Archer recently invited members of The Independent Shakespeare Company to present a workshop on “Hamlet.” The senior AP Literature classes watched David Melville perform three major monologues as Hamlet and act a scene with Mary Gulliams as Ophelia. Students watched and asked questions about their interpretations.
Shakespeare’s plays are meant to be acted, so for some seeing a performance of Hamlet really brings them to life. AnnMarie Dominguez ’13 said, “The performance really helped me visualize Hamlet’s madness. They were especially helpful on Hamlet’s famous soliloquy ‘To Be Or Not To Be,’ which later showed up in an essay.”
Says Archer English teacher Ms. Taylor, “I think it is equally important to act out scenes yourself. Students don’t truly dig into the text and begin to see all the possibilities for interpretation until they put it on its feet”.
Archer incorporates a Shakespeare text into the English curriculum almost every year. Seventh graders read the comedy “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.” By eighth and ninth grade, students are ready to read Shakespeare’s more tragic texts like “Romeo and Juliet” and “Macbeth.” Tenth grade students have explored a variety of plays over the years, including “Othello” and “Twelfth Night” and the senior class delves into one of his most complicated texts, “Hamlet.”
When asked why Archer students read the Bard Ms. Taylor responded, “The Archer English department believes in blending classic and contemporary texts so that students have a rich literary experience and can build connections between stories and themes from across the ages. Shakespeare’s works are some of the most influential texts in the Western Canon—they are quoted, referenced, and parodied by people as varied as Margaret Atwood and the writers of ‘Family Guy.’ They are also a great way to strengthen reading and speaking skills…and a lot of fun to perform.”
Marian Maile ’13 agrees on the importance of reading Shakespeare: “Shakespeare is relevant to so many modern day things. Reading Shakespeare is more than just reading a book, it adds to your world knowledge”. Hannah Landsberger ’13 chimed in, “There’s tons of Shakespeare references out there.”
Though not every grade gets a chance to attend a workshop with the Independent Shakespeare Company, there are other opportunities to see them in action here at Archer. Every spring the same company perform one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces during Shakespeare in the Green. This year, the group will perform “Macbeth” on May 15, 2013, in Archer’s courtyard.