Leadership Coordinator